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Music Preview: Ha Ha Tonka at DC9 on June 17


(Bloodshot Records)

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

June 17 at DC9

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(http://www.dcnine.com, 202-483-5000)

This Missouri band's upcoming second album is titled "Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South," but those sounds aren't all that nouveau. The "Ozark proud" quartet, which takes its name from a state park in the region, blends all the available varieties of roots-rock, including blues-, gospel- and country-. The results are mostly earthy, although with airier moments that recall R.E.M. or Fleet Foxes.

Such titles as "Walking on the Devil's Backbone" show the influence of doomstruck Appalachian ballads. Yet singer-guitarist Brian Roberts, a cancer survivor, is no brooder. The group's more old-timey elements, which include close harmonies and mandolin flailing, are offset by raucous electric guitar, swelling keyboards and boisterous rhythms. To judge by Roberts's craggy guitar work on "Hold My Feet to the Fire," it will be a long time before Ha Ha Tonka settles into a permanent oldies gig in Branson.

-- Mark Jenkins


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