Down in the Cellar

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Raw and rough-edged, mid-Michigan's Flatfoot demonstrates a back-to-basics approach to country-rock on their debut, Down in the Cellar. Brothers Aaron and Jason Bales sound for all the world like Richie Furay and Neil Young in the midst of Buffalo Springfield's most creative period, fully embracing the heartfelt country and fuzz-tinged rock that late-'60s California had in spades. Shades of Gram Parsons' International Submarine Band and the rough-hewn textures of the Band peek around the corners of these 13 straightforward roots rock numbers, making for an intimate and boozy living-room feel. Early stomps like "Bottle for the Baby" and the Buddy Holly-on-Haldol rave-up "Letter #6" offer good indicators of where the album will head, but the real gems arrive in the second half of the album. The riff-heavy "Sleep All Day" is an indie rock hayride and the barnburner "Grandaddy" sounds for all the world like a Willie Dixon cover through the eyes (and amplifiers) of Jack White (and that is certainly intended as a compliment). The only drawback to the album is that the seemingly live recording and reverbed-out sound get a little muddy, and although it adds to the raw, spontaneous sound, it buries the Bales brothers' songwriting under the haze of August crick water. Although hasty, the performances are earnest, the songcraft is honest, and the live Flatfoot experience outshines their recording by a country mile, so if these Cellar recordings can be considered a two-day demo, the follow-up album should be a hoot.

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