On their sophomore release, a follow-up to 1997's "Whiskey Burns," Bloomington, Ind.-based Crooked County proves the Midwest can rival points south when it comes to country. More substantial than standard country radio fare, and more drinking-and-twanging than alt.-country, the 15 songs are lyrically poignant, musically tight descendents of outlaw country mixed with folk and bluegrass.
Toby Purnell's vocals are pleasingly nasal, while brother Jason Purnell's voice carries the introspection of Gordon-Lightfoot-with-an-edge. Merrie Sloan's versatile pipes on a few tunes provide harmony both sweet and purposely strained. All sing of drinking, regret, heartache, and moving on (or just moving); they are themes that, when executed well in country music - as they are here - make you want buy a truck, start driving, and never look back.
The band features the songwriting talents of Jason (acoustic guitar) and Toby (electric guitar and mandolin) and bassist Sloan, who whips out her accordion on occasion. Guests Gordon Lowry on fiddle and Kurt Squire on harmonica provide texture and solid accompaniment. (P.O. Box 15225, Phoenix, AZ 85060)