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Marah

Let's Cut the Crap and Hook Up Later On Tonight – 1998 (Black Dog)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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CDs by Marah

To call Marah a country band is akin to calling Pete Rose a baseball player. The description is accurate, but really limiting. In Marah's case, the country label seems appropriate on the surface, because the band utilizes banjo, pedal steel and harmonica, the traditional tools of bluegrass and country. That superficial labeling is ultimately made obsolete by Marah's sonic and generational cross-pollination.

From the opening strains of "Fever," with its Sgt. Pepper by way of the Replacements horn section, it's clear that Marah is going to confound any attempt to wrestle it into any comfortable pigeonhole. Their gospel roots suggest Lyle Lovett and Leon Russell ("Boat"), but their rock and roll heart swaggers and sways like vintage Bruce Springsteen ("Eventually Rock"). "Formula, Cola, Dollar Draft" interweaves the galloping alt.country of Wilco with the story craft of Steve Forbert, while "Firecracker" draws a straight line between Paul Westerberg and Steve Earle.

Any band that throws influences around like Marah is bound to leave a fewlisteners cold, if not just plain confused by the alternating currents. For the patient and open-minded, though, Marah holds a great many rewards that reveal themselves only after careful examination.