On Half Mad Moon (Sire), the terrific debut album by their band, the Damnations TX, sisters Amy Boone and Deborah Kelly join the ranks of the Louvins, the Everlys, and the McGarrigles as some of the most gifted singing siblings in American music. Unlike many of their predecessors, who tended toward delicate, close harmonies, Boone and Kelly are downright raucous, but even when they roar, their voices move together with magnetic precision. The band's geographic orientation (the sisters came to Austin from New York in 1989) and its musical affiliations (guitarist Rob Bernard is the brother of Claude Bernard of the Gourds, and former drummer Keith Langford is in the Gourds) often get them lumped in with their Austin alt-country peers, but twang is just a fraction of their thang. Half Mad Moon's also got a soul-streaked stomper ("Unholy Train"), a shading of punk ("Finger the Pie"), and some Linda Thompson-esque folk rock ("For Awhile"). The band's hooky melodies tend to overshadow the sisters' lyrics, but there's a nice depth to some of their wordplay: "Black Widow," a lament for a stolen amplifier, could also be about losing someone you took for granted ("All the times I got shocked and I beat her / I still want her back"). Reportedly the Damnations' live show makes the album seem mannered--which means this ought to be one of the most exciting gigs by an Austin band since the Gourds played here this spring. Friday, 10 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 773-525-2508. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/David Gahr.