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Rhythm & Views

The Moaners

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For The Moaners' second record, they traveled to Oxford, Miss., to record at Black Wings Studio, which until recently housed Fat Possum Records' famous Money Shot studios. The gritty vibe of that venerable building--where R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough and other bluesmen cut numerous raw and rocking sides--must have rubbed off on the band. Bigger and badder than Dark Snack, The Moaners' terrific debut CD, Blackwing Yalobusha is a great, humming transistor of edgy Southern blues rock.

The Moaners are Melissa Swingle on vocals and guitar and Laura King on drums. As anyone who heard Swingle's last band, Trailer Bride, knows, she possesses an extraordinary voice--dark, smoky, deadpan and barbed with backwoods menace, something always seems about to get out of control at the edges. If her voice were a novel, it would be rural Southern noir.

And Swingle's stellar guitar is always within shouting distance of some dark river--the Mississippi, most likely. Her slide work carves great humid paths through most of the tracks, up front and rocking on "Yankee on My Shoulder" and sparse and spooky on "Dreamin' About Flyin'." Her wah-wah on "Foxy Brown" twists it into a psychedelic blues cluster bomb.

King matches her perfectly, pounding her drums with equal parts passion and precision--check her work on "Shrew" as a model of inventive simplicity. There may only be two Moaners, but they certainly know how to fill up a room, a groove and a record.

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