Southern rock used to mean stars, bars, blues, and beer, but young turks like My Morning Jacket and now Band Of Horses have added sweetness, sadness, dreaminess, and weed to the mix. (Maybe Southern man doesn't mind having Neil Young around, after all.) Principal member Ben Bridwell recently moved back to his home state of South Carolina from Seattle, and while his band's sophomore effort, Cease To Begin, doesn't deviate much from its excellent 2006 debut, Everything All The Time, the record's relaxed, understated grace is distinctively Southern in its lack of self-consciousness.


Band Of Horses is often described as an amalgam of other bands: a little My Morning Jacket, a little Built To Spill, maybe some Flaming Lips. On Cease To Begin, Bridwell sets himself apart by being more emotionally direct than his influences. Seizing full control of Band Of Horses after the departure of co-founder Mat Brooke, Bridwell can still pen slow-simmering rockers like "Ode To LRC" and "Cigarettes, Wedding Bands" that recall the best of Everything All The Time, but the real distinguishing factor comes in the impossibly gorgeous slow jams. "No One's Gonna Love You" is an unabashedly romantic pledge, and "Marry Song" brims with rich country harmonizing. The closing "Window Blues" is a quiet, end-of-the-night shuffler that conveys Cease To Begin's central theme: The South may not rise again, but that's okay. You can let it pull you down into the green grass, to stare endlessly at the starry sky.