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Ha Ha Tonka: Buckle in the Bible Belt

Ha Ha Tonka - Up Nights

Ha Ha Tonka, who I heard for the first time on Sunday two weeks ago opening for SSLYBY, will draw you in with understated lyrics, impressive guitar riffs, and a certain darkness that runs through their debut album. At its best, the record seems meant to take you on a journey set in the dust bowl, relived in the waste land of post-modernity. “Caney Mountain” rides on a certain ambiguity about whether a crime committed was a crime at all, and who’s to blame. “Up Nights,” the energetic first track, is - surprisingly - about child abuse.

Onto more technical matters: the album feels under-produced, as though the guy at the soundboard listened to Ha Ha Tonka’s members individually in the studio, mixed them just a bit, and thought, "This doesn't really NEED anything, does it?"

Even in “Gusto,” a song driven by power chords and Brian Roberts’ vocals, the excellent drums (courtesy of Lennon Bone) sound like an echo of what they are live, or what they should be. Maybe if Ha Ha Tonka had recorded the album in a studio live (think Blond on Blond) the energy would still be there. But recorded, it gets lost somewhere.

Buy Buckle in the Bible Belt from Bloodshot Records
Ha Ha Tonka's website/myspace

By the way, I think Jason owes the blog a post on bad concert etiquette, as per the SSLYBY concert.

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1 Responses to “Ha Ha Tonka: Buckle in the Bible Belt”

  1. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I saw these guys too and was leery having never heard them, never even seen their stuff in the blog-world. I was impressed though, thanks for the sample track.


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