During “Husk,” the gorgeous and surprisingly spry lament near the start of Michael Rank’s new Horsehair, the singer admits something he hasn’t exactly been keeping a secret: “My heart keeps chasing a wheel, and there ain’t much end in sight.” Horsehair is, in fact, Rank’s fifth album-length examination in less than five years of a breakup that left him busted; the fallout has been the ballast for each of his shambolic Keith Richards-meets-Neil Young country-rock records.

But these nine songsRank’s best set with his farrago collective, Stagsuggest he’s not quite finished with the topic. From the exquisite, smoldering centerpiece “Trails” to the seven-minute, fade-away epic “This Side of Texas,” these songs bristle at their own tenderness. Even as Rank empties his emotions against fiddles, mandolins and organs, and lets us know just how good life might have been, a mix of resentment, anger and abiding confusion broils beneath the surface. This feeling stems largely from his decision to sing with Mount Moriah’s Heather McEntire for almost all of these songs. Not harmonizing with him so much as voicing the other side of the story, her expert country tone cuts deep into his emotional burl. McEntire puts Rank’s feelings in sharp relief, suggesting that, even after five albums, the saga isn’t over.

Label: Louds Hymn