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CD REVIEW: The Hideaways - The Whiskey Tango Sessions
By Chip Withrow - 10/22/2006 - 10:49 PM EDT

Artist: The Hideaways
Album: The Whiskey Tango Sessions
CD Review: Music like the Hideaways’ is my version of the country my father listened to when I was growing up. Dad had Waylon, Cash, Freddy Fender and Hank Sr. I’ve had Tom Petty, Lone Justice, the Jayhawks and Wilco.

The common thread is a sound that is deeply American (OK, Tom Petty was influenced by the Byrds, who were influenced by the Beatles). The Whiskey Tango Sessions is filled with songs that – like Petty’s “Listen to Her Heart” and the Jayhawks’ “Clouds” – are richly textured and anthemic yet smoky-tavern twangy.

The first two tracks, “Don’t Try and Love Me” and “Stranger’s Heart,” hooked me right away. Both boast guitar interplay between chiming rhythm and cut-to-the-quick lead. “Love Me” is also textured with organ and piano, and “Stranger’s Heart” has an instrument I never get sick of hearing, a well-played pedal steel.

At first, I thought “El Centro County Line” was a bit too neo-traditional country for my taste. But while the lyrics come close to cliché, that approach works for Steve Earle, and it suited me better here after upon repeated listens I fell in love with the pedal steel-and-accordion backdrop.

“Long Dark Road” might be my favorite cut: heartbreaking almost-falsetto vocals, find-my-way-to-the-light-or-be-damned lyrics, poignant harmonica … it gives me the lump in my throat that sweetly sad songs often do. “Picture of Lonely” a few songs later does the same, and brings to mind my long, emotional obsession with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

A couple of songs, “No One in the World” and “I’ve Got a Problem,” lean toward power pop, and that’s cool, too. “No One” has that nifty pedal steel going again, this time along with crunchy power chords for an interesting dichotomy.

“The Way You Control the Lines” is the most offbeat cut on the disc: swampy, echoey guitars give way to a big Beatle-esque chorus, which leads to fuzz tones and distortion. Toss in kooky lyrics that are either symbolic or nonsensical but great nonetheless.

This is the kind of album I would have brought along for late-night road trips along winding Ohio backroads back in college. Twenty years later, I still find music like the Hideaways' timeless and authentic.

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