Rough Shop | Far Past The Outskirts (Perdition)

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Whether for something lost or not yet found, a terrible yearning pervades Rough Shop’s Far Past the Outskirts, a yearning by no means naive, a worldly yearning, guardedly hopeful and thus contrary to the cheap nihilism of modern life, a yearning that joins with other felicities to make this a piece of Americana of signal power and poignancy.

The 12-track Perdition Records CD marks the full-length debut of the sextet, all of whom are veteran St. Louis musicians: Sean Anglin on drums and percussion; Nate Dahm on keyboards; Andy Ploof on guitar, resonator guitar, and mandolin; Mike Tiefenbrun on bass; Anne Tkach on guitar; and John Wendland on guitar and mandolin. Their talents mesh with considerable grace. The six have been performing long enough, in one band or another, to have achieved instrumental mastery, allowing Rough Shop to fuse influences from rock, folk, and bluegrass into a splendid amalgam. At the risk of descending to cliché, they don’t miss a beat.

Vocally, moreover, the band triumphs. Ploof, Tkach, and Wendland, with support from Anglin, share lead vocals on the dozen cuts here—all but two of which were written by Ploof, Wendland, or both—making Far Past the Outskirts a thrilling gestalt. On “Wonder What It Means” (the sorrowful opener) and “Town’s for Sale,” for example, Ploof sounds like a long-lost scion of the Stanley clan, a notion only reinforced by his duet with Tkach on the booze-and-brimstone traditional “Hellbound Train.” For her part, meanwhile, Tkach smolders like a bonfire that could, at any moment, spark a conflagration, plumbing the depths of want and need on such tracks as “Destination Anywhere” and “Final Wild Son.” Wendland, finally, manages the feat of making a song as profoundly conflicted as “Soundtrack of Our Lies” positively kicky—and he also thumbs the button on “I’m Your Man,” the aural equivalent of a switchblade with an inlaid grip. With this disc, in sum, Rough Shop has arrived in style.

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