Hank Williams III, Josh Rouse, The Storys, Neko Case
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Hank Williams III/
Josh Rouse/
The Storys/
Neko Case

[The Mail On Sunday, 2006]

THE OLD SAW that talent skips a generation seemingly applies to Hank Williams III - son of the less than captivating Hank Jr, and grandson of the justly adored Hank, whose appearance and voice find an almost eerie reverberation in him. Part of the joy of Straight To Hell (Curb ****) is that Hank III doesn't confuse respect with reverence. He adopts a sleazy, rambunctious aspect of country & western that's been largely ignored by the studious alt.country crew and ostracised by the music's shrink-wrapped mainstream.
 These two discs - one of relatively straightforward and luridly entertaining redneck shtick, the other an extended acoustic experiment - owe as much to punk as to Nashville, home of a powerful establishment Hank III professes to loathe. It's a truculent, crude, vibrant record, invoking a moshpit at a hoedown, and one that need not trade on its pedigree.
 The ongoing Everything Revival has now got around to the US west coast Seventies sound known in its own day as Mellow. This can be quite pleasant, as evidenced by Subtitulo (Bedroom Classics/Nettwerk ***), from Josh Rouse, whose mild, winsome songs have been charming equally mild, winsome folk for six albums now. Although recorded in Spain by a native of Nebraska, Subtitulo has that unmistakably Californian lilt. Where it might be bland, it generally manages instead to be light.
 Neither of which could be said of The Storys, a Welsh Sextet whose own west coast pop varies from sluggish to turgid on their self-titled debut (Korova* out March 27). They will, before long, be impossible to avoid, having nabbed a support slot on Elton John's summer tour. Even those who find EJ's early stuff a bit racy may struggle to stay awake when what amounts to a slightly hipper Westlife takes the stage.
 Records by wilful Boho oddballs are rife just now; and if more of them had the texture and allure of Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings The Flood (Anti/Epitaph ***) that wouldn't be such a bad thing. The dreamlike, echo laden sound recalls Aimee Mann; but Case's puzzle-box of twists and tangents has an unnerving quality all its own. Each song opens a small door onto its own satisfyingly strange inner landscape.

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