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CD REVIEW: One Left - Songs from the Wound
By Chip Withrow - 06/17/2006 - 06:34 PM EDT

Artist: Band: One Left
Album: Songs from the Wound
CD Review: I like my country music raw – I’ll take Keith Urban once in a while, but I’ll listen to Hank Williams’ Low Down Blues over and over again.

One Left’s Songs from the Wound has Hank’s stripped-down cool. This disc also brings back fond memories of the great late ‘80s cowpunk bands – Beat Farmers, Lone Justice, Beat Rodeo – I listened to in college.

From the first fiddle-like-a-freight-train-comin’ of “Adios Mi Corazon,” One Left reeled me in. Okay, I thought, that song rocks like a Bakersfield roadhouse, but can these guys keep it up?

Absolutely. Next comes the loping “What About Tomorrow” a drinker’s lament. “Bonita Gone Home” follows, a juke-joint sing-along with a bluesy piano touch.

Singer Rick Rowland has the fitting whiskey-soaked drawl for this kind of music. He also wrote every tune on Songs from the Wound, and he pens straightforward lyrics that are twists on familiar country themes. Even when he veers a little close to cliché, as on “Every Dream I Dream” and “Tonight Put a Ribbon In Your Hair,” he’s saved by the sincerity of what he’s singing.

(In fact, the more I listen to “Ribbon,” the more it sounds like one of Bruce Springsteen’s country efforts, and I’ve always had a soft spot for those.)

The edgy “John Killinger” is like a shot of bourbon in your coffee after the sleepless night of “Every Dream.” “Killinger” is a rollicking yarn about a bad dude, sinister yet sympathetic, who “sings to the stars and howls at the moon and prays for those in his way.”

Then comes the song that most conjures the ghost of Hank, “I Can’t Believe.” Hank could turn a clever couplet (rhyming “over the fence” with “five or 10 cents,” for example), and I can hear him singing Rick’s “We gone and laid down these here roots so why she want her walking boots.”

Perhaps my favorite cut is “True Love’s So Hard to Lose” – I say that because lately I find myself singing the simple, plaintive chorus: “True love’s so hard to lose, you get those lonesome blues.” It’s also a good tune for recognizing the talents of drummer Sven Abow and almost-everything-stringed picker Riley McMahon.

Abow plays what sounds like a simple, snare-heavy trap set, and it’s perfect for this kind of music. And McMahon is particularly adept at electrified twang and lap steel.

Someone’s not given credit for the hurdy gurdy-like sound that is so eerily nifty about “That Side’s Hers.” The songs stands out as another clever take on a familiar theme – this time the rambling man who is torn between settling down and taking off – and for McMahon’s minor-key banjo picking.

Too often, I listen to the local radio stations and wonder whatever happened to the traditional country music I like. I was beginning to figure maybe it was a figment of my imagination, a fusion that only I could hear of the Clash’s “Brand New Cadillac” and that old Waylon Jennings record of my dad’s.

Songs from the Wound is a true find, a CD that’s real close to my elusive ideal. You want to get back to the roots of country? Forget Nashville. Try a disc like this, hardcore backwoods sounds by way of Brooklyn and Washington, D.C.

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