Reckless Kelly may be the future of country music. They're five attractive early-twenties men, so they've got the requisite video appeal. But what sets them apart from the rest of today's young, good-looking bands is the exciting blend of country and rock they call "hick rock." They can play a straight-ahead fiddle-driven country song like "Drink Your Whiskey Down" and follow it immediately with the electric, hard-rocking "Baby's Gone" without blinking an eye. They blend their influences so well that only upon closer listen do you realize that the former contains rock percussion, and the latter features some blazing fiddle.
Willy Braun's lead vocals most often recall Steve Earle, and the background vocals, particularly on the country ballad "Hatax," are also quite capable. Perhaps what's most refreshing about this band, though, is the loose, unpolished joy they seem to take in their music. From the vocals to the fiddle, mandolin, guitars, and drums, the album's slight imperfections avoid the sterile feel of most studio recordings. Here's hoping that hick rock succeeds hot new country as country radio's subgenre of choice. (Cold Spring, POB 162822, Austin, X 78716, 512-320-9156, firstname.lastname@example.org)