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Ekoostik Hookah 

Ohio Grown (www.ekoostik.com)

The Grateful Dead's last great idea came around 1970, when the group routed its rarefied hippie mysticism through the common byways of country music. Thirty-two years later, the same idea also fires this self-reliant Columbus jam band's seventh album.

Not that Ohio Grown is close to the level of Workingman's Dead, but it's a marked improvement from Ekoostik Hookah's own Seahorse. After a decade spent building its following, the sextet's serene image frayed on that 2001 album, as the group lashed out against straight-world critics and sang the praises of hippie life with the urgency of salesmen about to lose their mark. But here the urgency is saved for the first three cuts' rocking riffs, backed by bucolic imagery and countrified arrangements that sound as if the band has genuinely found salvation in the wilderness.

The magic doesn't quite last through all 10 cuts: The funk foray and acoustic hoedown are fine, the jokey beatnik ditty isn't. Still, coming from such old seeds, this homegrown has far more kick than you'd expect.

Speaking of Regional Beat

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