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Lou Ford, Alan Freed's Radio 

Since their debut release, Sad But Familiar (on their own Dumb Ass Records) Charlotte's Lou Ford has been standin' under the umbrella of alt country. Aside from "gonna-tear-it-up" songs like "Doodlebug" and "Mexico," the Beatles-esque, harmony-fortified "rural pop" of the band's sophomore release is going to change all that.

The opening track, "Storz' Bar" (Storz invented the Top 40 format) starts as a Brian Wilson/John Lennon-influenced piano ballad that expands to a grand, Pet Sounds chorus awash in reverb a la Phil Spector. Enlisting S.C.O.T.'s engineer/producer Mark Williams to command the console, this is pop with a sense of history: There are nods to the Badfinger, Beatles, Gram Parsons and even a Herman's Hermits send-up on "Seemingly, Maybe." Vocals-wise, Alan and Chad Edwards' ever'll-be-brothersly harmonies prove that blood is thicker than PBR, the band's preferred fuel of choice.

Although unabashedly Southern, the Lou Ford of Alan Freed's Radio mainly calls to mind the clever pop of Michael Penn, or Mark Olson-era Jayhawks: smart players who love Chilton as much as Parsons, and whose growing years played out against a soundtrack of classic radio pop.

The grab-a-hanky moment comes with the final track, simply titled "Alan Freed," lamenting the end of regional radio and tastemakin' local DJs. When Edwards sings, "No, I don't really care, 'bout the next big thing and I just can't take anymore"--as if radio has darn near killed him--you realize that you're hearing a powerful musical voice that no amount of pre-programmed dreck will ever silence.

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