Music

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Reviewed this week: Carrie Rodriguez and Ben Kyle, Flogging Molly, and The Chain Gang of 1974

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Carrie Rodriguez and Ben Kyle
We Still Love Our Country

(North Street Opus)

Carrie Rodriguez bends the boundaries between country, folk, and rock. She also performs songs so sexy that they're what Barry White would have done if he had worn a skirt and sung with a Texas twang. On her latest, though, she teams with Ben Kyle and returns to country music's roots. This eight-song EP consists of old-style covers such as "If I Needed You," My Baby's Gone," and "Love Hurts," with a few vintage-sounding originals tossed in, including "Fire Alarm," which could have been torn from the Ronettes' backlist. The duo feature Kyle's lead vocals a bit more than Rodriguez's. I would have preferred the reverse, but the project is a sweet reminder of what country music was like before it got slicker than the waters of a Gulf Coast bayou. Carrie Rodriguez performs at the Iron Horse June 16. —Rob Weir

Flogging Molly
The Speed of Darkness

(Borstal Beat)

Celtic punk is a highly specific genre with few frontiers left; the bar is high when it comes to standing out from the crowd. Flogging Molly, a prominent name in the combining of distorted guitar, concertina, violin and other traditional instruments, offers a mixed bag with their latest. The upbeat, overdriven tunes visit a blue collar punk sensibility with fist-in-the-air anthems hobbled by too-predictable changes and lyrics that are well-meaning attempts to tap into the woes of the economically downtrodden, nonetheless deflated by cliches ("living is hard through the struggles of a life," "if nothing gets done it'll never be right"). The album is a great listen all the same, thanks to Dave King's distinctive, dynamic vocals, and a good dose of the band's real strength: acoustic-driven tunes with gorgeous, memorable melodies and that just-right, wistful feel of the best traditional Irish music. —James Heflin

The Chain Gang of 1974
Wayward Fire

(Modern Art)

Dance beats, electro pop hooks, and driving guitars all bounce off each other on this promising but ultimately unsatisfying album from Chain Gang of 1974. The album opens with a snarling guitar molded to big, booming dance beats that beg for a party, but soon becomes bogged down. As the album progresses, the guitar appears less and less frequently and the constant falsetto vocals and dance beats all begin to blend together. Frontman Kamtin Mohager's shoe-gazing lyrics seem out of place on a dance album. Things pick up at the end with tracks like "Ethical Drugs" bringing the guitar back into the mix. Although it starts strong and ends well, most of Wayward Fire ends up stuck in the doldrums, with little to inspire a second listen.  —Josh Ernst

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