Where that record offered a sturdy efficiency, Push Me Again harnesses an instrumental sophistication that seemed lacking in Long's previous work. Where Mule sought tight rhythmic shuffles without wrangling melodic interludes, Reelfoot digs its meat hooks into gospel riffs for a balance of piercing rhythmic impulsion and soaring epiphany. The harder songs, like "Signifyin' Honkey" and "Eagleye," benefit from the tastefully aggressive thwap of former Jesus Lizard drummer Mac McNeilly and the restrained rumble of Dan Maister's bass. A new addition for Reelfoot's second recorded ruckus is Mark Boyce's swirling, howling Leslie-speaker organ and electric piano trills.

The gospel-tinged organ crawl and musical twang of "Say It Ain't So" takes a dejected blues stagger and injects a bright Fender Rhodes electric piano solo and sing-along chorus reminiscent of Ray Charles. The countrified lament "Fly Trap Lair" opens with muted, warm electric piano leading to staccato accents of guitars and drums. Shifting gears into "Jane Dwim" 's proto-billy 3/4-time shuffle the band kicks up shards of broken notes and crashing cymbals. "Laughing Eyes" tells a tongue-in-cheek mythical tale of an Indian chief named Reelfoot and his doomed love affair, Long spinning the yarn with the elocution of a Southern Baptist preacher. The threadbare bent-note guitar line and saloon piano slugs on "State House" back up his defiant loser's tale, "Fourteen trips to the state house/ I still haven't called it home/ You ain't the only Jesus in town."

Push Me Again shakes off the rigid postures that haunted Long's past efforts. If his solo acoustic numbers sought heart without multiple musical voices, Reelfoot's latest shows he can still sing his lungs out while the band members gleefully flog their gear.

-- Dave Clifford

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