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Mark Pickerel & His Praying Hands 

Snake in the Radio (Bloodshot)

Those who remember the glory days of grunge might recall Mark Pickerel as the drummer for Screaming Trees. He's traded (in part) his drum kit for guitar and lead microphone, and signed with Bloodshot, one of the primo outfits for alt-Americana. But any assumptions that he's "gone country" are swept away on first listen. True, many of the songs have the evocative whine of a pedal-steel guitar, but otherwise it's pure western gothic, with flourishes gleaned from Ennio Morricone's spaghetti westerns (with the parched twang of an electric guitar, tempos are mostly ominous gallops or resigned dirges). Pickerel's velvety baritone, world-weary yet compassionate, recalls Nick Cave (a little), Richard Hawley, and Lee Hazlewood (a lot). The songs are Hazlewood-style elegies for restless souls -- characters hoping for redemption, a way out, or just the other shoe to drop. If you're seriously depressed, Snake might push you over the edge -- but if you need a soundtrack for that pensive late-night mood, this is just the thing.

More by Mark Keresman

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