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Heartless Bastards
The Mountain
Fat Possum Records
www.theheartlessbastards.com


Powerful frontwomen have been alive in rock since Janis Joplin, Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Exene Cervena of L.A's X and Heart's Wilson Sisters stormed the gates of the All Men Rock and Roll Club in the 1960's and 1970's, setting things in motion for a revolution. Since that time, women have indeed carved a place for themselves in the grit, but it seems that country [music] or in the case of The Heartless Bastards, country rock, has been more accepting of the female of our species.

Thus is the case on The Heartless Bastards latest offering, The Mountain. The album possesses all the elements that make this band great: love of country (music), an appreciation of rock's barroom past, kick in the teeth players, and the ability to rip your heart out one second and say "oh I didn't mean it, I love you" the next. Though it would more likely be found in the rock section of your favorite record store, The Mountain fits nicely in the subgenre of music where Lucinda Williams is queen. There is a bell tolling and it tolls for The Heartless Bastards' lead lady Erika Wennerstrom. The Dayton, Ohio barnburners newest phenomenon, The Mountain, sets a tone of excellence for not only fem-rockers but all would-be rock'n'rollers. The lyrical weight of the album puts her in heady company with the likes of Roseanne Cash, Lucinda Williams, Liz Phair, Wilco, Mary Chapin Carpenter and others. Lines like "You're hurting my ears with your endless speech/ You act like you're sophisticated as you're under the arches/ sitting down as everyone marches" from the record's best (and fastest tempo) number "Early in the Morning" set the tone for Wennerstrom's acid-tongued word play.

The Bastards are part of a new generation that revels in pushing musical bounds and genre classifications and making things that were once old new again. It is a great time for music and The Heartless Bastards are one of its most faithful timekeepers. The Mountain has its peaks and valleys, climbing with numbers like "Could Be So Happy" and "Hold Your Head High" to laments like the frustratedly beautiful garage jam of "Out To Sea." Wennerstrom's "old soul" vocal style gives weight and truth to the album's superb musical foundations.

The Mountain is an document of challenges both great and small. All clichés aside, The Heartless Bastards are a band that is more than capable of moving the Big Indie Rock Mountains.

-Danny R. Phillips

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