The Devil Makes Three doesn't have a drummer, but the band doesn't need one. Cooper McBean's percussive banjo accents and Lucia Turino's forceful slaps on her bass supply more than enough rhythm. Guitarist and lead singer Pete Bernhard completes the trio with a bluesy vocal style that's part Louis Prima, part Merle Haggard. The group has been carving a niche since arriving on the scene six years ago, with a sound that combines bluegrass, old-time music, folk, rockabilly, and Piedmont blues and ragtime, all played with a blazing punk-rock attitude.
After the band put out three CDs independently, Milan is rereleasing its eponymous debut with four bonus tracks. The songs on The Devil Makes Three are the backbone of the band's live shows and grab your attention with sprightly energy, mordant humor, and timeless lyrics. Old favorites like the pirate-flavored "The Plank," the boozy ode to underage drinking "Shades," and the macabre cowboy ballad "The Bullet" sound better than ever. The extra cuts are welcome additions to the band's canon. "Nobody's Dirty Business" is a Mississippi John Hurt cover driven by Turino's propulsive bass. Bad-man ballad "Dynamite" is full of the band's trademark dark humor, and "Fun Has Just Begun" is a celebration of debauchery with a cheerful ragtime rhythm. The Devil Makes Three may be more sedate than the band's concerts, but it gives a deeper appreciation of the group's impressive songwriting talent.