The Bills

Let Em Run

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While all acoustic folk-based bands are throwbacks of a sort, the Bills purposely cultivate an "old time" aura. Even the group's photo, tinged in sepia, reminds one a bit of the Band circa 1968. The Bills' subject matter -- like the Band's and the Grateful Dead's -- is tinged with Americana, though presented in an elliptical manner. There are Biblical floods, wise fools, and references to jigger poles, temptress hens, and drunken moons. The title track tells the odd tale of chickens running free, though there also seems to be a pun on runny eggs, while "Lay Down" mixes images of food and sensuality. What exactly these songs are saying is anyone's guess, but as with the above-mentioned artists, literal meaning matters less than evoking a mysterious mood. The Bills -- Marc Atkinson, Adrian Dolan, Glen Manders, Jeremy Penner, and Chris Frye -- are also great musicians who add, surprisingly, a touch of the classical to their instrumental work. This combination of folk, classical, and, yes, even Cajun, guarantees a variety of approaches from song to song, and also gives the band a distinct sound. The Bills, good musicians and singers, combine solid material with an evocative presentation. While purists may prefer the rougher edges of old-time folk, most listeners will probably prefer the Bills' smooth professionalism and enthusiasm.

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