The Damn Lovelys

Trouble Creek

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The debut album from this New Jersey alt-country outfit is an engaging, sweet-and-sour slice of low-key but potent twang-rock, buoyed by the vocals of sometimes rock scribe Meredith Ochs. Ochs' strong but measured phrasing carries a tone of unforced honesty that lets songs like "Good Day Down" and "Toil and Trouble" ring true, while the rest of the band -- Pat Walsh on bass and piano, Jason Beard on drums, and Lawrence Ochs on guitars and mandolin -- clicks on a similar level, giving the songs a firm backbone founded on fine chops without too many self-congratulatory instrumental workouts. The songs speak of the nuts and bolts of daily life as experienced by typical adults -- which means love doesn't always go the way you want, ambitions aren't always fulfilled, and hangovers await the morning after a long night with the bottle. But Trouble Creek never sounds dour or bummed out for its own sake; the Damn Lovelys make music that's honest enough to acknowledge bad times without wallowing in them, and there's a lot of life in these ten tunes, not to mention some very real joy along within the great guitar work and ragged-but-right harmonies. Trouble Creek is a satisfying debut from a band that hopefully has more good stuff on tap where this came from.

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