Picks and Pans Review: Learning How to Live

updated 04/06/1998 at 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/06/1998 01:00AM

Mike Ireland & Holler

He has the sort of hill country twang in his voice you'd expect to hear in a backwoods holler. But Ireland and his backing band come from the urban flatlands of Kansas City, Mo. And while their hard-rocking brand of honky-tonk puts them squarely in the y'alternative school of country-rock, the 37-year-old's press agents have dubbed his sound "countrypolitan." Brand it what you will, Ireland makes his impressive debut on Sub Pop, a Seattle label best known for launching Nirvana. With moaning fiddles, viola and—no kidding—a cello, Holler provides Ireland a garden wall of sound for songs about heartbreak, remorse and, on "Banks of the Ohio," even a gothic tale of misogynistic violence: "I murdered the only girl I love 'cause she would not be my bride." A hint of Ireland's affinity for dark themes might be found in the name of his previous band—the Starkweathers—after the notorious mass murderer Charles Starkweather. (Sub Pop)

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