Perhaps it's just because there's no banjo this time, but Slobberbone's fourth album sounds a little less like the quartet's native Texas and a little more like New Jersey. Singer-guitarist Brent Best's gruff delivery suggests early Springsteen, especially when he's stuffing lots of rhymes into a few lines, as he does in "Butchers" and "Live On in the Dark." But melding Austin and Asbury Park is far from this not-especially-rustic roots-rock band's entire agenda.
In its early days, Slobberbone shared bills with hard-core bands, and this album's "Write Me Off" could be an emo-punk anthem. Guitarist Jess Barr's eclectic playing includes some punky bits, too, as during the finale of "Springfield, IL," when Barr underscores Neil Young-ish leads with pulsing feedback. And the album's only cover is not a country standard but "To Love Somebody," an early Bee Gees foray into slow-burn soul. "Slippage" also includes more traditional laments like "Back" and "Find the Out," but the album is most interesting when the band slips the bonds of alt-country convention.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Tuesday at IOTA with Mary McBride and Will Johnson. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Slobberbone, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8103. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)