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The Mountain is the third offering from Cincinnati’s Heartless Bastards, but it’s indisputably Erika Wennerstom’s project now, just her, drums and bass as of 2008. Their sophomore, All This Time, was a kind of indie-rock variety show, whereas this album is focused, operating solely in that grey area between blues, rock and country (think early White Stripes, Zeppelin). There aren’t a lot of bands that can write a five-minute, two-chord song that isn’t terrible, but the Bastards’ Hold Your Head High is the album’s stand-out track in my mind – I mean, this musical territory has been ranged over for 40 years now, but they get it right: a few chords, a chorus, no mucking about (take note, Wolfmother). The production complements the band’s approach perfectly: a couple of guitars, roomy 90’s drums, and Wennerstrom’s bluesy drawl cutting clearly over the top – in many ways she is the band, cutting a kind of Loretta-Lyn-meets-PJ-Harvey figure. Her lyrics occasionally veer from rock homage into cliche – Could Be So Happy is the chief offender – but this is rock music: it’s not what she’s singing, it’s how she sings it, and she kills it every time. Recommended listening from the Bastards.

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