The Flatirons

Prayer Bones

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Combining traditional country sounds with sonically challenging textures, the Flatirons debut is rife with haunting rural landscapes, distorted reverb-drenched guitar work, and Wendy Pate's smoky vocals. Falling somewhere between Shelby Lynne, Kelly Willis, and Natalie Merchant, Pate's singing is as remarkably well suited for feedback-washed production, as on "Bad Seeds" and "Heaven Help You," as she is for the classic country balladry of "Heart on Fire." As close as "New Pair of Shoes" comes to translating Portishead's spooky tension to a country format, a closer approximation might be the atmospheric production work of Daniel Lanois. Though the ethereal textures sometimes threaten to overwhelm the songs in Lanois' work, the Flatirons maintain an earthy, tangible quality on the standard country harmonies of the more upbeat "High Lonesome Moon" and "Three Crosses." A daring take on Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" translates into a country-rock format so well that it's hard to imagine it in any other way. Everything taken into account, this is the brand of diverse alternative country that has few obvious peers.

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