For Chapel Hill's Sinful Savage Tigers, there's no escaping comparisons to The Avett Brothers, given the shared geographical proximity, string-band instrumentation, rich harmonies and gift for a hook that the two bands share. But as with the Avetts, bluegrass is only the jumping off point, or the sepia-shaded medium for richly melodic meditations on the heart's timeless conundrums. "Ain't no one gonna love you like they should," singer/guitarist Seth Martin intones on "The Road to Mocharabuiee," while "Still Waiting in Line" mines a nice metaphor, as he stands behind the velvet rope as his alleged baby is already inside the club. The song's earnest, keening tone adds a level of comic pathos. Martin's sly wit is a gift that keeps giving, too, as on the burbling, Dylan-esque folk, "How and Why Blues": "Jesus," he jokes, "with his arms raised, screams 'TD!'"
Martin, who has since recruited bassist Seth Barden and Mandolin Orange multi-instrumentalist Andrew Marlin for support, deserves credit for the eclectic tone. Doleful country ballads ("O, Caroline") sit easily alongside rollicking harmony-laden war stories ("The Fort Garry Horse") and smoky torch-tinged pop ("End of the Horse Drawn Zeppelin"). The album highlight, however, is "Fastest on the Road," an exceptionally pretty, harmonica-driven bluegrass melody. Exulting in his surprising romantic success, Martin avers, "If the girl were a car, she'd be the fastest on the road."
Speaking of speed, the Tigers have arrived at a wonderfully catchy, stylistically balanced record in little time at all.