Greg Hawks & The Tremblers Fool's Paradise

North Carolina's Greg Hawks has a countrified voice that eschews the college-boy, heart-on-your-sleeve plaintiveness of singers like Jeff Tweedy or Ryan Adams. Hawks is old-school, perhaps idolising Buck Owens more than Gram Parsons. He has that detached, "been there, done that" aloofness of classic country that I often find distancing, but his sensitivity gradually seeps to the surface. He's a very fine wordsmith, especially on songs like "She Turned On Me," and by the final song, "Let Me In," he gets so downright vulnerable, you want to pick him up and restore his standoffish dignity. "Fool's Paradise" was co-produced by Chris Stamey (Whiskeytown's Faithless Street) and even features some backing vocals by Caitlin Cary, but there's none of that rawness to this record. The twangy charms and old-fashioned harmonies of songs like "Since You've Been Gone" and "Downtown Lights" are hard to resist. Hawks even works in an effortless, back-to-basics cover of Springsteen's "Tougher than the Rest". (Yep Roc)