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The Hangdogs

Beware of Dog – 2000 (Shanachie)

Reviewed by Tamara Bunnell

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CDs by The Hangdogs

"Every exit's got its dreamers, and there's a broken dream for every mile between here and somewhere else." So says Matthew Grimm, vocalist, guitar slinger and primary song writer for New York's Hangdogs on "Out There." On their second full-length release, the gothic interstate and all its ugly towns and truths unfold like muddied ribbons across the hopeless American terrain.

There is a strong narrative voice here; wry and cynical, overly educated and under achieving. Backed by fuzzy guitars, this is bar-band rock with a country ballad edge. Each song is compelling and strong from the well told and bitterly accurate "Anacostia," an overlooked piece of American history, to the metaphoric "St. Claire of Cedar Rapids." But there is beauty and hope, too. Songs such as "Angelina Turns" express breathtaking, if fearful, reverence for love.

There is a troubling friction between now and history, and between the coldness of isolation and the inescapable reality that we are all part of something we did not choose and cannot design. The Hangdogs understand this irony, and have made it their art.