The Devil Makes Three

I'm a Stranger Here

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The Devil Makes Three are a very special trio, mixing old country blues, gospel, banjo reels, ragtime, and back-country stomp into a potent brand of folk-punk that has made their live shows near legendary. The band's albums (there have been five of them before this one) are pretty memorable, too, but I'm a Stranger Here, produced in Nashville by Buddy Miller (who also plays guitar and baritone guitar on the album), has a warm and coherent sound to it that harnesses the band's chaotic energy without denying it, making it arguably the trio's best studio outing to date. Lead singer and guitarist Pete Bernhard's songs have always been remarkably timeless, as if they come from another era but also belong to this one, a feel that Miller's production, which mostly features the band in a single-room live setting, wonderfully captures. The album falls together seamlessly. "Stranger" has a Gypsy jazz feel and stacked '30s-style backing chorus; "40 Days," featuring Jim Hoke's bluesy clarinet solo and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's horns, has a ragtime feel; "Dead Body Moving" is a speedy, ragged hoedown; and the set closer, "Goodbye Old Friend," is a lovely country ballad. At times, as in the folk and country stomps "Hallelu" and "Spinning Like a Top," the band sounds like a feisty mix of the Lovin' Spoonful and Country Joe & the Fish on a careening moonshine-and-coffee jag. That's not a bad thing. It adds up to the Devil Makes Three's most consistent and balanced album yet.

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