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Deer Tick

Born on a Flag Day – 2009 (Partisan)

Reviewed by Brian Baker

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When it comes to band nomenclature, simple is often best. Singer/songwriter John Joseph McCauley III had just dissolved his duo My Other Face when he found a deer tick on his head while camping. He solidified his desire to start a band and came up with a name at the same time. Before McCauley settled on a line-up, Deer Tick featured a revolving door membership, leading some to believe that the band was more or less a solo project (none of the current Ticks appear on the band's official release, 2007's extraordinary indie rock/country/folk "War Elephant"). After going through a number of touring ensembles, McCauley assembled drummer Dennis Michael Ryan, his bassist half brother C.R. and guitarist Andrew Tobiassen as a permanent line-up and began work on this sophomore album.

"War Elephant" was a stripped back affair, and yet, it showcased McAuley's uncanny ability to inhabit any style he chose, not to mention a raspy voice equally suited to a garage rock band as a ragged alt.-country outfit - think Neil Young with more sinus pressure. On "Flag Day," McAuley and his newly permanent version of Deer Tick maintain focus on their country and folk influences, although Easy, the feedback squalling opener, has the feel of a lost Standells album from the '60s. Song About a Man displays McAuley's Dylanesque aspirations, Straight Into a Storm blends alt.-country bluster with elemental Chuck Berry riff rockage, Houston, TX is McAuley's gruff take on Bakersfield honky tonk, and The Ghost sways with traditional country/folk melancholy.

By focusing on their foundational influences on "Born on Flag Day," Deer Tick manages to merge McAuley's acerbic lyrical gift with a slightly more subtle sonic approach, resulting in a rough-hewn country/folk effort that simultaneously sounds expansively epic and quietly intimate.