When: Tue., Feb. 14, 8 p.m. 2012
If you're a native Cincinnatian like me, you know two things—first, you have to like covering spaghetti with watered-down chili, and second, you're pretty much obligated to count the Heartless Bastards among your favorite bands. Cincy isn't the hottest hot spot for breakout acts, so when somebody does make the leap (the Greenhornes, for instance), the community rallies around. I hadn't yet freaked over the Heartless Bastards' bluesy and soulful bar (punk) rock when I left the Queen City in 2008, but since then the power and attitude in Erika Wennerstrom's voice—with its impossible-to-ignore, Patti Smith-like force—has won me over completely. She's remained the only constant member through several lineup changes (the band's now based in Austin), and honestly, that's all that matters. Arrow (Partisan), the follow-up to 2009's breakthrough The Mountain, comes out on Valentine's Day, and Wennerstrom owns it from the get-go. On the six-minute opener, "Marathon," she shows off an unreal range, beginning with a sultry kind of timidity and gradually climbing into an anthemic, take-no-prisoners holler. She leads the charge on the rest of the album too, whether she's singing an acoustic ditty or a plugged-in number like "Got to Have Rock and Roll"—which delivers exactly what its title promises. —Kevin Warwick Hacienda and Precious Blood open.