Did You Think I Was Gone?

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Mike Ferrio, leader of the band Tandy, has the sort of rough but sweet voice and sympathetic backing musicians that most alt country guys would give their eye teeth to call their own, but in 2006 that doesn't seem like quite as sweet a deal as when Uncle Tupelo was threatening to take the new twang to the top of the charts, and on Did You Think I Was Gone? Ferrio seems to be messing with his own formula just a bit. Musically, Did You Think I Was Gone? is a bit more raw and a bit more spare than its immediate predecessor, To a Friend, though its stripped-down surfaces are effective and Ferrio and Drew Glackin's guitars kick up some impressive atmospheric menace, while producer Scott Harding gives these sessions a full-bodied punch that serves the songs well. Where Did You Think I Was Gone? gets curious is in Ferrio's lyrics, which not only play up standard roots rock archetypes of hard living and bad love with a conviction that sounds faintly tongue in cheek, but nearly all the songs name check some bit of rock & roll's noble past. "I'm the Werewolf" cites albums by Iggy Pop and David Bowie; "On a Hill" offers lyrical asides to Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and Lucinda Williams; "The Healer" mentions Buddy Holly's "Not Fade Away," and "Misery Boys" gives shout outs to Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" and the Stones' "Gimme Shelter." While Tandy's musical history lessons sound just a bit odd on first listen, the band rocks with a gentle but genuine conviction, and musically this is fine stuff. Next time, however, Ferrio would do well not to re-read The Rolling Stone Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll before working on his lyrics.