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Shortstack

Rugged rural rockabilly with a Southern Gothic twist, the music of the band Shortstack sounds haunting and humid, punctuated by Adrian Carroll's dark, lonesome howls and a punky slide-guitar sound not unlike that of the late, great Gun Club or the rootsier incarnations of X.

Although Shortstack hails from Washington, D.C., it came to Tucson late last year to cut this, its second CD, at Wavelab Studio with engineer extraordinaire Craig Schumacher behind the board, and the record has the warmth and intimacy we have come to expect from the local landmark.

As spooky as the band comes off, this disc's early tracks occasionally feel as if the players are working too hard to approximate an authentic hayseed vibe. It initially seems a bit calculated and arch. One cut, "Ten Thousand Acres," consists simply of a minute of found recordings of some indecipherable radio preacher, backed by minimalist guitar strumming and picking.

But once the record hits its stride with a pair of inspired covers--the brokenhearted Charlie Feathers tune "Man in Love" and the traditional "Two White Horses," which sounds like a hillbilly steam engine juiced up on rocket fuel--the coffee starts a-perking, and something starts to feel right about Shortstack.

Especially good are the instrumentals "G.B.D.," on which Carroll's picking channels Les Paul and Speedy West, and the album-closing "El Saboteur," which ought to please fans of Link Wray and Dick Dale. For some reason, though, I can't help thinking about flapjacks.

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