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Buckle In the Bible Belt

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Album Review

Formerly known as Amsterband, Missouri's Ha Ha Tonka burst out of the starting gate on their album Buckle in the Bible Belt with "Up Nights," an up-tempo union of alt country twang, indie rock melodic efficiency, and barrelhouse energy as they deliver an oblique but bitter lyric that on close inspection turns out to be about child abuse. It's only the first of many surprises on Buckle in the Bible Belt, and just about all of them are welcome; in a genre where lots of guitar is the order of the day, Brett Anderson's rollicking keyboards bring some welcome (and non-ironic) boogie to the mix, though Anderson and Brian Roberts do know how to rock the six-string when the songs call for it, and the band isn't afraid to show they're tight and blessed with impressive chops while also having the good sense to keep the songs tuneful and concise (nothing over four minutes, and the disc wraps up in under a half-hour). Ha Ha Tonka manage the neat trick of keeping their music engaging and genuinely fun while tackling some serious subject matter in their lyrics, such as the failings of organized religion ("Saint Nick on the Fourth in a Fervor"), consumer culture ("Cure for the Common Cold") and organized racism ("Caney Mountain"). Buckle in the Bible Belt's no-nonsense production lets the music do the talking, and it speaks up loud and clear; Ha Ha Tonka deserve more than thirty minutes to share all they have on their minds, but it's an impressive starting point and fine listening.


Formed: 2004 in Springfield, MO

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Indie rock band Ha Ha Tonka were formed in 2004 in Springfield, Missouri, by singer/guitarist Brian Roberts with Lucas Long (bass, vocals), Brett Anderson (keyboards, guitar, vocals), and Lennon Bone (drums, vocals). Initially, the name of the group was Amsterband. It was with this moniker that they released their debut CD, Beatchen, and began to tour extensively. In 2006, they followed with a second self-released album, Buckle in the Bible Belt. In May 2007, they signed to independent Chicago-based...
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Buckle In the Bible Belt, Ha Ha Tonka
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