San Francisco's Firecracker debuts with a wonderfully polished affair (especially so, given its DIY roots) that leans to the rock side of the alt.country equation. This six-song EP pays a debt to late-period Uncle Tupelo (circa "Anodyne"), shared ancestors like the Flying Burritos and Crazy Horse, as well as rootsy contemporary rock like The Wallflowers.
Songwriters Scout (vocals/guitar) and Russell Tillitt (piano) are equally adept writing allusional songs like "Gather at the River" (something of a modern-day dust bowl power ballad or perhaps a "Last Picture Show"-like denouement), as they are writing heart-on-sleeve lost-love drinking songs like "When You Were Around." The double entendre of "Church Key" weaves between the damnation of drink and the salvation of faith all the while riding a galloping western beat. Scout sings with a soulful, anguished edge, supported by a punchy mix of guitars, drums, piano, organ and fiddle.
The album's melancholy dichotomies are matched by the cover art's annotations of tattered lives and relationships, and backed by superb melodies and lyrics that are equal parts story detail and impressionistic sketch. Even the EP's title equivocates: is it meant to revel in longevity or surrender to pre-determined order? Such a finely executed debut clearly suggests that Firecracker's fortunes lay in the former. (Firecracker, 415-621-7495, E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)