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Ladyhawk - Ladyhawk

Released on Jagjaguwar, 6/6/06

Picture this: a clearing in a lush and slightly dank looking pine forest that is scattered with debris and memorabilia. There are stuffed bears and dolls hanging from the trees, beer cans, and a Pee-Wee Herman doll leans casually against moss covered roots. In the foreground, a model ship sits amid photos, a cassette tape, matches, and fallen branches. A man peeps out from the trees -- his attention fully fixed upon a woman surrounded in a ring of votives wearing nothing but moccasins and a feathered headdress. She has been caught mid-prance. Her arms flail upward, a kind of naked salute to the Hollywood sign style layout before her that reads: LADYHAWK.

That is the scenario which graces the cover of the Canadian quartet’s self-titled debut, Ladyhawk, and immediately I was prepared for anything and everything all at once. And then instant surprise set in as the music followed. I expected far-reaching and long-flowing guitar chords, heavy reverb creating that drip drop effect, another repetitive nod to sleepy nature. But instead, Ladyhawk have created something quite the opposite.

This debut is solid and, dare I say, rockin’. The lyrics are charmingly personal without seeming childish, and lead singer Duffy Driediger has the voice of a Midwestern bar circuit singer, songwriter, and sometime brawler. They are joined by Amber Webber and Josh Wells, members of the psych-metal folk outfit Black Mountain, for additional vocals and percussion, which result in some achingly beautiful choral and instrumental breaks.

Ladyhawk have done something difficult. They have taken an old sound and crafted it into their own without an ounce of butchery. They are a melodic and hard-hitting reaction to minds raised on the ballads and tragedies of Neil Young and The James Gang coupled with a modern thoughtfulness and progressive capability. They are the future of hopefulness, of the rock and of the roll.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars