The sound of hot, lazy summer days spent basking on a warm stone beside a swimming hole, or dangling from a rocker on a front porch, listening to cricket cackle and sucking back cans of Old Style -- that’s sound of Deer Tick, the most soulful indie rock boys to come down the pike since the Black Keys. The band plays the Independent on Wednesday, July 1.
Never mind the biting bugged-out moniker and the winking title of the young Providence, R.I., foursome’s second full-length, Born on Flag Day (Partisan). Though the combo is youth (vocalist John J. McCauley III recorded Deer Tick’s 2007 debut, War Elephant, at 19) and isn’t above posing for a goofy promo pic, Deer Tick resorts to zero screwball stunts (are you listening, Black Lips?) or cowpoke-punching irony when it comes to its music. Instead, rumpled, rowdy, and hooked on blue-eyed blues rock, the band glides through Born on Flag Day with the old-school confidence of native sons of the South. And can you blame them when vocalist John J. McCauley III wraps his crusty, rusty rasp -- all heart and heft and reflective of his blue-collar background -- around some sonorous pedal steel and glistening fingerpicking on the ambling, C&W-flavored “The Ghost”?
“You don’t have to say anything / But you’ve got to mean everything / This woman on my mind / Her last name is the same as mine / but I don’t think I should go home to her...,” drawls McCauley, walking in the footloose shoes of a semi-fancy-free drifter resisting the earthly tug of home and hearth. Is he dead or is he just not of this world? Neither matters as McCauley’s nihilistic specter floats away. “There’s a label on the bottle that i read/ it don’t have a thing to do with me / I ain’t carrying no child / there’s only dreams I have inside. Tonight they’re getting drunk with me.”
McCauley and bandmates Andy Tobiassen, Dennis Ryan, and Chris Ryan don’t dream big, but working in a genre as reality-bound as this, they find a way to hold those ruminations close and make them heartfelt. Hooked on the last three sultry, slow-dance tracks of Born on Flag Day -- “The Ghost,” “Hell on Earth,” and “Stung” -- I can almost taste Deer Tick’s sleepless nights and velvet touch, as gritty as white-line fever and as refreshing as sweet tea.