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Follow That Trail of Dust Back Home

(Back Up and Push Records)

The rustic work of Triangle-based quartet Hooverville will not likely be mistaken for the flashiest slacks in the closet. Nope, their roots music is more like Dickies work pants-- durable and utilitarian with a certain rugged appeal. And because the band sports three vocalists/songwriters--acoustic guitarist John Bemis (Hooverville's main voice and pen), multi-instrumentalist Greg Hanson, and upright bassist Paul Dowds--you get a pair in navy, a pair in khaki, and a pair in gray. But that's not to say there aren't touches that reflect a bit of flare, from Jen Gunderman's accordion on three tunes and the distant harmonies on "Another Sweet Dawn" to the fiddle on "Carrying this Heartache" carefully approximating the sound of love lost.

OK, enough trouserspeak. It makes more sense just to anoint these guys the Americana poster boys for this region. Unlike an outfit such as the Avett Brothers, though, there's no alt in Hooverville's mountain-country. The crisp backbeat offered by drummer Nathan Logan amongst the mandolins, banjos and steel guitars is one of the few concessions to the calendar.

Like the music on the James Mathus-produced Follow That Trail, the song's stories feel as if they're from another time, either seemingly set back in the day or, in the case of "Jefferson Davis Blues," exhuming a figure from way back in the day. There's also the feeling that things are coming from another place, a mythic small town surrounded by tall pines and bluegrass hills, populated by ramblin' boys and heart-smashing girls--and darn-near inescapable. "Cause a town with just one road in/ Makes you feel like you're here to stay," opines Bemis' "Dirt Road."

The album's centerpiece, Hanson's haunting and dusty "County Fairgrounds," examines that same nowhere-town malaise, the endless circles driven on the old dirt track serving as a perfect metaphor for life in a rural rut. That song's key couplet, "Cause there ain't no saint for racing anyhow/ Or I'd be on my knees right here and now," could have come from Springsteen, but the music throughout has a lot more to do with the Stanleys and the Louvins. And it's that vintage sound that Hooverville wears well.

Hooverville plays a house concert at Down Yonder Farm in Hillsborough on April 8 and at the Pittsboro General Store on April 10.

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