Album: Hazeldine

Orphans, Glitterhouse
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The Independent Culture

The career of the New Mexico combo Hazeldine appeared to have ground to an undignified halt when they became one of the many acts lost in the PolyGram/ Universal merger. But here they are again, back at the German nu-country specialists Glitterhouse, with an anthology of outré cover versions of songs by bands as diverse as Radiohead, Sparklehorse, the Mekons and Genesis. That last one's a particularly surprising choice, but, as with all the covers, they render Peter Gabriel's whimsical "Cuckoo Cocoon" as a kind of low-key country lullaby, set to plunking banjo and warm acoustic chording. The most improved part of Hazeldine's game here is their harmony singing, with Shawn Barton and Tonya Lamm coming across like an alt.country Dixie Chicks on things such as Gram Parsons' mournful invitation to the dance, "A Song for You", and their captivating sadcore makeover of Radiohead's "Lucky", whose funereal pace, sombre organ and tambourine evoke an old Western send-off. Equally impressive is their version of East River Pipe's "Here We Go", a pessimistic anticipation of impending disaster, which provides a perfect illustration of the uncanny gift that ERP's songwriter, FM Cornog, had for cloaking unpalatable sentiments in irresistible melodies. Sparklehorse's "Heart of Darkness" pivots on much the same contradiction, while "Whiskey in the Jar" and Hank Cochran's country weepie "It's Only Love" offer more standardised accounts of the band's musical position.

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