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Please, allow me to gush about Ha Ha Tonka a little more. I’ll be the first to admit that I go through music extremely quickly, usually on a weekly basis. When a band holds my attention longer than that given week it means there is (in my view) something special about said band.

One such group has been Ha Ha Tonka. When I found “Caney Mountain” I was absorbed by the Midwestern vocals, rocking guitars, and four-part harmony. I immediately bought there debut album, Buckle in the Bible Belt, from the venerable eMusic, and quickly burned the CD in order to listen to it in the car. BitBB is a rollicking good time, full of said strong guitars, Midwestern twang, and sweet, sweet harmony.

The opener, “Up Nights”, gets Bible Belt off to an excellent start. Absent from the previously featured tracks was the piano, which it utilized here to an appealing end. This mellows out the gruff sound of “Caney Mountain” and makes Ha Ha Tonka much more radio-friendly.

Ha Ha Tonka – “Up Nights

“Gusto” revels in off-beat heavy guitar and pushy percussion, matched with a much calmer chorus.

Ha Ha Tonka – “Gusto

Finally, “Hangman” is an exercise in expert four-part harmony and soaring vocals. A wrenching scene of a man sentenced to hang… short but amazing.

Ha Ha Tonka – “Hangman” [Ministry recommended]

BitBB rarely slips and loses your attention. As tends to happen with debut albums (really, albums in general), the less well-crafted songs are left for last and bring the LP to a slower ending that I expected, but the pure power and energy of the first 8 tracks (give or take a few moments and “Falling In”) more than make up for it. Highly recommended!

(Buy Ha Ha Tonka’s Buckle in the Bible Belt at Amazon or eMusic)

hahatonka

I originally put off listening to Ha Ha Tonka because of their name. It screamed scene!!! and reeked of dance beats, jarring guitar and atonal vocals. After a trusted blog posted about them, I finally gave in and fed the track “Caney Mountain” through my headphones.

Apparently, rather than referencing the famous yellow metal Tonka truck toys of my youth and the many “ha ha”s that resulted from their use, the band name actually refers to a state park in the the Ozarks of Missouri, and you can hear this influence on their music right away. Far from hipster, Ha Ha Tonka alludes to a much less urban sound than scenes tend to perpetuate. Rough, oft-unenunciated vocals, rocking guitars and and gorgeous four-part harmonies all point to their Midwestern roots. “Caney Mountain” is a rollicking foot-stomper, while “St. Nick On the Fourth in a Fervor”is more dynamic, featuring some awesome four-part harmony climaxes.

Ha Ha Tonka – “Caney Mountain
Ha Ha Tonka – “St. Nick On the Fourth in a Fervor

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