Born on Flag Day CD - Partisan

John Joseph McCauley III takes a confident step forward on his sophomore Deer Tick release, Born on Flag Day. McCauley's initial Deer Tick album, War Elephant, was a one-man effort that had a rough rural engraving. This time, Deer Tick is a bona-fide band, with drummer Dennis Ryan, stepbrother Chris Ryan on bass, and guitarist Andrew Tobiassen. With a bigger band comes a broader sound encompassing indie and roots rock, with friendlier melodies and riffs. That does not mean Deer Tick has morphed into The Derailers or The Jayhawks. McCauley retains his conspicuous raspy singing and despondency narratives, but wraps them with stocky guitars and crossover appeal. This change is apparent on the Son Volt-esque lead off track, "Easy," which sounds more like Hank III than McCauley's hero, Hank Williams, Sr. Meanwhile, Jerry Lee Lewis's hellion spirit saturates rockabilly romper "Straight Into the Storm." Mostly, though, Deer Tick follows a rustic blueprint, with a tremolo guitar, pedal steel, harmony vocals, and tales of makeshift lives, weary heartaches, and reckless expectations. The Bob Dylan-ish "Song About a Man" is a prime example, utilizing a single kick drum, strummed acoustic guitar, forlorn cello, and high harmonica to complement McCauley's profile of broken hope. Urgent honky-tonker "Friday XIII" has a likeminded sensibility, with winsome Liz Isenberg dueting with McCauley on a plea for affection. Fans of Deer Tick's previous lo-fi material will want to stay to the end to hear an inebriated bonus live rendition of "Goodnight, Irene" that follows closer "Stung."

By Doug Simpson



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