Homespun: The Union Electric 

"Tunnels" / "An Irish Orphan"
Rankoutsider Records

The Union Electric prefers to release its music in seven-inch spurts — this two-song sliver of wax is the group's third such release in as many years. There's little doubt that the tireless pen of Tim Rakel has enough songs to fill a full-length or two, but these releases keep a tight focus on the sets of songs. Rakel has long labored in what can be broadly termed "Americana," but the Union Electric gives him his most raucous backing yet. Guitarist Glenn Burleigh (formerly of the Adversary Workers) plays snaking barbed-wire guitar lines over Rakel's rangy acoustic strums, and this mix of punk and country is winked at with a liner note thank-you to both Woody Guthrie and Joe Strummer. The A-side of this seven-inch, "Tunnels," tells of a rumored series of passageways beneath a Gold Rush town where dispossessed people are hidden away and left to create a subterranean culture. Bassist Melinda Cooper gives a harmonic lift to Rakel's stoic vocals, and guest musician Dave Anderson's pedal steel amplifies the song's country undertones.

The band continues to give voice to the forgotten and marginalized on "An Irish Orphan," which tells the story of the Irish-born, British-employed diplomat who was ultimately hanged for treason against the crown. (Fans of Rakel's work with the May Day Orchestra will be familiar with his knack for finding history's outcasts and forgotten heroes and turning their exploits into song). Rakel sounds appreciably more ragged on the B-side, and the band follows suit with a loose shuffle. But coming after the flurried tightness and melodic honey of "Tunnels," the flip side sounds like a rough demo. The vinyl will be available at this weekend's release show and at shops around town; the songs can be heard and purchased digitally at

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