From the Hills Below the City
Houndmouth Rough Trade ★★★✩
THE wheel’s invented and it goes without saying that attempts to reinvent it are a tad fatuous. And so, with the patents of country, blues, gospel and rock long since lodged with a higher authority, the members of Indiana’s Houndmouth seem content to work within the parameters set by the greats. They dabble where Emmylou and Gram once dabbled, swagger a little like Keith, Mick and co did around Exile time and sometimes just kick back in that old rocking chair the Band found so comfortable. The music is easy, almost effortless and, more often than not, catchy. This is the debut
album, with all members contributing songs and vocals. There’s a little lack of focus in this effort, but there’s a consistency of sound and philosophy that holds the strings together. Guitarist and singer Matt Myers has a great voice, can scratch up a good tune and hold it too; more excitingly his distinctive rock-country guitar style adds a layer of sparkle whenever it appears. It’s his tune, On the
Road (hey, there were no cliches spared here, kids) that kicks off the record with simple but infectious abandon. You get the first taste of Houndmouth’s jewel in the crown and that’s the bar-room pure (oxymoron acknowledged) vocals of keyboardist Katie Toupin. Hang in there because you get more of her and they are the best bits of what otherwise may have ended up sounding like the Jayhawks’ little brothers. The girl can sing up a storm. Anyway, some cynics have dubbed this mob America’s Mumford and Sons, but it feels a little better than that.