With a new band behind her, Erika Wennerstrom leads Dayton, Ohio’s Heartless Bastards through another timeless blues rock jam on the group’s third release, The Mountain.
From the opening title track, Wennerstrom summons the erotic, animalistic charge of Patti Smith, roping up both the maelstrom of guitar fuzz and the tender country road laze with equal ease. It’s her presence at the center of these ebbs and flows that remains her greatest strength. When she howls, she lets loose a lioness; and when she hugs a verse like “And I was searching for a mystery to hold onto/ I had been sinking underneath the paper skies I drew/ Oh, a rip, another tear, it all divides/ And I am drowning, drowning in frustration” — from “Out At Sea” — she bleeds through the stereo. There is pain within these lyrics, but the ache is all Wennerstrom. “Had To Go,” the most gut-wrenching moment of the album, scratches along gorgeously with the authenticity of an old southern blues song that you can almost hear the needle itching the vinyl.
Like former tour mate Lucinda Williams, Heartless Bastards are a band with enough rock ‘n’ roll soul to bravely wield a banjo, or a mandolin — to salt their music with the oaky taste of country and yet repel the country music categorization.
Heartless Bastards: www.theheartlessbastards.com