Ha Ha Tonka's 2007 album, Buckle in the Bible Belt, bounced among gritty Southern-rock fervor, gospel-influenced piano balladry and even soulful four-part a cappella harmonies. But at the Bloodshot Records day party at this year's SXSW music festival, it became clear that the material from the Springfield, Missouri, band's much anticipated second full-length, Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South, goes one step further. By molding all of these influences and musical touchstones into one hard-driving, spiritually stirring sound, its music merges echoes of the past with an urgent immediacy. "Walking on the Devil's Backbone" — a song recently released as an album teaser — finds Ha Ha Tonka embracing a much more groove-oriented feel that still retains plenty of down-home Southern charm and rambunctious energy.
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