Review :: Pink Nasty, "Mule School"

If you're gonna be a country crooner, there's one thing you'd better hold on to ... and it's not your truck, your woman or your house.

The thing you must have is integrity. Without it, how are you going to convince a room full of leersome lushes that your heartbroken tales are not simply fabrications?

So, needless to say, Pink Nasty is in for a rough go at it, being that her name is Pink Nasty. The name immediately brings to mind woeful novelty acts like Peaches or Fannypack, except Pink Nasty sounds like she just might go all the way.

After building up expectations like that, the real Pink Nasty could either be a huge disappointment or a brow-wiping relief. Fortunately, she's more of the latter.

Pink Nasty actually is Sara Beck, a folk singer reared in Wichita who now resides in Boston. Apparently, she also has a lot of friends in Lawrence, as "Mule School" features half of the Danny Pound Band -- Pound Jeremy Sidener -- and other scenesters like Brandon Aiken, Steve Squire and Ben Tuttle.

Beck writes twangy acoustic folk tunes in the style of Neko Case, splitting her time between melancholy ballads and folky rockers in the vein of (surprise) Danny Pound. Her capable voice flirts with a southern drawl, but stays genuine enough so as to not induce groans.

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Lyrically, Beck is capable but a bit erratic. On-point musings like "Looking forward to leap year / It's one day more I won't see him" are offset by ill-fated couplets like "I'm in the Bahamas / Here to recover from all of my traumas." Also questionable is Beck's affection for cursing: The phrase 'What the f**' pops up on two consecutive songs, leaving the listener wondering if Pink Nasty might benefit from a little more lyrical subtlety.

Highlights include a duet with Danny Pound on Phil Spector's "Be My Baby" and a cover of Pound's "High and Lonesome." Beck's best songs surface on the second half of the album, when she trades in irony for honesty and bares her soul on slower songs like "Trenchcoat Blues" and "Nashville Pines."

It's a shame that Beck feels the need to adopt a comical alter-ego when her own personality more than carries the songs on "Mule School." Will the real Pink Nasty please stand up?

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