Deer Tick 

Born On Flag Day

Sometimes a group begins as a band then evolves into one or two key members accompanied by a shifting cast of players. Deer Tick came into being the opposite way — in 2007, guitarist, singer, and songwriter John McCauley released War Elephant under the Deer Tick banner playing all instruments himself. For the follow-up Born On Flag Day, McCauley recruited three fellows and got himself a real band — and we, the audience, are the better for it. Their specialty is roots-rock, with plenty of country music and folk-rock overtones — but while many of their peers play with proficient assurance, the Tick approach it from a raw, irreverent garage band perspective. The opener "Easy" is a keeper — McCauley's voice crackles out of the speakers like a stray cat yowling for a mate, then the chorus kicks in, a jangling grabber of a minor-key melody. The driving, droll "Straight Into a Storm" careens like a gem by Chuck Berry or Freddy Cannon. Some songs have a Dylan-esque approach but the emotive edge of McCauley's vocals is commanding enough to overcome any comparisons. His lyrics juggle angst, hope, and humor and his melodies get their hooks into you posthaste. If you enjoy roots-rock but wish its makers were a little less earnest or "professional," the rollicking Born is an admirable alternative. (Partisan)

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