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SOULED AMERICAN (Buy CDs by this artist)
Fe (Rough Trade) 1988
Flubber (Rough Trade) 1989
Around the Horn (Rough Trade) 1990

Heavy and heartfelt country'n'strychnine from this hard-touring Chicago quartet. Closer to Neil and Graham than Lefty and George, Souled American specializes in low-key grooves that gurgle and bounce with songwriter Joe Adducci's reggae-style lead bass, Jamey Barnard's slapping New Orleans-style drums and Scott Tuma's shimmering rhythm guitar, which sounds like pedal steel but isn't.

Sporting the heaviest drawls in all god's country, Adducci and co-writer/vocalist Chris Grigoroff pen original material that sounds like long-lost traditional laments. The first side of Fe (group code for "feel") focuses on an imagined rural present, while the flip dishes out a world of hurt. The group masterfully cranks up to speed on Flubber, adding a swampy undercurrent to a thick mix of inscrutable deep-South fantasizing. "Marleyphine Hank" swirls country into dub, while covers of John Fahey ("Cupa Cowfee") and, on the CD, John Prine ("The Torch Singer") lend serious roots credence, if any were needed.

Souled Am's guitarists evoke lazy New Orleans brass-band grooves on the more musically ambitious Around the Horn. While the album includes a song written by Joe's C&W-singing mom Vicki ("I Keep Holding Back the Tears"), "Six Feet of Snow," by Lowell George and Keith Godchaux, heads the band in a southerly psychedelic direction.

[Richard Gehr]