Alt. Country is always an interesting line to tread. With a wide-open meaning, it's often hard to define the difference between Alt. Country and "real" Country and pop Country and whatever other country there is. Ten Cent Howl walks the line and toes is it quite capably with their new EP Down Time. These five songs represent some ways in which Country can be bent in order to make it an alternative to the norm.
One of the major stands out is the vocals. In turns dripping with emotion and lacking the sobriety to care, the words are only one part of conveying the message of each song. Pair that with a drummer who knows how to pace things in such a way as to couch each song and pare it down to an essential drive (or drone if it's necessary for the tune). This album also finds the band experimenting with new sounds, like heavier harmonicas and a great mandolin sound. As always, the guitars and bass are well balanced and support each other like the arms of lovers after a night that may have lasted too long.
The EP kicks off with a great song of past love born of drinking. Does it get more country than that? The title track is then a great shuffling didddy that seems like it might be positive, but in reality is a lament for the life of a musician. Here the backing vocals and new instrumentation really shine. The big take away, though, is the final track "Turning Away", a song of affirmation, decline, and the type of song that leaves you wanting a bit more. It takes all the pieces that have been put down in the previous tracks and puts them together in a perfect picture.
So...is this alt-country or Alt. Country or what? That is a question left to the listener. At the very least, Ten Cent Howl has proven music can be fun and fun to listen to, even while lamenting drunken lost loves and lives.
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