Though they make their home on heavy-roots label Fat Possum, the Heartless Bastards
follow the same end-run around the blues as PJ Harvey, Patti Smith and, to a lesser extent, their Ohio compatriots the Pretenders. Their overlooked 2006 album, All This Time
, churns through chunky Les Paul riffs and some punk tempos for a dark look at the working-class Midwest; the Bastards choose to submerge their hooks and singer/guitarist Erika Wennerstrom's sex appeal in electric squalls and Kevin Vaughn's pile-driver drumming. But when Wennerstrom's lyrics cut through the din, they almost always make her blues ring true: "It's always those little things that eat at your soul," she sings on the closer, "Came a Long Way." "And I'm not going to worry about them no more."