, sparingly accompanied by muscular guitar and drums. And occasionally -- and spectacularly -- when Ditto's supporting players back off entirely (as on the Delta spiritual sing-along that closes "All My Days"), the blend of old and new is triumphant and timeless.
In its less inventive moments, the Gossip comes off as a studiously rough-around-the-edges version of Sleater-Kinney, the trio's Olympia, Washington soul sisters and Kill Rock Stars labelmates. That sounds like damning with faint praise, but it's not: Like Sleater-Kinney, when the Gossip plays live, its audience partakes of an all-you-can-eat buffet of adrenaline and Ramones-inspired fire. But what makes the band special -- and at times hauntingly unique -- are those moments in its music when the old-time blues that inspired punk in the first place creep back in, usually courtesy of frontwoman Beth Ditto's belly-deep yowl. Her voice -- redolent at times of Janis and Bessie Smith -- is front and center throughout the band's second album,