Saturday, February 06, 2010

Ha Ha Tonka - Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South
Bloodshot

'We're just under funded studies in our own mythologies' - Thoreau In The Woods

'Oh I know you buried the hatchet because you buried me right beside it' - Hold My Feet To The Fire

An ambitiously titled record if ever there was one and a concept one at that from these Southern countryskied, indie-neck college rockers, especially for one that has alarming elements of Kings of Leon along with its Wilco plaudits and, more lyrically than musical, Old 97's. The first at least can be levelled then insouciantly sloped off as soon as the surface is shaken even slightly by the darkly literate lava that resembles a less livid Gareth Lillard of The Drones and pleasingly doesn't trail off into 'I've read Wise Blood, me' American / Southern gothic typicalities. Sure, they share a vocal inflection or two with the blousy FollowBonototheHills boyos but bear the weighty furrows of thought not pouting pram-bashing rattle-trashing tantrums. Based on a novel (The Shepherd Of The Hills by one Harold Bell Wright) set in their own home regions of the Ozark mountains about a guy who secludes himself from city strife in the old hills, it's an intriguing and encompassing adventure that rewards perseverance. While cowpunk apostles will have scant pickings in its professorial study rooms there's still the grit of Drive By Truckers and bar-bait of The Hold Steady alongside gospel and revival garnishes with acoustic pickery, besides such discreetly thrilling song titles as Walking On The Devils Backbone, Hold My Feet To The Fire and Close Every Valve To Your Bleeding Heart delve into civil war, racism and uncomfortable questions and truths. Without the scholarly stripes the Kings of Leon calls may be more legion, though still undeserved.
Stu Gibson

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