The InLaws
I Am the Back Woman

Despite the peculiar packaging (a loose, paint-decorated disc inside a bulk-purchased Mexican greeting card), there’s nothing cheap about the sweet-spirited, emotive, and beautifully morose folk-pop and roots-rock on this debut album from The InLaws — a songwriting project conducted by the duo of Joel Hamilton and Owen Beverly.

On the acoustic guitar-based, straight-beat kick-off tune “The Big Mistake” — the first of 11 gems — Beverly mentions a “whole new set of demons” with an unusually quivering vibrato. Hamilton’s high-pitched harmonies match the vibe, as does the additional pedal steel hovering in the background. On the slow-rolling “Nobody Wins,” a lo-fi anthem led by Hamilton’s emotive vocals, things rock a bit more with guitar power chords, a Ringo/Levon drum beat, and a subtle rhythmic turn-around where they essentially drop a beat in the 4/4 pattern to great effect.

“Stonewall” shuffles and rings out with the storytelling style of Johnny Cash and the atmospheric lushness of The Feelies and Wilco. The syncopated piano groove of the eerie and tense “The Ballad of Sam Boone” works well. The waltzy and melancholic “Christian Man” couldn’t be more delicate. Josh Kaler handled the mixing and mastering. Local musicians Jack Burg, Benji Lee, John Satterfield, Sadler Vaden, and Timbre added tasteful instrumentation to the sessions, but the lyrical and chordal meandering from Hamilton and Beverly confidently led the way throughout. ( —T. Ballard Lesemann

The DaliDrama

Falling somewhere between Alice in Chains and Queens of the Stone Age lurks the music of local act The DaliDrama. Formed from the remnants of Wormbelly, raspy lead singer Chris Patterson and his bandmates conjure images of flannel and torn jeans. Bassist Todd Few holds down deep bass lines, while recent addition David Perry provides catchy drum beats.

The album’s seven tracks are grunge-heavy, using two guitars as often as possible. Opening track “Seven” begins with a question: “Hey there, Mr. Sunshine, why you burning up the lawn?” The song follows a melody that digresses into warped guitar solos, closing with reckless thrashing. The title track starts out with a simple guitar lead punctuated by beefy drums. Metallic pop ensues with their most polished track on the album, “Sugar on the Aisle” — a ballad-like song with an abbreviated length. “Fish Ed” and “Contra” give the band a chance to crank out pure unadulterated metal. “Thanks for the Cards” has an emo-twinge, closing the album with an unexpected bit of melancholy.

It’s not a raw album by any stretch. Some parts are over-engineered, but the band produces an original album with a distinct sound. ( —Patrick McGinn

The John Sullivan Project
John Sullivan Presents: Fat Alice

As longtime Charleston rock musician and veteran bassist John M. Sullivan states in the liner notes, this independently-produced album is a casual compilation of some of his favorite early-era rock standards rendered by him and a gang of friends and colleagues. Respectful covers of familiar oldies comprise two thirds of this 14-song collection. Jay Miley oversaw the rotation of singers, guitarists, drummers, horn players, and keyboardists at his Charleston Recording Studios facility, and he managed to maintain a nice level of audio continuity.

There are moments of fun flashiness and fire — as with singer Chuck Davis’ hollerin’ on Eddie Cochran’s “Summertime Blues,” organist Bill Nance’s solo on Smokey Robinson’s “Get Ready,” Dr. Rev. Johnny Mac’s beefy guitar solo on ZZ Top’s “La Grange.” The reworking of Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” (sung by Randy Olsen) as “Sweet Home Carolina” is cute, but the verse aimed at S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford is a bit too corny.

Cover songs aside, a third of the album highlights some original songwriting and arrangements, including some straight-ahead blues/boogie from guitarist Curt Watts on “My Baby Mine,” a power-ballad titled “Soar” by Davis, a jammy Rob Tuttle composition called “Celebrate Your Love” (featuring an all-ages full choir of family and friends), and the brassy, upbeat boogie-woogie booze anthem “Jägerbombs, Boobies, and a Bottle of Beer,” the naughtiest of the bunch. As Fat Alice presses ahead with a solidified lineup, they’d be smart to emphasize their own songs on the next studio endeavor. ( —T. Ballard Lesemann