Mark Pickerel & His Praying Hands 

Snake in the Radio (Bloodshot)

Those of you who remember the glory days of grunge might know Mark Pickerel as the drummer for Screaming Trees. But today he's largely traded in his drum kit for a guitar and a microphone, and signed to Bloodshot, one of the primo labels for alt-Americana. But any assumptions that Pickerel's "gone country" are swept away on first listen. Many songs on Radio have the evocative whine of a pedal-steel guitar, but otherwise they're pure Western gothic, with flourishes gleaned from spaghetti Westerns (namely, the parched twang of an electric guitar and tempos that are either ominous gallops or resigned dirges). Pickerel's world-weary, velvety baritone croon can recall Nick Cave, but Richard Hawley and Lee Hazlewood are better comparisons, and the lyrics are Hazlewood-like elegies for restless souls — characters hoping for redemption, seeking a way out or waiting for the other shoe to drop. If you're seriously depressed, Radio might push you over the edge — but if you need a soundtrack for savoring that late-night, as-yet-indefinite pensive mood, this is just the thing.

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