11 Reasons

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The only evidence remaining of Ted Lukas' pedigree as a pop songwriter on Eleven Reasons is the abundance and quality of hooks on the album. Otherwise, it sounds like the work of a tough, rootsy, road-tested country-rock band that could drink you under the table just as soon as it could croon you a heartsick ballad. In comparison to the first album, Eleven Reasons is heavier on the drinking-you-under-the-table quality. The amps are turned up, and there is a much harder, less acoustic edge -- fewer banjos and mandolins, more Hammond organ runs and hot guitar solos -- without losing any of the rustic overtones of the music. It is less balladic and folksy, more rock & roll, revved-up without being over-driven, but also occasionally raunchy. The riffs on "Twist of Faith" and "Curbside Blues" are almost glam rather than country or blues, although the latter cut does feature some fine, aggressively bluesy acoustic slide work. Only "Tracing Steps" and "Family Name" recapture the measured folk-rock gait of Here for Now, while the banjo and mandolin-led "Through the Fields" evokes an entirely different woodsy, Appalachian side to the quartet. On the whole, though, Lukas isn't quite as convincing when he tries to compose slices of Americana ("Shoestring Winter") as when he is writing about matters of the heart and the highway. Everything on the album, though, has something to recommend it. Like the title says, Hangtown's second recording provides 11 reasons why any discriminating lover of Americana would want to hear it, and just as many clues as to what makes the band one of the finest alt-country combos to emerge in the 1990s. The band plays songs before they play a style, but these songs are still among the finest of the genre.

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