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Between Hell and Baton Rouge

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Album Review

With a down-home roots rock flair, this group sounds eerily akin to Wilco circa Being There on the mix of electric guitar drones and acoustic guitar strumming in "Tramps Rouge." "Pecan Pie" from Golden Smog's repertoire is another good comparison. At times the two ingredients battle for dominance, but it's an interesting fusion nonetheless. The dreary sound of rain opening "Forbidden Fruit Makes a Sticky Jam" is pure bottleneck roots blues, with a haggard vocal delivery adding credence to the song's strengths. Instead of opting into a roots pop framework, which could be so easy, Starlings, TN takes it slow, adding subtle drums and other layers. However, the banjo-tinted "My Sweet Love Ain't Around" brings the likes of Hank Williams or George Jones to mind, this time with a fiddle supplementing the old-time country number. Gillian Welch or the Be Good Tanyas would suit the song perfectly, and the same can be said for the infectious "Brush Arbor," which recalls Steve Earle's "Harlan Man." Starlings, TN flourish in this style, even though the rambling mountain sound emanating from "Corbitt Up the Mountain" sounds hokey at times. This is vastly improved on the gorgeous and appealing "Lonesome Road Blues," including its harmonies and mandolin. The signature "Wayfaring Stranger" is definitely up the band's proverbial alley, doing little but singing in a timeless Appalachian style. A high point comes during a live rendition of "Ruben's Train," which could measure up well to "Orange Blossom Special." But for the most part, the toe-tapping folk mountain music displayed on a stellar "Last Five" is par for this excellent course. The quirky electro-beat on "Weight of Love" is odd and doesn't quite measure up, though, evoking images of Jeff Tweedy if he fired everyone in Wilco. A lengthy combination on "Burnin' Up the Blacktop/Lazyana" shows Starlings, TN on top of its own adorable musical mountain.


Genre: Country

Years Active: '00s

With their bowed dulcimer, droning echo, and mysterious psychedelic touches, Starlings, TN combines the otherworldliness of John Cale-era Velvet Underground with the tradition of string and bluegrass bands of the '20s and '30s. The Nashville group released its debut, The Leaper's Fork, on Chicken Ranch Records in 2002. Ex-punk rockers Steve Stubblefield (formerly of the Methadone Actors) and Tim Bryan (formerly of the Habitual Sex Offenders) founded the group in the late '90s. The two eventually...
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Between Hell and Baton Rouge, Starlings, TN
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