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PALADINS 8/6, Double Door This San Diego trio--the only band in the history of the world to record for both Alligator and 4AD--plays roots music with a capital R. On their sixth and latest album, Slippin' In (Ruf), the Paladins stray further from their blues-rock beginnings to dig deeper into echo-chamber rockabilly and hillbilly thumpers, such as the Everly Brothers-esque "The Hard Way" or the shuffling, steel-guitar-streaked "Strong Boy." Greaser bands come and go (and hardly anyone notices), but these guys have just gotten better and better over the last decade. G. LOVE & SPECIAL SAUCE 8/7, METRO G. Love & Special Sauce have been tweaking their rustic blues-hip-hop fusion for five years now, and the formula is beginning to show signs of wear. But on the new Philadelphonic (Okeh/550 Music), there's still an undeniable charm to G. Love's slack-jawed drawl--particularly on "Friday Night (Hundred Dollar Bill)," which pays homage to the distinctive delivery of hip-hop icons like Schoolly D and Slick Rick, and "Rock & Roll (Shouts Out Back to the Rappers)," a roll call of Love's faves. And if the band keeps touring with acts like Dave Matthews and Widespread Panic, more of the same is all it'll take to keep their stoned audiences happy. REX HOBART & THE MISERY BOYS 8/7, HOPCATS BREWING CO. Forever Always Ends, the debut album by this combo from Kansas City, Missouri, is the most straightforward slab of honky-tonk Bloodshot Records has served up yet: the only thing "insurgent" about it is its refusal to acknowledge anything Nashville's produced in the last four decades, apparent in choice song titles like "I Walked In While He Was Changing Your Mind." Despite the limitations of Rex Hobart's thin warble, the Misery Boys kick up a pleasing amalgam of Buck- and George-style twang, highlighted by the nimble pedal-steel playing of Solomon Hofer. I had my doubts about how their purist tendencies would translate live, but when I saw them play the Hideout last month I was won over by their infectious sincerity. MUSIC TAPES 8/7, LOUNGE AX Julian Koster is a key player in the fantastically orchestrated bedroom pop of Neutral Milk Hotel, one of the flagship bands of the Elephant 6 collective. But the debut album by his long-standing Music Tapes project, 1st Imaginary Symphony for Nomad (Merge), sounds like a cross between Daniel Johnston and The New Zoo Revue--an extra-lo-fi jumble of Beatles-esque pop fragments, cartoon-character voices, unidentified speed-altered samples, and the maddening refrain "You must relate to the earthling mortal." Incontestable proof that some things are better left in the bedroom. DAVIE ALLAN & THE ARROWS, KNOXVILLE GIRLS 8/10, LOUNGE AX Davie Allan's reputation sputters along on the fumes of the music the guitarist contributed to exploitative 60s biker flicks like Devil's Angels and Born Losers. His concise instrumental gem "Blues' Theme," recorded in 1966 with producer Mike Curb and unearthed for Rhino's Nuggets box last year, showcases a rather polite version of his sinister fuzzed-out sound, and his harder-to-find stuff from that era--like "Cycle-Delic," which I have on a 1988 Savage Pencil picture disc called Angel Dust--is a total mindfuck of overdriven surf licks, wah-wah, and distortion. But while some cuts on Allan's recent Fuzz Fest (Total Energy) manage enough mayhem to send Dick Dale running for cover, his whiny, quasi-metallic leads on midtempo ballads like "Helldorado" and "Roswell, N.M." sound like they were swiped from the first Boston album. Openers the Knoxville Girls--named, one would surmise, after the murder ballad made popular by the Louvin Brothers--haven't been kicking around quite as long as Allan, but some of them are getting there: drummer Bob Bert has done time with Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore, singer Jerry Teel with the Honeymoon Killers and the Chrome Cranks, and guitarist Kid Congo Powers with the Cramps, the Gun Club, Nick Cave, and just about any other Cimmerian creep who would have him. The band's eponymously titled debut on In the Red delivers a surprisingly enjoyable, if expectable, redux of Memphis-style primitivism: trashy rockabilly, raw country twang, and desperate blues. LOS LOBOS 8/10, PARK WEST The recent deluge of Los Lobos side projects--albums by Cesar Rosas, the Latin Playboys, and Houndog--seems to have slimmed the pickings for the veteran band's new outing, This Time (Hollywood). But despite some iffy material the grooves never falter, and producers Mitchell Froom and Tchad Blake put them through all the right wringers. The sweet soul of the title track and Latin-steeped cuts like "Cumbia Raza" and "La Playa" are as rich as anything Los Lobos have ever recorded, and on the whole the group sounds more determined than ever to keep fans guessing. Their live shows are predictably great, though: this one is already sold out. REGGAE COWBOYS 8/12, FITZGERALD'S Black Uhuru clones in ten-gallon hats--yee-haw. --Peter Margasak

Monica Kendrick is on vacation.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Celeste Willinger.

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