Ha Ha Tonka caught the new wave of ersatz, old-time stompers and pickers churned up by the Avett Brothers and the Old Crow Medicine Show, but the Springfield, Missouri, band rides the twang with an idiosyncratic style and electric confidence of self-made Ozark shit-kickers. The title of their 2009 album, Novel Sounds of the Nouveau South, only sounds pretentious. Inspired by the prose of Harold Bell Wright, the song cycle captures the haunted past and present of the Southern Midwest the band knows so well: The political corruption, the seething racism and the hellfire ideology are as real as the crackling seams of their harmonies and the bursting zeal of their guitars. Ha Ha Tonka is literate all right, but its songs are etched in the spontaneous script of rock and roll.
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