Australian bluesman Dave Hole opens his new album with a tirade aimed at an ungrateful lover with a "short memory." While Hole's contempt for the woman couldn't be more obvious, his scolding voice is no match for his slide guitar's lacerating and liberating tone as it cuts the relationship to shreds.

And so it is with nearly all of the music on "Under the Spell": As good as the vocals get -- and Hole has seldom sounded more persuasive or impassioned -- his guitar consistently conveys the deepest emotions and truths. That's true on the acoustic track "Lost at Sea" as well as on the full-tilt blues numbers, though the latter tunes are responsible for the album's cathartic power and surging intensity. The razor-sharp electric slide work on "Bird's Eye Blues" is a particularly ferocious example of Hole's fretwork, while the rhythmically slapping shuffle "Chicken Stuff" evokes an old-fashioned blues session, high-spirited and low-tech. "Cold Women With Warm Hearts," another raucous workout, reveals Hole's stylistic ties to Elmore James, while "Yes or No" echoes Robert Johnson's guitar legacy.

The acoustic interlude also evokes simpler times. Hole's now plucked, now glancing attack on "Lost at Sea" make the notes sparkle and sing, providing a sharp contrast to the album's frequently incendiary mixture of rants and romps.

Appearing Saturday at Lewie's. To hear a free Sound Bite from Dave Hole, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8106. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)