Heartless Bastards at the Hi-Tone Cafe 

Erika Wennerstrom is a rare thing: a white blues/roots-belter utterly free of histrionics. There's a simple power to Wennerstrom's songs and singing that is perfectly matched by the sturdy accompaniment provided by the music of her no-frills band, born, appropriately, in rust-belt Cincinnati but now based in Austin, Texas. The band's 2005 debut, Stairs and Elevators, was an oddly, almost ineffably inspirational album. It was so modest yet reached for so much. I never expected Wennerstrom to be able to repeat its charms. But she's come mighty close with three subsequent collections of direct, bone-deep rock songs suffused with an air of cautious hope: 2006's All This Time, 2009's The Mountain, and now 2012's Arrow. The latest is perhaps a little heavier and flashier than before, embodied by the lacerating guitar rave-up that ends "Parted Ways" or the metallic swagger of "Got To Have Rock and Roll." But the clincher is still Wennerstrom's strong, soulful, emotionally committed vocals. The Heartless Bastards play the Hi-Tone Café on Wednesday, March 7th, with the Fling. Doors open at 9 p.m. Admission is $15.


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