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Flathead

Play the Good One – 1999 (Truxton)

Reviewed by Clarissa Sansone

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CDs by Flathead

Any album containing the lyric "we have chiggers bigger'n you" deserves a listen. Tempe, Ariz. trio Flathead's latest is chock full of well-penned tales (mostly written by guitarist/vocalist Greg Swanholm) of loveless relationships ("Hitch"), irradiated country folk ("Mutant Daddy"), and a big rig stuck behind some slow-driving geezer ("10-Rodge").

It's unfortunate that the music doesn't live up to the potential of the lyrics. Although the Arizona press points to the rollicking, feel-good roadhouse sound of Flathead's live shows, the plodding, mechanical backbeat and restrained guitar picking is more reminiscent of a bingo parlor. On hearing "10 Rodge" the listener, too, feels "stuck behind some fuddy duddy" and wishes the band would put the pedal to the metal and cut loose a little more.

The trio excels at producing dissonant, bluegrass-style harmony in their songs, and their sometimes deadpan, never pretentious vocal delivery lends their work a sense of countrified credibility. If only the music backing up the lyrics were more ambitious, varied, and, well, faster, an impressive collection would result. (P.O. Box 1005, Tempe, AZ 85280-1005)