There is nothing hesitant about Lucky Rabbit’s Foot. On this debut CD, Greg Hanson and John Bemis of Hooverville display all the courage of seasoned recording artists. They step right up and put down twelve tracks without hesitation, laying claim to territory in both traditional country and its underground counterpart, alt-country. While Bemis strums rhythm guitar and sings lead, Hanson transitions gracefully between lead guitar, mandolin and Hawaiian slide guitar, taking both musicians in unsuspected directions, controlling tension and release with astonishing agility and intuition.

Hooverville adheres to a traditional sound and yet there is a recalcitrant edge in both the songwriting and arrangements that pushes their music beyond the confines of the country canon. For example, the second track, “Austin Lynn,” is an eerie murder ballad, easily as sophisticated and dark as the Louvin Brothers’ version of “Knoxville Girl” and as hip as Uncle Tupelo’s interpretation of the Carter Family song, “No Depression.” Bemis’ haunting voice accompanies the lyrics through a briar of vengeance and loss, exposing all the thorns that those emotions have to bare.

Austin Lynn let your grave lie cold

Six feet down under Danville soil

I laid you there in an April Snow

May you burn in Hell while above the cold

wind blows

Bemis, who penned nine of the twelve songs, is a romantic, preferring abstraction, allusion and double meaning in his lyrics while Hanson, on the other hand, enjoys a direct approach to songwriting. His tracks bear the names, “Better Than You,” “Don’t Forget Your Station” and “Fairly Good Man.”

This CD offers wound-up country and down-home bluegrass accompanied by Hank-esque balladry all played out against a backdrop of drinkin’, lovin’ and killin’, like good country should.

Both Hooverville’s Lucky Rabbit’s Foot and Thad Cockrell and his Starlite Band are available at Millennium Records in Durham and at School Kids in Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.