Safe House (self-released)

The Grisly Hand 

Safe House
(self-released)

Advocating that a band record live rather than take advantage of all that a studio has to offer is a bit like telling your girlfriend that you like her better without makeup. But I'm about to be that boyfriend: I love you, Grisly Hand, but I like you better when you're a little less done up. By now, critics — including The Pitch — have fawned enough over the Grisly Hand to suggest an unconditional love. The band burst onto Kansas City's music scene in 2009 with a strain of modern country-folk that sounded like punk kids with banjos and an Etsy store — barroom stomps with the backwater fervor of a tent revival. And now comes the long-awaited debut, Safe House, to offer up a smooth hunk of Americana. But without Lauren Krum and Jimmy Fitzner's lively stage banter to breathe DIY vitality into the set, Safe House's extended harmonies grate after a while, making the six-track album seem much longer than it actually is (a spare 26 minutes and change). Any song longer than four minutes distorts the Grisly Hand's charm, stretching a joyful romp into a strained smile. That's a shame, given the band's stellar live shows and a lineup studded with talent (Kian Byrne, Ben Summers, Mike Tuley, John Nichols and Charles Snyder, in addition to Krum and Fitzner.) Not that Safe House isn't a perfectly delightful display of local tuneage; it is. It's just a little less lovely than we expected. So strip off that professional recording, guys — you're more beautiful in the flesh.

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