With feet nimbly perched in rootsy alt-country, luminous pop and never-say-die '70s guitar rock, Denton, Texas, quartet 12LB. Test makes a memorable debut that does the region's roots scene proud. Naturally, reference points do pop up, and the group clearly has the cruise control on its Econoline aimed at Austin (these days, Denton is better known for space heads than twang rockers). But the familiar moments are the friendly handshake-and-a-beer variety, not the we've-heard-this-crap-before type. No doubt the pedigree of 12LB. Test's founder, Michael Hill, has a lot to do with that; a veteran of Slobberbone (a fine Lone Star outfit with a reputation for classy rowdiness), he's blessed with a passionate alto whine, a deeply sincere delivery, and a welcome penchant for grabbing lead guitarist Jake Williams and embarking on some tasty twin guitar tangents that help set the group apart from the pack.
Opening on a wave of distortion that's straight out of Steppenwolf's "Magic Carpet Ride," Harm's Way gets right down to business with "Square One," a compelling slice of rave-up power pop with countryish undertones. After that, the drinks flow freely: Skynyrd's "Tuesday's Gone" meets Steve Earle's "I Ain't Ever Satisfied" ("Lucky You"), Walkabouts-styled guy-gal harmonies -- courtesy Hill and guest Kim Baker -- floating in a sea of minor-key desert rock ("Peace Offering"), a touch of Uncle Tupelo and a hint of Thin Lizzy ("When We Didn't Know").
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Incidentally, this release also marks the debut of Miles of Music as a recording concern. The Hollywood-based label has been (and still is) a distributor and mail order source for quality sounds that any No Depressive worth his or her wallet will testify on the behalf of. Point your browser at www.milesofmusic.com; there's loads of helpful, humorous and opinionated music commentary on-site along with an impressive selection of music available for your purchasing pleasure.