Amateur Radio Operator

Sirens of Titan

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No Depression readers hear plenty of alternative country, but nothing like this. On this debut, Seattle's ARO and frontman Mark Johnson might remind of My Morning Jacket and Band of Horses. (Bassist Chris Early was in the latter.) But Johnson's influence isn't 40-year-old country rock; it goes back a century to old folk, field recording blues, and country 78s -- played like modern indie rock. Johnson moved to Washington from Georgia, and the decay of the post-war South leaks from these laconic songs via pedal steel by excellent producer Kevin Suggs (who has played it with the Shins, Colin Spring, Rocky Vololato, his own Evageline, etc.). Johnson's so confident in this transformation, he takes the breakneck 1981 Minor Threat song "Screaming at a Wall" and pretends Johnny Cash wrote it and Neil Young sang it (like Chris Bailey's cover of John Phillips' "Me and My Uncle"). Whoa!

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