When Ralph Stanley contributed his bone-chilling version of "O Death" to the watershed O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, it was a stark reminder of the grim, morbid tone that lurks within American roots music. For a bunch of New York-based city slickers, O'Death takes the dark matter of Stanley's recording and injects stark banjo figures; a swooping, howling fiddle; and a healthy dose of clanging, loose-limbed drums. Singer and guitarist Greg Jamie holds court with an adenoidal holler that can growl or whinny, recalling a more unhitched 16 Horsepower. Langhorne Slim takes a more mannered approach to Americana, letting his ragged voice take flight against stuttering horns and Music from Big Pink–indebted keyboards. His forthcoming self-titled album toes the line between Amos Lee's soulful folkisms and M. Ward's rough-hewn, singer-songwriter pop.
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