Wild Place, the Pagan Hellcats' debut LP, straddles the line between reflective, easygoing roots and supple rock sinew, not unlike Neil Young. At times, the Hellcats are content to let the country-folk twang drift like a summer breeze, abetted by Dave Rutter's gruff baritone and Diane Rodelli's soothing alto croon. During the ballad "My Side of Town," for instance, the Hellcats ride forlorn peals of slide guitar and a gentle, woody percussive thwack as Rutter rhapsodizes about a reassuring place where "nothing ever changes, so long as we all let it lay." And then there's rock, or tuneful tangles of distortion, like album highlight "You're Gonna Miss Me," which offers dismissive jabs buttressed by crunchy guitar. "Get yourself a brand new body in Hollywood," Rutter urges. "Make yourself a hundred billion dollars with your self-help book."
None of these songs necessarily leap out at you (with the possible exception of the organ-abetted garage-folk paean, "Seattle"), but like old friends—so honest, affable and unpretentious—you want to invite them back. The subtle skill of the playing only becomes apparent with additional listens, yet it rises above the well-stocked roots rock field without the benefit, or perhaps because, of its lack of flash or bluster.