Fifth on the Floor

Ashes & Angels

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A kickass, take-no-prisoners country Southern rock band out of Lexington, Kentucky, Fifth on the Floor mash Southern rock, honky tonk outlaw country, and even a touch of bluegrass all together in a big, stomping bundle, and on the Shooter Jennings-produced Ashes & Angels, the band's third full-length release, all those strands come together perfectly, given weight, substance, and dimension by lead singer Justin Wells' whiskey-soaked vocals. He's the archetypical Southern bad boy with good intentions and twice as much bad luck raining down on him and plenty of scars trailing through his past, all of which come through in his raspy, powerful singing. Oh, and the songs are pretty good, too (Wells wrote several of the tracks here). From the galloping opening cut, the aptly named "Whiskey," through the wonderfully conceived "January in Louisiana," the loping "Hangman's Reel," and the relentless and scary "Shotgun," they feel as real and pervasive as good old Southern juke joint dirt and dust, and they rock in a loose, woolly way that Nashville's version of country never does. But it isn't just Wells putting these songs across; the rest of the band fills in the cracks with banjos, fiddles, pedal steel, snarling electric guitar leads, and gorgeous slide work, and drummer Aaron Earl Graham insures none of that barroom dust stays settled on the floor too long, making this a fine outing by a band that knows exactly what it's doing.

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