Most of the music on Deer Tick’s third album, The Black Dirt Sessions, was recorded back in 2008, during the sessions for the rollicking Born On Flag Day, but it’d be a mistake to think of these songs as leftovers. Flag Day saw Deer Tick singer-songwriter John McCauley capitalizing on the buzz from the band’s first album by making a flat-out country-rock record, while The Black Dirt Sessions’ tracks are simpler and shaggier, even though Deer Tick has re-worked them some since ’08. Songs like the loping “Choir Of Angels” and the circular “The Sad Sun” find McCauley singing catchy-albeit-abridged melodies in his raspy, nasal voice—which, as always, is pitched precisely between mean, boozy, and weepy. And the album as a whole comes off a little wilder than Flag Day, as McCauley and his bandmates dress up the humble and hummable with some darker shadings: an ominously spacey piano on “Piece By Piece And Frame By Frame,” a furious guitar solo at the end of “Mange,” and so on. Yet McCauley still finds room for the easygoing, almost Badfinger-esque mid-tempo rocker “Hand In My Hand,” an explication of sorrow designed to show how we’re all bound together by loneliness and misery.
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