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Applesauce's The New, New Country Blues of Applesauce 

(self-released)

Twin brothers Mark and Michael Holland are a musically restless pair. As co-leaders of the band Jennyanykind for a half-dozen records, they migrated from spacy pop that drank from the Flaming Lips' spiked punch bowl to Basement Tapes-style barroom romps. As a side project, Mark impersonated a backwoods, bluesy savant under the Jule Brown tag, and more recently he's led the keyboard-centered and dance-oriented Mark Holland's Rhythm Force. Michael has gone on to work with bluegrass band Big Fat Gap and the Occoneechee String Band.

Brother Mark's latest walkabout is the raw-boned duo Applesauce, in which he's joined by Rhythm Force member Pete Waggoner. Seven of the 10 songs on the pair's debut are originals, and the bulk live up to the "country blues" part of the title. "That's What the Blues Can Do" and "Won't You Please Help Me Find My Baby" feel truest to the form—desperate and haunted and all lean muscle, suggesting any fat was long burned off fleeing from hellhounds. "Go Rider Go" shows a familiarity with the rider character that's strutted through many a blues tune. And two expertly delivered trad numbers—"Frankie and Albert" and "Jesus Is a Dyin'-Bed Maker" (better known as "In My Time of Dying")—pinpoint Holland's historical aim, with Charley Patton arguably being the owner of the definitive versions of both.

"Ride a White Swan," the other non-original here, and the album-capping "Open Your Mind" are the wild cards that address the "new, new" part of the title. The former, a cover of the T. Rex tune that just might have birthed glam, nails the rustic arrangement, but it's probably the only country blues number to lobby for the wearing of wizard hats. And "Open Your Mind" kicks off with a groove that could have been borrowed from the Rhythm Force. Restless forever.

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