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Monday, 16 December 2013 18:30

Charting the Music: Ha Ha Tonka, 'Lessons'

Charting the Music: Ha Ha Tonka, 'Lessons' Frank Hill
Written by Travis Dettmann
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Ha Ha Tonka's new badge of honor, "Lessons," expresses maturity, along with all the pain and regret that can come with this new found wisdom.

Since 2005, Ha Ha Tonka has learned several "Lessons" as they have just released their fourth record. Laced with four-piece vocal harmonies and beautiful instrumentation, "Lessons" is a mood enhancer even when the lyrics are quite the opposite.

88.1 KDHX chart position: #1 Americana, #1 Adult Album Alternative and #1 CMJ Top 30 for the week of December 3, 2013.

Record label, release date and producer: Bloodshot Records released "Lessons" on September 24, 2013; it was produced by Dan Mouad.

Can be heard on: Gold Soundz with Chris Bay, Bittersweet Melody with Allen Dahm and Feel Like Going Home with Roy Kasten.

RIYL: Southeast Engine, J. Roddy Walston and the Business and Murder by Death.

Hometown: West Plains, Mo.

Standout tracks: "Dead to the World" acts as a brilliant introduction to "Lessons," employing steel-string hooks and carefully placed crescendos. If the lead riff of "Colorful Kids" isn't enough to commence humming along, "Me as I was, You as You Were" will be tattooed on your inner arm by the end of the day. "Rewrite Our Lives" is a tear jerker, yet also has the charm that could easily produce a sporadic barnyard hoedown.

About the band: Originally named Amsterband, the Ozark group is comprised of Brian Roberts, Lennon Bone, Lucas Long and Brett Anderson. Adopting the name of an Ozark state park in Missouri, Ha Ha Tonka became the new moniker for the quartet. In 2007, Bloodshot Records picked up the band with a contract, re-releasing their effort, "Buckle in the Bible Belt." Aside from receiving many positive reviews from outlets such as The Washington Post and NPR, they were featured in an episode of "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" and have made their way around the festival circuit including Lollapalooza.

About the label: Chicago's Bloodshot Records began in 1993 when Nan Warshaw, Eric Babcock and Rob Miller decided to release "For A Life of Sin: A Compilation of Insurgent Chicago Country," a compilation featuring country-punk bands during a time when the masses rode the grunge bandwagon. After a few more compilation efforts, Warshaw and Miller's label kept expanding, ultimately becoming an umbrella for artists that don't necessarily fit in a particular mold. Among some of the best-known artists to have called Bloodshot home are Ryan Adams, Neko Case and Alejandro Escovedo.

Play it while: Taking the time to appreciate every last bit of nature we so often take for granted.

What the critics say: "The Ozarks outfit is building a body of work that resembles the spirit of the glorious and oft-conflicted state itself. Its songs are marked by rugged beauty and plainspoken wisdom, imbued with the sounds of city life and rural reckonings, characterized by an ever-present awareness of both hardship and hope. The fashion in which the group marries Southern and modern rock, back porch string-band music and art-school smarts is not unlike the way Missouri attempts to make the best of its own duality, its Southern and Midwestern roots refining one another at times, rubbing raw at others." Aarik Danielsen, Columbia Daily Tribune.

KDHX coverage: Ha Ha Tonka stopped by Magnolia Ave. for an in-studio session on November 29, 2013. Janet Noe Rhoads wrote about Ha Ha Tonka for their "Show Me Shows" session on October 18, 2013. "Colorful Kids" was established as 88.1 KDHX's "Song of the Day" for July 31, 2013. On June 9, 2012, Scott Allen covered Ha Ha Tonka and the rest of night 3 from Twangfest 16, with photo documentation by Jarred Gastreich. Abby Gillardi documented the band's performance opening for Murder by Death at Plush on August 22, 2012.

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