Bad Livers Blood & Mood

After years of being on the outs with the country music scene on account of their potent blends of bluegrass with, well, pretty much anything, the No Depression nation embraced Bad Livers as prodigal sons to the fold. But sometimes the only thing worse than not fitting in, is being told a little too forcefully that you do. Contrarians to the bitter end, Bad Livers mainstays Danny Barnes and Mark Rubin find alternative country orthodoxy every bit as distasteful as Nashville. Blood & Mood is their way of saying "Fuck tha genre police," and for added emphasis they say it partly with hip-hop beats. For good measure, they revisit some of their hardcore roots with the mook punk of "I'm Losing," do up a deceptively snarky, folksy ballad with "Little Bitty Town," and toss around samples and what could best be called country breakbeats. Their excellent 1997 album, Hogs on the Highway, didn't exactly hew to the straight and narrow with bluegrass, but at least it was pretty clear throughout what they were messing with; in the odd case where they actually play fairly straight-up bluegrass on Blood & Mood, you begin to think it's just to throw you off again. Or it may just be that these omnivorous music fans and good-natured cranks are really representing the sweeping swath of music of their Austin, TX, home (albeit without any klezmer this time out - tubby tuba and bass player Mark Rubin leaves that for one of his side projects). Blood & Mood is never less than interesting and usually very good (although Hogs on the Highway remains their classic), but whatever you make of them, Bad Livers deserve your encouragement. At a time when everything about anything slotted as alternative is so ruthlessly calculated, Barnes and Rubin are genuine mavericks (Sugar Hill)