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Crooked Fingers 

With Azure Ray. Saturday, March 24, at the Grog Shop.

Picture Neil Diamond as an aging indie rocker, drowning in sorrow, self-hatred, and Jack Daniel's. Picture "Coming to America" reinvented as a touching ode to alcohol-inflicted suicide. Picture Tom Waits (drunk himself) singing at Diamond's funeral. You get the idea. Crooked Fingers, a group fronted by former Archers of Loaf frontman Eric Bachmann, specializes in somber Waitsian tales of drunks and prostitutes and cigarette-smoking women who set themselves on fire and burn to a crisp because they just don't care. With his whiskey-soaked voice backed by a thin-sounding fingerpicked electric guitar, Bachmann sells self-explanatory tales of woe like "She Spread Her Legs and Flew Away" with Springsteen-like conviction. He even manages a great impression of the Boss on the recent Nebraska tribute, lending that trademark resignation to "Mansion on the Hill." With a new album, Bring on the Snakes, and a tour to help sell it, you've still got to wonder if Bachmann can pull off the dead-on-his-feet singer-songwriter shtick for a live crowd with a live band. Lord only knows. But teeth-clenching ballads like "Juliette" should justify the price of admission in any format, even if Bachmann himself is three sheets to the wind and already smoldering.

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