Micky and the Motorcars

The brothers Braun are a prolific, talented bunch. Two of them, Cody and Willy, help make up celebrated Sugar Hill band Reckless Kelly, who Missoulians may recall from their memorable opening sets for The Duhks and Willie Nelson last summer. The younger two, Micky and Gary, are also out playing a dusted-up version of Americana with Micky and the Motorcars, who have also opened for Willie. And all of them are the sons of Muzzie Braun, the thick-bearded patriarch who’s been playing for 30 years out of central Idaho with his siblings, most recently as the Original Braun Brothers. It’s a big family tree, but the branch to focus on now is the youngest and fastest emerging: Micky and the Motorcars.

The band’s third effort, Careless, is a road weary, scuffed-up and spit-shined album built around Micky’s gravelly lead vocals. He sounds almost exactly like brother Willy fronting for Reckless Kelly, which is to say he’s got a harsh twang along the lines of Steve Earle. The musicianship—Gary on rhythm guitar, lead guitarist Joseph Deeb, bassist Mark McCoy and drummer Shane Vannerson—is robust, especially on the title track, “Guts” and the slower “Louisiana Baby.”

As hard as it may seem, given their dense family roots, Careless is good enough to make Micky and the Motorcars a name all their own. (Skylar Browning)

Micky and the Motorcars play Sean Kelly’s Wednesday, June 28, at 9 PM.

Wang Dang Doodle

A band that puts out a live album for its debut could be accused of laziness. That said, nothing about Wang Dang Doodle’s first album, Live, smacks of slacking. The Bitterroot bluesers sound well-practiced, sporting songs with tight rhythms and breaks in all the right places, on this record made when they opened for Little Feat at the Wilma in February. And though the album is a live recording, it’s no bootleg; the mix is rich, lead guitar and harmonica balanced with workmanlike bass lines and drumming that stay low, but not because there’s any shame in their execution.

If the result—exclusively comprising covers—seems scripted, well, it’s a good script, one that features classics like Canned Heat’s “On the Road Again” stripped of whimsy and transformed from a road song into a roadhouse song, as well as “Don’t Let Go,” familiar to many via multiple executions by the Jerry Garcia Band, but this time sandpapered rather than seraped.

Live showcases Wang Dang Doodle’s proficiency and professionalism, producing, for all purposes, a demo—one suggesting that if you book them for your motorcycle rally wedding reception, they’ll give the crowd your money’s worth. (Jason Wiener)

Wang Dang Doodle plays Sean Kelly’s at 9:30 PM on Friday, June 23, and Out to Lunch at Caras Park at 11 AM on Wednesday, June 28.

Murder By Death
In Bocco al Lupo
Tent Show Records

Listening to Murder By Death’s In Bocca al Lupo, it’s hard to know whether this is music for revelry or for mourning. There’s a deft balance on the Indiana-based quartet’s third album that combines Reverend Glasseye’s carnival rock with Nick Cave’s moodiness, with a dash of the band’s own whiskey-tinged honky-tonk to take the edge off.

“Sometimes the Line Walks You” is an unapologetic butt-kicking roll-beat rocker wherein frontman Adam Turla proclaims, “I’ve broken a law or two, and I’ve only missed a few.” “Dead Men and Sinners” is a gruff seafaring ballad that sounds like it was recorded during last call on Halloween, what with its background chaos and spooky lyrical content. “Shiola” slows everything down with a sparse guitar strum that channels Johnny Cash up until the climactic end. And the album’s single, “Brother,” is the most accessible track—a radio-ready arrangement sparked by Sarah Balliet’s thrashing cello solo (a phrase I never thought I’d write) and Turla’s high-energy baritone vocals. When Turla comes to the chorus singing, “I know there are better brothers, but you’re the only one that’s mine,” it’s—like the majority of this album—heartbreaking and foot-stomping at the same time. (Skylar Browning)

Mr. Lif
Mo’ Mega
Definitive Jux

Mr. Lif, the Boston rapper known for his infectious left-wing political commentary, delivers more biting and intelligent jabs at the establishment with his latest release, Mo’ Mega. The MC proves once again that lyrically he’s at the top of the underground hip-hop scene.

Compared to I Phantom or his Emergency Rations EP, both released in 2002, Lif addresses his politics more directly on Mo’ Mega. The best example is his Katrina-inspired track, “Brothaz,” where he raps: “The Bush Administration’s worth nothin’/just fuck ’em/throw ’em in a barrel/ buck ’em/oh you ain’t know them flood waters was comin’?/you ain’t smell that African blood runnin’?” Lif also lightens the mood occasionally, especially with “Washitup!,” a dancehall-influenced number where he tells his female listeners that if he’s going to give them oral pleasure, they need to follow the title’s instructions.

Rapper and producer EL-P provides a melodic backdrop to Lif’s lyrics, with the majority of his beats utilizing samples of guitars, distorted synth sounds and an altered Hammond organ. His beats complement Lif’s sharp lyrics, all of which make Mo’ Mega a solid follow-up to his 2002 releases. The only drawback is that the effort clocks in at a too-short 40 minutes. (Ira Sather-Olson)

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