Jim Wurster and His New Album Straight to Me at the Luna Star Cafe April 15

Jim Wurster is a musician of serious intent.

His earliest efforts with Black Janet bolstered the perception, given that the band's dark designs weren't simply a by-product of their name.

Still, Wurster really came into his own when he went solo and subsequently formed the Atomic Cowboys, taking a 180-degree turn in direction and crossing over into country with nods towards Johnny Cash, John Prine, and Hank Williams.

Straight To Me, his latest album, confirms that twangy intensity. The cover itself is harrowing, with a grim-looking Wurster bearing an expression of dour disapproval. Yet it's rare to find such authentic Americana in these environs, given our South Florida soundscape rarely offers opportunity for harmonies and heartache -- much less banjos, mandolins, or pedal steel guitars.

With producer Jack Shawde shaping its down-home sound, the album exudes a world-weary perspective -- one that's occasionally dire and downtrodden, but mostly inspired and optimistic. Wurster's rich croon often brings Roy Orbison to mind, especially on the album opener "Straight To Me, while his star-crossed duets with Daphna Rose and Diane Ward on "It's Just a Start" and "So Lucky" recall the best of Johnny and June.

Fueled by heads-down determination, Wurster's roughshod songs are both beautiful and beguiling.

Jim Wurster & the Atomic Cowboys with Sam Halstead, Daphna Rose, and Omine. Friday, April 15. Luna Star Café, 775 NE 125th St., North Miami. The concert begins at 8 p.m. Call 305-799-7123 or visit lunastarcafe.com.

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