Ken Tucker
July 11, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Native Dancer

Current Status
In Season
Hal Shows

We gave it an A-

From the easy-rollin’ music that begins NATIVE DANCER (Witching Stick), you might mistake HAL SHOWS for a laid-back sort. But Shows, previously the leader of a fine, loud, ’80s agitprop rock band called Persian Gulf, soon starts slipping some vinegar into this album’s sweet country rock. On ”Easy Street,” he hears talk about ”a war so far away” and a national bravado that promises ”foreign tongues will taste defeat.” As Native Dancer proceeds, the loping ditties, with their skillful blend of bluegrass, honky-tonk, and pop-rock, sneak in messages of dissent and doubt: ”Don’t take it on trust,” he advises on ”Don’t Blame It On Us!,” and he’s downright protest-y on ”That Check’s in the Mail” and the saxophone-bleating ”Hung Jury.” His pleasantly hoarse voice and tunefulness may remind boomers of the Lovin’ Spoonful and younger listeners of…well, no one on the contemporary scene.

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