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Those Darlins stand up on own terms

TT the Bears, Cambridge, Mass., February 4, 2010

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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Those Darlins are not your typical country band. For starters, Nikki, Jessi and Kelley Darlin (they're actually not of the same family) are females (well they are aided by a male drummer). And they merge traditional country sounds with a punky sensibility.

This is not the type of music coming out of mainstream Nashville these days, but that's quite alright since Those Darlins released one of last year's best CDs and touring hard - very hard- behind it. They sure seem to be building a well-deserved following as well with about 150 people packing the club mid-week.

Those Darlins, who hail from Murfreesboro, Tenn., certainly have a sense of humor in their songs with titles like Snaggle Tooth Mamma, Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy, The Whole Damn Thing and the lively, fun sounding (despite its title) DUI Or Die. All sounded fun, vibrant and on target during the 70-minute set without relegating Those Darlins to coming off like a novelty act.

All the Darlins take lead with the diminutive Jessi the strongest of the singers. She brings more twang to her voice.

Unfortunately, Those Darlins would have been better served by sticking more closely to their country roots. The vocals were sometimes a bit buried underneath the music, which rocked somewhat harder than necessary. Neither was needed because Those Darlins' music was strong and more than satisfying enough to stand up on its own terms.

Good thing Those Darlins are not part of the music machine because doing so enabled them to bring a fresh, lively twist to the music.

Deer Tick was the surprise special guest, playing eight songs in a half hour before Those Darlins hit the stage. They shared something in common - their outfits. The members of Deer Tick must have been thinking it was Halloween because they all dressed in drag, at least in some cases with clothing borrowed from the headliners (Nikki is engaged to lead singer John Joseph McCauley III, so Deer Tick had an in when came to dress). It wasn't exactly clear what the reason was.

The Providence-based band has worked hard at building a base through steady touring with a country tone to their rock. The quartet rocked a lot harder here than in other gigs seen. They unveiled a few new songs they have recorded for a disc out later this year, which did not sound all that different than older songs.

In the case of Those Darlins, though, they should have been careful what they were wishing for. During the headliner's set, Deer Tick came out on stage to help out musically, but then outwore their welcome. Three of them crowd surfed with McCauley IIII only having on some sort of loin-type cloth with his bare rear often showing. Not a pretty site, and , in fact, they detracted from Those Darlins' set.

Too bad because Those Darlins, in reality, did not need any help at all.