Lambchop OH (Ohio)

[Merge; 2008]

Styles: country, earnest indie-soul, folksy colloquialisms
Others: Silver Jews, Lee Hazlewood, various Bonnie “Prince” Billy projects

Is it out of laziness that music writers so often lump Lambchop into some kind of “alt-country” ghetto? Or is it a testament to Lambchop’s sheer originality that no proper categorization exists? While the former is akin to placing Tracy Turnblad in special education just because of her hair, the latter seems to be one hell of a price to pay for carving your own path in the musical world of Nashville. Deserving of special ed. placement they’re not -- and, like Ms. Turnblad, they’re not going to let the man keep ’em down. On their 11th album OH (Ohio), Lambchop, known for a sprawling and revolving number of members, pair down to a comparably lean seven-to-eight folks, putting forth yet another helping of literate and thoughtfully penned songs for the humbly bemused.

Kurt Wagner’s lyrics and delivery continue to be one of Lambchop’s strongest elements. Mixing his earnest baritone delivery, wry observations, and gentle rhythmic playfulness with a musical sound that gently borrows nuanced elements from stacks of dusty ’60s and ’70s soul and country records, Lambchop are able to project an air of intimacy of which few bands are capable. Although it’s fair to expect a song called “National Talk Like A Pirate Day” to be filled with irony or mockery, in the hands of Lambchop you get a six-minute, jangling opus that includes the lines, “Without your eye patch and your parrot/ I’ve been informed it’s national ‘Talk Like A Pirate Day’/ Perhaps this singing is a refuge/ From other equal uncomfortable thoughts.” That is part of Lambchop's charm – irony might be the hipster flavor for the time being, but you’d be hard-pressed to find less ironic and more modestly beautiful sentiment than on OH (Ohio).

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