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  Lanky But Macho
Artist: Urban Hillbilly Quartet
Label: Independent 

The absolute worst mathematicians in the business are back with a collection of "live tracks, home recordings and unreleased studio gems." There’s five of them this time around, augmented by a small army of guests. What they’re offering is ten outtakes—certainly up to par with UHQ’s previously-released material, but for some reason left on the cutting room floor. 

There’s a couple of things that tie all of these songs together. The first and most obvious is that they’re all quite raw, even more so than the typical UHQ track. As some of these songs are live takes (the album’s sparse packaging doesn’t say which ones), and as even UHQ’s studio albums are loose and easygoing, this makes sense, and doesn’t deter from the quality of the record.

The other thing is that many of these songs have a much more classical feel than UHQ has demonstrated in the past. "Praetorius" and "Bad Day for the Mayor" are the obvious suspects here, each being a six minute-plus classical piece, but even more modern songs like "Stars Look Down" are drenched in violins and feel older than they are. 

If nothing else, though, Lanky But Macho proves to show the Quartet’s range and versatility, beginning with the rough and jagged alt-country rocker "Speed Limit," going through two classical pieces and ending on the dirty, blues-jazz of "Coal Miner" before returning to encore on the novelty "Dog Song." It’s certainly worth your money if you enjoyed UHQ’s other three records. 

Michial Farmer 1/23/2002

Lanky But Macho is a ten-song compilation of live tracks, unreleased songs, and demos from the UHQ vault.  Evidently, "Quartet" is a lot like the word "trilogy" when used to describe books and movies ­ there are five members this time out. 

As with prior outputs from this group, they are all over the map musically.  "Speed Limit" is a bluegrass number, while "Praetorius," a ten-minute instrumental, is an Irish/Victorian waltz that at certain points approaches classical music.  There are also lots of short verses followed by extended solos or jam sessions.  The best of these is "Coal Miner," where the music evokes The Doors. 

"Skipping Stones" features the blazing guitar work of Jeremy Szopinski and "Stars Look Down" is another song that demands to be noticed. 

Look out for the hidden track, "Dog Song"-­the only hint I will give is to think of The Darlings, the mountain family/band that occasionally appeared on The Andy Griffith Show.

A sprawling effort with no real cohesiveness, Lanky But Macho still somehow manages to hold the listener's ear, perhaps because of the different styles of each song.   An entertaining album, if nothing else.

Brian A. Smith 2/24/2002



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