Cash Money

Halos of Smoke & Fire

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For their last album under this name before being forced to change to Cash Audio (rap label Cash Money records owned the name), drummer Scott Giampino and guitarist John Humphrey are assisted on about half these tracks by guests playing keyboards, sitar, violin, and lap steel, but notably not bass. In that respect and others they resemble the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, and with a hard-edged, often ragged punk-blues-rockabilly attack, share a similar musical direction with that band. Recorded live to two-track over the course of eight sessions in three months with few overdubs, the twosome runs through Elvis-inspired Sun rockabilly on "Ashes to the Wind" and raggedy blues-rock-inspired fare complete with washboard and harmonica on "Midnight Shakes." The ambitious instrumental "Mask of Amontiago" is as close to an epic as these guys get, winding and twisting through a dusky Western vibe akin to a garage version of Ennio Morricone. By turns ambitious, slack, sloppy, angry, revelatory, thrilling, and disappointing, this music is never boring. Even with some songs as just two-chord riffs, the duo infuses everything here with a raw energy and jittery intensity that's impossible to ignore. It's a cut-rate, back-roads tour of rural America told by two guys who seem to have experienced it firsthand.

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