The Deadly Gentlemen

Roll Me, Tumble Me

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Boston's the Deadly Gentlemen, led by banjoist and songwriter Greg Liszt, formerly of the alternative bluegrass outfit Crooked Still, may look like an old-time string band or bluegrass outfit on-stage, but the group's sound, which began as a kind of spoken word rap twisted around traditional tunes with a dose of punk energy and attitude, has evolved into a much smoother and thought-out folk-pop sound on this set, their third album, and first for Rounder Records. It's not that the band has lost its edge, though, just honed it to fit around Liszt's literate and melodic songs, and on Roll Me, Tumble Me, they've become essentially a rootsy pop/rock band that just happens to play acoustically. Liszt's songs, when he's at his best as a songwriter, are poignant, full of restless regret, loss, and distant memories, but are always oddly hopeful, and tracks here like the opener, "I Fall Back," "All the Broken Pieces," and the closer, "Falsehearted Anthem," rise above the resignation and melancholy that a lesser songwriter might well saddle them with and soar with a haunting grace. This isn't bluegrass by any means, although the same instrumentation is used, but it is string band music, a thoroughly modern version of it that features songs that muse and flow inward. The old string bands of the previous century were more concerned with keeping people dancing than dealing with any personal internal or emotional issues. The Deadly Gentlemen hope to do both, but this set is truthfully more about reflection than twirling about.

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