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Homespun: Old Capital Square Dance Club 

Long White Ride

For whatever reason, the best Americana bands are often the fruits of two distinct musical voices — Tweedy and Farrar are still the gold standard in this town and beyond, but the shared songbooks of Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley (Drive-By Truckers) and Gary Louris and Mark Olson (Jayhawks) turned alt-country into a brotherhood of song. Old Capital Square Dance Club follows this tradition in spirit — the band is the baby of two songwriters, Jesse McClary and Zach Anderson, with McClary taking lead vocals and Anderson providing crucial counterpoint with harmony vocals and vibrant lead guitar. You won't hear anything on the eight-song Long White Ride that hasn't been kicked around St. Louis and parts south for the past twenty years. All the appropriate cow-punk signifiers are here and ready to sprinkle into the mix with a liberal hand: twangy Telecasters, saloon pianos, hollerin' vocals, over-inflected vowels and inebriated nights all appear on the disc. They all just happen to be executed especially well, with verve and sweat and a little poetry.

McClary can sound both fearless and breathless on the microphone, confident in his words and pose but carried away by the racket being made around him. The best of these songs veer toward recklessness – "Fuck, Fight — Hold the Light" kicks off with a gallop and never lets up. If the band is smart, they'll turn that song title into a T-shirt. "Take My Call" takes the building blocks of country songs (booze, faithless love, a shot at redemption) and turns them into a smart, catchy and concise song. That streamlined sense of craft could have been better used at the album's meandering end, a two-minute guitar-and-Wurlitzer jam that threatens to become "Down by the River." It's a rare moment of excess on an album that generally cuts to the bone. If you don't have room in your heart for another Missouri alt-country band, proceed with blessings on your head. But if you want to hear a band with a love for the form and a knack for bleeding-heart songwriting, the Old Capital gang proves there are still some songs left in the old kit bag.

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January 26, 2022

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