The Workers have a tight grasp on bluegrass-inspired rock made especially for Montana's late night tavern crowds. The local band's newest album, Down the Mountain, features mandolin and banjo, bumping bass, and hollered vocals. In its prime moments, the lyrics capture old-time vignettes of moonshine and murder. "Headlights" is a dark lament whose sullen tone is brilliantly offset by the galloping pace. The title track showcases guitarist Trent Atkin's fabulously gruff voice that seems as punk as it is country. "Sportswriter" is a litany of facts about a sportswriter who frequents the narrator's baseball games in a red coat, smoking cheap cigarettes. Not much happens in the story, though the song's minor key riff evokes a sense of mystery buried under the surface.
Atkins shares guitar and vocal duty with Scott Hohnstein, and they both add personality to the album—though it's kind of a split personality since the songs they sing often feel fairly different from one another. One complaint: The constant use of reggae upstroke sometimes pushes the music into the generic college rock realm where there's very little grit. Some people will like that, but I prefer to linger in the band's duskier landscapes that evoke an unpredictable dirty bar ruckus.
The Workers play the Bitterroot Brewery Friday, August 26, at 6 PM. Free.