Richmond, Virginia’s Wrinkle Neck Mules have returned with their third album, The Wicks Have Met—thirteen songs that, like 2006’s Pull the Brake, meld bluegrass and rock n’ roll in country anthems and twangy, slow-burn ballads. But, this time ‘round, the lyrics are less than complex and it takes more than a few listens to pluck the album highlights from the general blur of the album’s basic alt-country blueprint. One highlight is Mason Brent’s mandolin, which plays a more central role on The Wicks. It lends a jaunty Nickel Creek feel to the lyrically dark “Black Skies for the High and Mighty” and, paired with an accordion, creates the poignant landscape of “Chemical Dependence”. Elsewhere, the textured and stately “Bottomland” is a spiritual cousin to Pull the Brake‘s “Lowlight”. Channelling Crazy Horse, the band employs droning repetition to great effect on the seven-minute “Ursa Major”, while the brisk “The Whistler Knows Best” reveals the Mule’s comfort with straightforward bluegrass. And, as the album winds down, “Swagger & Honesty” provides a reminder about simplicity’s appeal, as drums and harmony singing carry the tune.
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