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Brian Lisik 

Happiness Is Boring (Cherokee Queen Records)

Brian Lisik taps the same ragged roots-rock vein as the Replacements and Old '97s, cooking Stones-style country-blues and jingle-jangle twang into a variety of enticing recipes. From "The Outskirts," whose soulful, horn-fueled shuffle recalls early Springsteen, to "Nothing I Can Do," whose opening refrain harks back to the Byrds' "Turn! Turn! Turn!", producer Todd Tobias (Guided by Voices) manages to keep the sound crisp and clean without polishing out Lisik's barroom roots. Though the Akron native delivers mostly catchy, uptempo numbers, it's the heart-rending ballad "Sleeping With a Moron" that hits hardest, delivering the bitter bite of a man cuckolded by his Corvette-driving neighbor ("a self-made man in a Def Leppard shirt").

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