The Lowdown: 1997-2002

Brooklyn-based alt.country songwriter Mike Ferrio has a sneaky, seductive way with a melody, matching his hushed, urgent vocals with the subtly propulsive musical backing of big city pals such as steel guitarist Dave Glackin (formerly of the Silos) and bassist Scott Yoder, on loan from Amy Rigby's band. This retrospective CD gathers sixteen alluring tunes from Ferrio's four previous Tandy albums, all self-released on the microscopic Yellow Slipper label. It's the kind of imaginative retooling of country roots music that cries out for a larger audience, but is destined simply to be a cherished gem for a select few. Like Paul Burch of Lambchop, Paula Frazer's Tarnation, or even old-school genre-benders like Camper Van Beethoven, Tandy comes at country music from an indie-pop perspective, yet skillfully sidesteps the tedious white-trash stereotypes of the punkish twangcore crowd in favor of more subtle, substantive roots-rock poetry. This is intelligently written material, with lyrics as mystifying and obscure as the most introverted lo-fi, home recording geek, but with a solid musical backing and a pleasantly clear sense of purpose. High-powered guest performers such as Kelly Willis and the late Dave Van Ronk are testament to the power of Ferrio's songwriting, while poppy tunes such as "Far from Home," with its irresistible Doug Sahm-inspired roller-rink organ riffs, are the stuff that power-pop heaven is made of. You won't see these guys on TNN anytime soon, but if you can round them up into your stereo at home, you'll be one happy urban rancher.


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