Sixty Acres

Banjos & Sunshine

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Washington D.C.'s Sixty Acres formed in the late '90s and, like many alternative country bands that sprang up around that time, they bore the influence of the scene's two influential acts, the Jayhawks and Uncle Tupelo. The twangy guitar bite propelling the disc's forceful opening cuts, "Color" and "Me or Him," has a bit of Tupelo in it, while the gentler tale of heartbreak "Goodbye" reveals some Jayhawks-like harmonies. However, these guys aren't mere pretenders; the music here definitely has a life of its own. What helps to distinguish Sixty Acres from the pack is its talented frontman Matt Felch. The band's principal songwriter, Felch pens tunes that installs some freshness to the oft-chronicled battles of the sexes. On "ATF," he flips the image of "alcohol, tobacco, and firearms," suggesting that they "won't keep you save at night." The break-up tune "Cold Turkey" nicely uses its Thanksgiving metaphor without driving the wordplay into the ground. Felch also acknowledges his tendency to write about women and romance on the humorous ditty "My Car," which naturally is a "love ode" to his car. Vocally, Felch sings in an easy-going twang that recalls Peter Holsapple, currently in the roots-rock supergroup the Continental Drifters. One of the disc's strongest tracks, the wounded-hearted tune "Fanfare" would stand up to any of Holsapple's Drifters' songs. The band ably supports Felch on both the ragged rockers and the laid-back numbers, with lead guitarist Mark McKay providing particularly strong work. While there is a familiar quality to "Sixty Acres"' country-rock blend, the band exhibits enough spiritedness and originality to make Banjos and Sunshine a notable debut.

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