Deer Tick, "The Black Dirt Sessions"

79 Billboard Rating

Ragged roots-rock collective Deer Tick wrangled an eclectic indie following with pub-ready musings on life, love and loss on 2007 debut "War Elephant." The group's third studio album, "The Black Dirt Sessions," occupies the fragile space between down-in-the-mouth folk-rock and grungy alt-country. The uptempo track "Twenty Miles" finger-picks through a witty take-me-back narrative, wringing out Americana with lyrics like, "I've spent every dime that jingles in my jeans." Singer John McCauley's weathered rasp, which far surpasses his 24 years, and murky piano shift the album's mood during "Goodbye, Dear Friend." "The Black Dirt Sessions" delivers even more grit and lyrical heaviness than its predecessors, revealing a desperate, wayworn side to McCauley's songwriting. --Connor McKnight