TO SAY that the Long Ryders are proud of their American heritage would be a considerable understatement. "State of Our Union," the quartet's latest, is packed with paeans to American life, from the road trips described in "Looking for Lewis And Clark" to the kind of country radio celebrated in "WDIA."

All of which, on the surface, seems to put them in step with the "America Is Back" macho mood that has swept some parts of the entertainment industry. But all it takes is a careful listening to learn that the Long Ryders aren't a bunch of Rambos ready to fill the airwaves with mindless, rah-rah patriotism.

There's an undercurrent of sadness to the songs here, in part because the Long Ryders have found that American myths are as elusive as ever, but mostly because of the band's fascination with country music and its mournful conventions.

In fact, it wouldn't be hard to imagine the Long Ryders as a sort of latter-day Burrito Brothers, except for the fact that the Ryders' garage band chops are far more limiting than the Burritos' fancy picking. Still, it goes a long way toward explaining why a Woody Guthrie- style number such as "Good Times Tomorrow, Hard Times Today" is ultimately more convincing than the awkward Chuck Berry-ism of "State of My Union."

LONG RYDERS -- "State of Our Union" (Island 7 90459- 1); appearing Sunday at the 9:30 Club.