Led by singer/songwriters Gary Roadarmel and Molly Conley, Porter Hall Tennessee plays a blend of rockabilly, roadhouse honk, and traditional country, rendered with an appreciation of the hard stuff.

Led by singer/songwriters Gary Roadarmel and Molly Conley, Porter Hall Tennessee plays a blend of rockabilly, roadhouse honk, and traditional country, rendered with an appreciation of the hard stuff. The leadoff track, the pounding shuffle "Screwed Blue," boasts subtle harmonies and melodic instrumentation that belie its rough-hewn lyric. It becomes quickly apparent that Conley herself is quite a find, with a stone country delivery and an endearing vocal catch that comes off like a mutant hybrid of Lucinda Williams and Tammy Wynette. She shines on her well-written ballads "Halfway There," the sadly beautiful "Middle Tennessee," and "Angel Without Wings." She also impresses on the oddly uplifting midtempo "Don't Bury Me" and her left-handed spiritual "Crosses to Hang." For his part, Roadarmel takes on an affected vocal that's hit-or-miss on such songs as the dog-mean "Golden Chain of Hate" and the boozy "Drunkard and the Angel"; he's at his best on his bluegrass-tinged "Old Kentucky Home" and harder-edged "Slip Inside the House." The record wraps with a manic, well-executed take on the fire-and-brimstone gospel chestnut "I've Got a Hedge" that's worthy of a revival meeting.—RW



RHETT AKINS