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Turn Up the Barn – 2000 (Planetary)

Reviewed by Eric Zehnbauer

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CDs by Dirtball

Hailing from Richmond, Va., Dirtball offers an entertaining mixture of country, bluegrass, alterna-rock, and a pinch of various other musical flavors on their latest.

The band wrote and produced all the music and employ a wide range of instrumentation, from mandolin and banjo to tuba and pennywhistle, to pedal steel and Dobro. The songs alternate from slow, almost dirge-like gospel ballads ("My Surrender") to straightforward alt.-country ("3 AM," " The Best That I Can Do") that would fit in with the most seminal tunes of that genre. At times sounding variously like "Sweetheart of the Rodeo"-era Byrds, Webb Wilder, Uncle Tupelo, and other alt.-country acts, vocalist Wes Freed's wearily plaintive tone gives these tunes the right emotional feel the lyrics require. There's also the rollicking Irish jig sound of "Whiskey and Wild Women" and an eerie instrumental final track (unlisted). The result is a display of a breadth of talent that only hints at the potential these guys have.