Deer Tick: Born On Flag Day

Deer Tick: Born On Flag Day

 

B-

Deer Tick

Album: Born On Flag Day
Label: Partisan Records

Born On Flag Day, Deer Tick’s second album, sounds like the result of a years-long study session in electric folk, classic country, and weepy balladry, undertaken with a reverence that borders on the oppressive. As with War Elephant, the Providence, Rhode Island-based band’s debut, Born On Flag Day hinges on John McCauley’s voice, a gravelly marvel that splits the difference between Bob Dylan and John Prine. Unlike War Elephant, which resembled an indie band’s stab at country, Born On Flag Day suggests a headlong dive into the canon, with little irony and varying results. Back-to-back rockabilly tracks “Straight Into A Storm” and “Friday XIII” show a real command of the form, with plenty of truckstop trills and sneaky solos. The spare tracks fare worse: “Song About A Man,” a guitar-and-voice number with a harmonica interlude and Dylan-dusted lyrics, just sounds derivative. There’s one song, however, that manages a surprise. “Smith Hill” is a Trojan horse of a tearjerker, complete with cheeseball violins and a chorus about the elusive nature of love. And yet it builds to a tremendous, unexpected catharsis, all soaring vocals and washes of distortion. For a moment, it even sounds unique.