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Deer Tick: Born On Flag Day

Deer Tick: Born On Flag Day

Release Date:2009

By Michael Byrne | Posted 6/10/2009

Deer Tick seems to get lumped into the young, urban "new folk" movement, and if the buzzed-about band's sophomore album, following a 2007 disc released on Jana Hunter's label, is an indication, it's an awkward categorization. Deer Tick's primary member, John McCauley, is indeed young and comes from Providence's gallery scene, but McCauley's music takes a rollicking twist, channeling Richie Valens proto-roadhouse rockabilly rather than John Fahey or other soft voices.

And it's just as well-McCauley's overdriven Sonny Bono-esque yowl couldn't be soft much more than a cup of broken glass could. Indeed, his voice stabs out at you on first listen, and maybe puts you off. At least this listener was able to get over it after a few songs, and found a fun, rewarding record. This is kind of the story for the music as well: It's so stylized, it can be a bit much to swallow. Or maybe it's just that Deer Tick makes twangy music that's not autumnal and weepy.

Though it does have those moments. "Song About a Man" is gently finger-picked acoustic guitar and a restrained McCauley singing lyrics of regret between harmonica solos. Born on Flag Day is at its absolute best when it lets another vocalist in, a sweet counterpoint to McCauley coarse grit. With the honey-voiced Liz Isenberg singing a verse and harmonizing with McCauley on the chorus, "Friday XIII" lopes along through refrains of "won't you pleeeease love me again." It's not a slow number so much, but amid a great many songs that scream drinkin' and dancin', its tenderness is refreshing.

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