The Heelers

Often, a band forms only to quickly release an album that may not be the best reflection of who they truly are, musically. For Denton's The Heelers, the route of exhaustively performing and then hitting the studio down the road was the proverbial road less traveled. And, indeed, their chosen route has made all the difference.

The Brent Best-produced The Devil On Your Shoulder showcases quite well the band's urgent American rock, filled with punk flourishes and a hint of twang in just the right spots. And the cohesiveness that familiarity within a band brings is evident in the album's ability to feel streamlined and focused, even when a tune slips past the six-minute mark.

While the album lyrically deals in the relatively well-trodden paths of love gone wrong and alienation, lead singer and songwriter Isaac Hoskins forgoes stale clichés in favor of storytelling that challenges, but is never too obtuse for its own good. Interestingly enough, when at his vocals' most fervent, Hoskins favorably resembles the open-throated recklessness of Adam Duritz, which is enough to separate him from most of the so-called roots-rockers out there.

Hoskins' 2008 solo debut, Half Empty, provided proof of his promise, just as this record does for this band that is only getting started.

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Kelly Dearmore

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