Label: Fat Possum Website: When I first hear the name Heartless Bastards it conjures up unsettling images of a spotty emo band and I grit my teeth at the prospect of having to listen to their doubtless horrible album on repeat and then dissect their musical offering.  I decide that lots of alcohol and possibly valium will be required. Happily though, after some myspace investigation, I find a very grown up, organized country rock outfit with their own online TV station, printed calico bags for sale and a tour list that stretches down the screen and across the breadth of America.  Hailing from Dayton, Ohio Heartless Bastards are Erika Wennerstrom, Dave Colvin and Jesse Ebaugh.  Now based in Austin Texas they follow in the great tradition of semi independent touring bands that constantly thread across America in rented Winnebago’s and vans. On ‘The Mountain’, lead singer Erika sounds like a wild mixture of Australian blues songstress Mia Dyson, Lucinda Williams and Robert Plant.  She growls through the songs with a unique style that makes her sounds like she’s singing with a mouthful of marbles, or food – either way I like it. The title track kicks off the album, a slow burning rock number with atmospheric slide guitar and those distinctive vocals that grow more insistent and powerful as the song progresses.  The use of the fiddle on ‘Had to Go’ is spine tingling and this most country sounding song on the album sounds like it could be a missing track from the Firefly soundtrack.  Anyone who’s not a Joss Whedon fan geek, please feel free to ignore that last sentence.  But for me, the stand out track is the future campfire classic ‘Be so happy’ where Wennerstrom explores her own perceived shortcomings.  The guitar is simple and the distorted harmonies are a delight.  It’s so catchy I’ve been humming it for days. What I like about this album is, despite the influences that range from country to rock, it’s totally cohesive.  It’s not a collection of singles but a rumination on self-discovery, searching, loss and acceptance.  It’s not perfect by any means, it’s more authentic on the mellower tracks whereas the rockier numbers are less then convincing, but it works and it will be my summer road trip album. MP3: Heartless Bastards - Early In The Morning