Milwaukee’s Goodnight Loving spin disheveled pop gold out of Americana clichés. On their rousing sophomore effort Crooked Lake, this sextet of countrified rockers dabble in whiskey-loaded introspection, witness Biblical visions of the rapture, and fret a lover’s superior social standing. “Purple Death (Theft)”, a precious sing-a-long eulogy, even features a crackling fire as the backdrop. Goodnight Loving’s métier is unabashedly geared toward rustic aesthetics. Yet their genre reach goes beyond Gram Parsons-scented country. Garage rock, snappy bluegrass, and hints of early ‘60s pop enter the fray, complementing the populist appeal of Crooked Lake with hipness. On “Train Hopping Man”, the raucous vocals (helmed by one of several singers who aren’t credited anywhere for their work) recall Pelle Almqvist’s spirited channeling of Mick Jagger. The ghosts of yesteryear pop kings, like Dion DiMucci, waft through “The Land of 1000 Bars” and the earnest “Money to Plaster”, which boasts the album’s finest melody and exemplifies its uniformly rag-tag production. The heart of Goodnight Loving, though, rests at the junction point between country and rock. Here dwell the likes of “Pink Tombstones” and “Join the Order”, where the norm is to ponder a darkened landscape or issue ostensible pitches for organized labor. Old-hat? Certainly. But, at an economical 33 minutes, Crooked Lake is short enough to keep its clichés fetching.
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