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Moonshine Sway Seven Years

Alt-country is a funny beast, ranging from the gothic Christian bluegrass of 16 Horsepower to the old-school-country-isn’t-really-different-from-punk-rock-here-I’ll-show-you of Jason and The Scorchers or Uncle Tupelo. The only real rules are 1) stay true to country’s heart and 2) try something different. Moonshine Sway fits admirably into the canon in both respects. Lyrically, in fact, they’re a little too tied down to country traditions. Almost every song is about drinking, heartbreak, and loneliness, and in that respect, they can be hard to tell apart. The music, however, is another story. The sound most closely resembles 1970s L.A. country rock like The Eagles or Jackson Browne, but rootsier and with the excellent spin of the Police’s inverted power trio formula. Bassist Bob Berry frequently plays the lead line while singer/songwriter Tom Vollman and Chris Darch supply chord washes on their guitars, and on tracks like “Chelsea” and “Garden State Heartbreak,” where the guitars carry the melody, he maintains a muscular, busy presence without coming too far forward. There’s a wide range to the sound as well. At almost an hour in length, Seven Years is a full musical journey, going from mid-tempo to ballads to roots rock rave-ups. It also traverses the country — listen for place names, and you’ll hear Austin, New Jersey, Memphis, New York, Boston, Georgia, and all points in between. Song after song reminds us that pain is, literally, everywhere, but the warm production and gorgeous playing keep things from becoming depressing. Life is hard. Give it a good backing track. Seven Years is available at Atomic Records, Rush-Mor Records, Exclusive Company on Farwell, and Barnes & Noble at Mayfair Mall, as well as at cdbaby.com and moonshinesway.com.