The Hold Steady

Craig Finn (ex-Minnesotan, ex-Lifter Puller) has the voice of a semi-drunk punk, or maybe a manic street preacher -- an exuberant, phlegmy grumble-stumble in line with such brilliant non-singers as Paul Westerberg, Elvis Costello, Shane MacGowan, and Bob Pollard, spitting sharp, wry, highly charged stories of the sacred and the profane. Meanwhile, the fellas who back him deliver the rousing sounds of '70s classic rock -- chunky Thin Lizzy/BTO guitar chords linked by descending plectrum-on-string scrapes for maximum arena flourish; organs and piano hungrily bisecting riffs like the E Street Band with something left to prove; and the swagger of Exile-era Stones cut with the occasional Steely Dan noodle-solo. That combination makes New York City's The Hold Steady damn near the best, most engaging outfit you can experience at the moment, either on album (see the sinner/savior stomp of their recent Separation Sunday) or on stage. If you like smart guys, booze, Catholicism, sweating, Ted Leo, and fawking rawk (not necessarily in that order), you're gonna love this band.


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