Exebelle & the Rusted Cavalcade

C.A.F.

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Exebelle & the Rusted Cavalcade's third EP finds the band continuing its collective approach to country-rock. The sum really is greater than its parts, particularly when the parts are this diverse, and C.A.F. covers a wide swath of territory in five songs. Kerry Hutcherson is the group's twangy traditionalist, a raw-voiced songwriter who writes about railroad cave-ins and other Depression-era topics, while bassist Ryan Owenby is his sunny foil, employing handclaps and plucked banjo to turn his own composition, "Lowlands," into the album's happiest moment. Lead guitarist Phil Heesen strikes a balance between both camps, his two contributions displaying the full breadth of Exebelle's abilities. "I Won't Love You to Death (But I'll Love You to the Door)" is an excellent slice of Nashville country, full of well-scrubbed pedal steel and high-pitched harmonies, and "Tomorrow, I'm a Ghost" is both beautiful and heartrending, a plea for "an easy kind of romance" against a difficult kind of addiction. The band sounds equally comfortable with both numbers, and C.A.F. -- Exebelle's second release of 2009 -- effectively widens the group's embrace of country music. Highly recommended.

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