The Ragbirds - Wanderlove

The Ragbirds hail from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and while the Irish Hills might not be too far away, there's no pigeonholing this group. On their second album, Wanderlove, the quartet takes listeners on a lengthy trip around the country and the world, from their own backyard to the Appalachian hills and across oceans and deserts far beyond. The talented bunch, including Randall Moore and Tim Dziekan on all grades of crucial percussion, is seemingly driven by Erin Zindle's multi-instrumentalism and songwriting. The improbably named guitarist Matthew Melody also chips in with stellar backing vocals, lending real drama to the proceedings when necessary.

"Good" is a complete chamber-roots undertaking, as gleaming horns trade blows with the band's ever-present, propulsive style of worldly groove. Their meticulous pop leanings are also evident on tracks like "How Can I Say" and "Medicine," in which Zindle's vocals provide a focal point for their eclectic meanderings. Others, like "Brave New Beat," "Ypsilanti Song," and the opening "Tarantella" more profoundly showcase the band's diverse mixture of thumping beats and classic instruments. The Melody-led "Moon Miss Me" reminds me of the afro-tinged roots-pop of Sim Redmond Band, and "Space" brings to mind the cosmic gumbo of Hypnotic Clambake, while the slinky "Religion" brings to mind noone in particular. They've found their own sound via a steady application of influences.

The band perhaps gives the most Irish/Celtic weight to the last part of the album, on the airy "Hiding Place" and the starry "Harvest," before getting all aboriginal on us with the closing "Roar, Claw, and Bite." It's rare to hear something new and exciting in the realm of folk/roots music, but the careful alchemists of The Ragbirds have given us just that with Wanderlove.

-Bryan Rodgers