Somewhere within The Wind's Dominion, a masterpiece is waiting to get out. At least eight lovely songs, including "Fightin' for My Life," "Row of Dominoes," and "Personal Rendition of the Blues," clock in around 35 minutes, or about the same length as Neil Young's Harvest. But Butch Hancock sinks his sophomore effort by loading it down with 30 more minutes of weak tunes and a mixed bag of arrangements. Cuts like "Once Followed By the Wind" and "Long Road to Asia Minor" would have sounded fine as outtakes on a box set, while other oddities like the a cappella "Sea's Deadog Catch" should have been left in the vault. All pale beside the real stuff, and since the good tunes weren't front-loaded, it gives the impression that no one involved could separate the chaff from the wheat. Several of these tunes, like the title cut, "Gift Horse of Mercy," and "Smokin' in the Rain," would show up later on a couple of Sugar Hill collections, and they're as good as anything on his debut, West Texas Waltzes and Dust-Blown Tractor Tunes. Besides differences in production, The Wind's Dominion also lacks the social-political dimension of his first album. Hancock's left-field point of view, sense of wordplay, and rough and ready vocals, however, remain intact. Despite lapses and misfires, The Wind's Dominion qualifies as a valuable album that captures the genius and growing pains of a vital artist. ~ Ronnie D. Lankford Jr.
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