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Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys

Release Your Shrouds

(Earthwork Music; US: 25 Jun 2012; UK: Import)

Bluegrass = good; old-timey = not so much

At their best, Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys channel old-fashioned, high-octane bluegrass energy into arrangements that sound fresh and modern. Lindsay herself has a serviceable voice, but the instrumental chops of herself and her band are up to the task of playing cleanly and at high speeds. Mandolin, banjo, guitar, and bass form the backbone of these tunes, with vocal harmonies providing a change of pace at times. It’s all quite lively and fun when it works, as on the chugging “My Side of the Mountain”, probably the best tune on the album.


Alas, too often it doesn’t work. The band swaps bluegrass energy for old-timey swing on the third track here, the cutesy “Tied Down to You”, and it’s downhill from there. Songs like “Pass Me the Whiskey” and “The Leaves Are Changing” try way too hard for a kind of jaunty insouciance, while “Lemon Squeezey” is just kind of embarrassing for all involved. The bluesy “Querida Tierra” and the bluegrass instrumental “Barbarossa” provide much-needed verve, but it’s not nearly enough. The good news: five-minute mini-epic “The Power” suggests a direction the band might pursue in the future, one that carves out a distinctive future for the band rather than trying to recapture some nostalgic, mythical past.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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Lindsay Lou and the Flatbellys - My Side of the Mountain
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