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Western Star made a notable splash three years ago with debut Fireball, a rocking melange of Stonesy groove, hard rock drive and Replacements heart. Produced by J. Robbins, Any Way How, the Baltimore quartet’s second LP, picks right up where the previous album left off. Like a broken-hearted romantic with a shelf full of Larry Brown books and a bottle by his side, Max Jeffers writes songs as if every record in his collection comes from either Texas or Minneapolis. His bandmates treat them with the right balance of roughness and reverence, respecting their leader’s emotional heft, but unafraid to leave his creations dirty and smudged. Lead guitarist Justin Myers plays with taste, but rips like a guitar hero when it’s called for, and Jeffers’ twangy bawl bespeaks years trying to pour his heart out in noisy bars. Speedy killers “Since I Learned to Dance” and “Coast to Coaster” blaze, midtempo crankers “Just Another Man” and “Lookin’ For Action” bop, while burly boogie “Part of the Deal” and skillet-licking shit-kicker “Driving in the Zone” burn. The whole thing simmers with a soul few trad-minded rock & rollers manage anymore. This kind of bar band-made-good noise gets more rare every year, so when a band like Western Star comes along that does it so well, they’re to be treasured.
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