Meat Purveyors 

Pain by Numbers

The Meat Purveyors have answered to all manner of genre-labeling in their six-year career (alt-country, roots-rock, Americana), but what the Austin four-piece delivers is a more or less straight -- though banjo-challenged -- bluegrass (which, after all, was country music before country music was country music) held together with a honky-tonk spirit slathered on thick, like a third coat of barn paint. And while their essence may spring from the shared punk-country aesthetic of three chords and the truth (and it does: Ponder the title of their previous album, All Relationships Are Doomed to Fail, and all of a sudden a safety-pin-pierced cheek doesn't seem all that fatalistic), the musicianship displayed is much too accomplished to stay in the garage.

The Purveyors have been known to kidnap an unsuspecting song or two -- they've taken on the works of Madonna, Elvis Presley, the Velvet Underground, Ratt, and Merle Haggard in four prior releases -- and this time through they wrap around Fleetwood Mac's "Monday Morning," Rank & File's "Amanda Ruth," and Ronnie Milsap's "Daydreams About Night Things." But it's an inspired cover of Johnny Paycheck's "It Won't Be Long (And I'll Be Hating You)" that best demonstrates the band's willingness to leapfrog past the standard issue harmonies of separation and loss to a land where hearts are not only broken, but stomped on by steel-toed boots and finished off with a satisfied grin. Welcome to their world.

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