Sure, Heartless Bastards is among the latest add-ons to the conga line of garage bands from Dayton, Ohio. But when the band's dusky-voiced linchpin, Erika Wennerstrom, succumbed to a severe case of Texas twang in late 2007 by moving to Austin, she effectively left that party in a huff, ditched her boyfriends (read: band mates Kevin Vaughn and Mike Lamping) and decided to switch schools. The past always catches up to you though. After months of songwriting and recording work with producer Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Patty Griffin), she resorted to two veritable childhood pals from Dayton—drummer Dave Colvin and bassist Jesse Ebaugh, who're both original Bastards members—for the new band, despite auditioning dozens of Texans.
Even so, on the Bastards' new CD, The Mountain, Wennerstrom's wearing what amounts to an aural pair of boots to signify the change of scenery. Her voice continues to fill the space beside Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde and Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes, but it's measured to comply with the pedal steel, banjo and mandolin that fortify Wennerstrom's brash and stoic songwriting. Think of it as swampy, overdriven Lucinda Williams with a hell of a lot more living to do. With pre- and post-SXSW dates with the suddenly influential Andrew Bird, it's a damn good start.
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