Blame it on this river city's fortuitous geography (a stopping point en route to the Mississippi Delta) or St. Louis' dubious claim as the birthplace of alt-country (anyone remember Uncle Tupelo?), but for a certain stripe of local music lover, those twangy, country-flecked songs of hard living and hard loving will always serve as a siren's call. Fans of twang will find plenty to love on Tenement Ruth's self-titled debut EP, even though the band's sound stands on the more ragged, freeform side of Americana.
Melissa Anderson leads the four-piece with a voice that's reminiscent of a young Natalie Merchant — her voice is high and sweet, but packs enough venom to leave a mark. Her husband, Dave Anderson, plays electric and lap steel guitars and empties a bucketful of boiling, blistering leads that shimmer and bend across these six tracks. The production on the EP is spare and open, letting these songs breathe in and exhale the humid air they feel steeped in. While the rhythm section is suitably workmanlike, the band throws a few tweaks here and there. Opening track "SD2" includes a little mariachi flair as a pair of trumpets add some nice, close harmonies, while "Circus" lopes along on a tremelo-heavy guitar line and bristles like a Heartattack and Vine-era Tom Waits song. Tenement Ruth's appeal lies in the interplay between the Andersons — Melissa's rosy voice and Dave's thorny leads provide a fruitful counterpoint to each other. Like most debut EPs, this one is a good, beguiling tease, a small but stiff aperitif for a hopefully fruitful career.
8:30 p.m. Saturday, August 23. Lucas School House, 1220 Allen Avenue. $10. 314-621-6565.
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