At this year's SXSW, the young Philly quartet Hoots and Hellmouth ripped the doors off an alley-side pub and sent the hipster detritus of Sixth Street in Austin running for cover. And it did so without guitar amps, gimmicks or cool. This is a string band that plays rock & roll, with nods to the Holy Modal Rounders and the Avett Brothers, but with a knack for biting social critique and an abandon that doesn't sacrifice chops or cohesion, even as the foursome leaps above the stage and stomps the floorboards to splinters. A self-titled first album showed promise, but the just-released The Holy Open Secret sounds like a group determined to make something wholly its own out of string-band blues, DIY punk, and tent-revival wailing and harmonizing.
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