Sound Advice 

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Kathleen Edwards Asking for Flowers
Zoe Records / Release date: March 4
Sounds like: Ornery, unapologetic alt-country

Short take: A Canadian cowgirl gets the blues

It's hard not to fall in love with someone who writes "You're the Great One, I'm Marty McSorley" into a song about her relationship unless you happen to be the poor bastard who inspired some of the nastier songs on Kathleen Edwards' third release. Though the partner Edwards describes in "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory" isn't the hanger-on in "The Cheapest Key" or the heartless slob in "Asking for Flowers," they all seem to be part of the same exhausting trip. From the opening, slow-building road epic "Buffalo" to the stripped-down twang of "Goodnight, California," Edwards takes the listener along. And she takes her songs far beyond the introspective, tough-girl trappings of previous albums, whether addressing her home country's ethical contradictions in "Oh Canada" or the possible plight of Iraq war draft dodgers in "Oil Man's War." Jason Notte

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Flogging Molly Float
SideOneDummy / Release date: March 4
Sounds like: Dropkick Murphys meet that guy who plays Wednesdays at your local pub

Short take: The finest new-wave Irish punk

Made infamous on several Warped Tours, the seven-piece Irish/American trad-punk outfit Flogging Molly continues to rock mandolins, fiddles, uilleann pipes and several other instruments alongside standard guitars and drums on its fourth album. The result is another blend of slow, charming ballads interspersed with relentless slam-dance tracks. Songs like "Paddy's Lament" and "You Won't Make a Fool Out of Me" rival early hits off Swagger and Drunken Lullabies, while the title track reveals arresting violin, accordion and banjo work atop desperate and beautiful vocals that point to a new maturity for the band. Like a sweet drink, too much Irish punk in one sitting grows tedious, but thrown into a shuffle, Flogging Molly remains fun and highly danceable. Take it in with a Guinness and whiskey or two if you want to be a real fanboy. Matthew Schniper

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Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands Cody's Dream
Bloodshot Records / Release date: March 4
Sounds like: A cut from the Kill Bill credits

Short take: One tangled rock family tree

If Mark Pickerel wore flannel during the early '90s, it must have taken him years to burn it. The man who drummed for Screaming Trees and got Nirvana to play Leadbelly no, Nirvana's drummer wasn't always some corporate shill is now on his second album with His Praying Hands, and the Seattle scene is one of several musical specters haunting him. Pickerel has a story to tell about musical alter-ego Cody, and the chops to back it up, but doesn't seem to know where to go with it. He deftly moves from the rockabilly of "Cody's Dream" and "The Last Leaves" to the funeral dirge of "One More Cup of Coffee," but goes astray with the stoner rock of "She Calls" and the blatantly Interpol-like post-punk revival of "The Closing Theme." Like his protagonist, Pickerel and His Praying Hands are "one day ahead of the curve, the next behind the times." A shame, really: It could have been a fun trip. Jason Notte


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