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The Hired Guns | Between Here and the Night (Laughing Outlaw)
This is the debut disc, recorded in an abandoned 1930s knitting mill, from Hired Guns, who hail from Melbourne. They've been around since 1996 and feature amongst their number three ex-members of a jazz-noir combo and someone who once played art dub. OK, well, that's all very mystifying and enticing but helps you not one bit when the music starts playing. First track up is Loose Change that has guitars that jangle, but don't twang, the singer sounds American, but not very, and there's some harmonica and female backing vocals, but no pedal steel. So this is country, as you'd expect from a disc on the Laughing Outlaw label, but it's country as played by the 'Sticky Fingers'-era Rolling Stones, The Band and Crazy Horse, but without any of our Neil's guitar pyrotechnics. There's a bit of Velvet Underground in there too, and if this all suggests to you a somewhat '70s sound you'd not be far off the mark. The mood switches between muscular melancholy and chugging driving music, and generally has an easy lope to it in both modes. There's brass, rolling piano, harmony vocals and a couple of lead singers, one of whom is marginally better than the other. It's all very tight and fully realised, as you'd expect from music waiting seven years to be recorded, and with that whiff of authenticity and class that's hard to describe and fake. It's just...real.

Jeff Cotton
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003

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