Under Review: Deer Tick – Born On Flag Day

Country music has certainly had its ups and downs. More downs than ups in recent years, if you ask me. It’s near blasphemy that Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Gene Autry are filed under the same label as that slick, over-produced, over-drawled garbage that nabs top ratings on radio stations across this land of ours. Sure, there are a few artists and bands out there that are giving their all to breathe some genuine twang back into country music. Jenny Lewis and Neko Case come to mind, as do Deer Tick. Though he’s a Yank (from Providence, no less), leader/guitarist John McCauley sure knows how to spin a country yarn. His brand of country music falls somewhere between the freewheeling roots antics of Delta Spirit and the cinematic frontier music of Ennio Morricone. Born On Flag Day, Deer Tick’s second release, balances those two seemingly polar extremes into one glorious, indie hoedown. Beginning with the more Morricone-esque track, “Easy,” the album twists and turns between electrified stomps and tender acoustic ballads. McCauley’s gruff vocals might sound overly grating were it not for the heart-wrenching emotions evoked on each song. Another great trick that is used just enough on Born On Flag Day is the slow build. “Song About A Man” and “White Lies” both initially act as minimalist showcases for McCauley’s voice before letting the whole band kick in. Twangy tremolo guitars drive the rollicking “Houston, TX,” and the group gets an orchestral backing on the waltz-time “Smith Hill.” Though it’s probably going to be ignored by anyone who claims the love ‘country music,’ Born On Flag Day is one of the most solid recent albums to uphold that genre’s golden days.

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~ by E. on July 15, 2009.

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