The Randy Rogers Band
Just a Matter of Time
Mercury Records

The hell if I know what constitutes country music anymore. Listening to the major label debut of The Randy Rogers Band, and knowing that they’re playing on the upcoming Adams Center bill that features cutie chart-topping country crooners Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert, it’s hard to ignore the seemingly amorphous constructs of the 10-gallon-hat genre.

The reason is The Randy Rogers Band doesn’t sound very country at all. They’ve got the résumé—the whole band is Texas-bred, Rogers is the son of a Baptist preacher, T-shirt-worthy turn-of-phrase lyrics, etc.—but the sound is pure Southern rock. I mean, save for one token twangy ballad, it’s not even close. The Randy Rogers Band is The Georgia Satellites reborn. And I can’t imagine The Georgia Satellites would’ve ever toured with trueblood country acts like Lambert and Bentley.

Regardless, Just a Matter of Time is a surprisingly easy listen. “You Could’ve Left Me” is the best example, an honest Rogers snarl carrying the lead vocals and a heavy Steve Earle (at his fuzziest, loudest and grittiest) influence throughout. It certainly doesn’t sound country to me. (Skylar Browning)

The Randy Rogers Band opens for Dierks Bentley at the Adams Center Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 7:30 PM. $29.75.

Sean Parson
Reservation Blues
Rez Beat Records

Sean Parson’s blues are slinkily syncopated: elided consonants and extended vowels that don’t shuffle so much as swagger through songs about dusty roads turned to asphalt (“Development”) and the relative ineffectiveness, compared with its use for auto repair, of duct tape for holding together a person’s psyche (“The Hills”).

The first three tracks exemplify Parson’s bluesy style, and when the album unexpectedly shifts into reggae riddims on “Privatize It,” its sound becomes a good deal more conventional. Still, Parson fires off some of his best-phrased lines while messing about in Jamaican motifs.

And then, after three tracks of island melodies, Reservation Blues suddenly echoes its opening segment with the hoarse-voiced and fingerpickin’-accompanied reverence of “Raven & Sky.” But for a final act, the album zags when you expect it to zig, heading into the trip-hop groove of “Signs of Devine” and a reprise of that tune that changes tempo and pulls in industrial noise effects.

Each track is effective in its own right, but Reservation Blues encompasses such a wide range of styles that some tracks make lousy neighbors for others. Parson’s next challenge would seem to be an album-length exploration of each motif that entices him. The resulting suite will be worth seeking out. (Jason Wiener)

Broken Valley Roadshow
Disgrace and Celebration

Any recording is going seem bridled in comparison when you see a band in the flesh. But if you could bottle a live performance by local bluegrass/gospel band Broken Valley Roadshow and more or less preserve that flavor of feverish fiddling, sweaty plucking and impulsive vocalizing, it would sound like Disgrace and Celebration.

The band’s new studio album has a freewheeling quality, one that’s more likely to knock the wind out of innocent bystanders than to primly charm the pants off straight-laced musical traditionalists. Singer Angie Biehl has a more profound vocal tone than you’ll ever hear on the CMT music channel. It’s husky and unbending, and even when she’s singing about being lonesome it feels like a complex and combustible mixture of insolence and sorrow. The band seamlessly moves from classic covers like the Carter Family’s “Coal Miner’s Blues” or the traditional instrumental “Fire on the Mountain” to originals like “New River Gorge Bridge” without a self-conscious flinch, which makes sense because the band’s own writing is divinely sharp. Imperfect at times, ready to come unglued at others, it’s finally an album that pushes its limits to the limit and comes out unscathed. (Erika Fredrickson)

Go Ahead and Say It

The fact that Bellingham, Wash., trio Racetrack has broken up makes it easy to read between the lines of their latest (and probably last) album, Go Ahead and Say It, in the spirit of that split. You can hear discord when singer/guitarist Meghan Kessinger asserts in “Don’t Sit on the Pickets”: “I want friends not spies, so it’s no surprise…that we’re packing up, we’ve had enough, we’ve tried.” Or in “Recidivism,” when she belts out, “I’m getting out, I’m going out! I’m already gone.” But really, these lyrics of defiant departure and dramatic discontent, unified with the punch of every perfectly bright, minor-key hook and rhythmic curve, is just Racetrack being Racetrack. And, in typical band break-up fashion, these songs make up probably their best recording ever.

Unlike 2004’s City Lights—a solid record itself—Go Ahead and Say It is a little rawer and less sanitized. It exudes that raise-up-your-beer, flick-on-your-lighter basement rock that seems more authentic than most music spewed out these days, while still sounding professionally produced. It’s Racetrack’s most complete, honest effort. Too bad they really do mean goodbye. (Erika Fredrickson)

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