The De Sotos: Your Highway For Tonight (Ode)

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The De Sotos: Dysfunction
The De Sotos: Your Highway For Tonight (Ode)

If the very fine previous album Cross Your Heart by this Auckland-based four-piece country-rock band went past you and the name is unfamiliar, then you may have heard their widescreen sound which was the theme music for Macrus Lush's overrated smallcreen programme North. (Too much telling us how interesting the people were and how beautiful the landscapes and too little letting us find that for ourselves?)

The De Sotos are the kind of heartland band whose music is ideal for such projects, and in their ranks they have strong songwriters and the band doesn't pull its country-rock punches either on songs like What We Do and Mr Timeshare (the latter not their strongest moment however).

And despite the seeming awkwardness of its title, Dysfunction here sketches in a broody, metaphorical narrative with a sense of menace and loss in its finely distributed details. This is the musical equivalent of our famous "cinema of unease".

There are a number of songs here about loss, the fading past, separation -- Paid in Full, Runnin', Can't Go Back -- but one of the finest is Neon Light which hints at the balladry of Roy Orbison with its gently soaring melody.

The lengthy In the Harbour (about the sinking of the Wahine in '68) is a bit of an overlong dirge however and at 14 songs -- the gentle but unmemorable Sunny Day and World's Below at the end might also have been culled -- this does feel like it is over-reaching when a more economic selection which favoured the more musically edgy songs would have had more impact.

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