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The Howlin’ Brothers made quite a splash last year with their debut album Howl, a rare acoustical Americana record that’s not boring. Far too many albums in the style seem more worried about creating a future museum piece rather than an engaging artistic experience – not so with the Brothers, who write and play tunes as if it’s the greatest job in the world. So it is on Trouble, the trio’s sophomore record. Despite its setup, guitarist Jared Green, banjoist/fiddler Ian Craft and bassist Ben Plasse have never been – nor claimed to be – a bluegrass band. Indeed Trouble finds them casting ever further afield from the string band tradition, as well as folding in such previously untested elements as electric guitar and drums. “Monroe” and “Louisiana” visit Cajun country, “World Spinning Round” dips into C&W weeper territory, “Night and Day” and “Troubled Waltz” ride blues riffs and grooves, “Sing a Sad Song” essays folk rock a la Steve Forbert and the Brothers even venture into reggae with “Love.” The band dips into its bluegrass roots with the frisky “Pack Up Joe” and “Hard Times,” but for the most part Trouble displays the Howlin’ Brothers’ songwriting versatility and imagination beyond its instrumental image.
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