'Heartache in 4/4 Time'
Reviewed by Melanie Haupt, Fri., July 13, 2012
Starlings, TNHeartache in 4/4 Time (Chicken Ranch)
Starlings, TN, formerly of Nashville, prides itself on concocting a po-mo marriage of contemporary rock arrangements and vintage bluegrass. On Heartache in 4/4 Time, the quartet's sixth full-length and its first as an Austin outfit, that yields a dozen slurred tunes bleeding together into one big pool of fiddle, guitar, and dulcimer. Shined with the laconic vocals of frontman Steven Stubblefield, the program divides into halves: "Boy Side" and "Girl Side," with the latter side twice as interesting as its counterpart. Stubblefield's crew gets drenched in Southern charm and spook, particularly with the bright kiss-off of "Leaving Mississippi" and the ominous yet oddly reassuring "You Will Heal," which contends with the literal and figurative landscapes of Texas and the American psyche. The real Heartache in 4/4 Time stems from the fact that its whole isn't as compelling as its denouement.