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The Feebles

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This unsettling batch of songs--not country, not bluegrass (despite prominent fiddle and banjo) and not quite folk--barely bats an eyelash at tales of undertakers and titles like "Death Will Have Your Eyes." In fact, The Feebles plead guilty to playing "Murder Ballads and Morbid Mountain Music."Primary songwriter Jerry Kee once drummed in local pop bands Semicolon and Dish and engineered some of the most important local records of the last 10 years in his Raleigh (now Mebane) studio. With The Feebles, he scratches a different itch, plucking a banjo and mandolin and howling stories rife with lurking danger. Filtering a century of American music through a purely modern unease (yeah, hence the title), Kee manages to reveal his rural West Virginia roots along the way.

"In the Deep Weeds" plays like a mid-tempo answer to Leadbelly's "In the Pines." "Walk on Water," a sweet waltz co-written and sung by Sampson County native Carla Burgess, pays naive tribute to a father one senses might have had a disturbing secret or two. The rollicking "Shakedown" is built around Danny Moses' wobbly fiddle, the aural equivalent of a hobo teetering along a set of railroad tracks.

The Feebles' songs are propelled by Burgess' tasteful, minimalist drumming and the upright bass of Thomas Wilson. But they really begin to soar when Burgess and Kee harmonize. On the standout "The L&N Don't Stop Here Anymore," the effect of her siren voice with his strained pleas is stark, like splashing brilliant color onto a previously black canvas.

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