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Album: Deer Tick, The Black Dirt Session (Fargo)

John J McCauley III has what has been described as a "deal-breaker" of a voice. Rough, raw and ragged beyond his years (this Rhode Island country band are all in the early to mid-twenties), it was the one element of the Tick's last album that drove this reviewer away.

With The Black Dirt Sessions, though, the deal is back on. Where once there was just that growl, there are now dynamic, at times gentle, shifts. The songs are better, too. So good, in fact, they can make you punch the air or pin you to your seat. A giant leap forward.