Stones to Throw

Country and rock ’n’ roll have been borrowing from each other for so long that it can be hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, especially among the younger crop of Texas guitar-slingers who could find themselves warming up a crowd for the Randy Rogers Band one night and then Jonathan Tyler the next (or maybe both, on a particularly expansive festival bill).  New Offenders frontman Hunter McKithan has been drifting from a more lyrically-focused American songwriter approach to flat-out rock over the course of his still-young career, and it all culminates in Stones to Throw. Landing somewhere between the classic-rock jamming of the Black Crowes and the grubby blues-rock of the Black Keys, it’s a chops-friendly monument to rock ’n’ roll. “Don’t believe everything that you’re told/break free from the mold,” McKithan belts out in an appealingly gravelly wail. “It’s gotten tired at best/I think it’s time we all gave it a rest.” Not the deepest sentiment, but it’s one the band is unafraid to follow through on.  Aside from a bit of a Western-movie lope on “Just to Burn” and a touch of Nashville polish on the guitar heat of “Don’t Let It Getcha,” Stones to Throw doesn’t bend towards any of the countrified influence that’s central to the appeal of some of the band’s headlining brethren (Whiskey Myers, the Departed, et al).  Softer sides shine through occasionally — the harmony-rich “The Beginning” is a late-album gem — but mostly, this record works as a showcase for crunchy riffs, fevered wails, taut rhythms and insouciant lyrics nicely suited for all those nightclubs in between the garage where this kind of music is born and the arenas it aspires to. — MIKE ETHAN MESSICK