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Power trio Heartless Bastards opens for Jenny Lewis this Sunday at Mr. Small's

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They'll riff you a new one: Heartless Bastards
  • They'll riff you a new one: Heartless Bastards

Sometimes a band's music sounds so raw and perfect that adding any flourishes, like a guitar solo, seems unnecessary. In Heartless Bastards, Erika Wennerstrom's approach to the guitar is to literally bang out power chords with a fury that's hard to ignore. Combine that with her strong, battle-weary voice that evokes both Polly Harvey and Cat Power's Chan Marshall, and the final product can have a visceral effect.

Not since Columbus, Ohio's revered female trio Scrawl has simplicity sounded so engaging. Coincidentally, the seeds of Heartless Bastards were also planted in the Buckeye state, in nearby Cincinnati. The trio recorded a demo that fell into hands of the Black Keys, who passed it on to their label, Fat Possum. After two albums, Wennerstrom and bassist/boyfriend Mike Lamping broke up, leaving the guitarist without a band or a date.

She headed to Austin, Texas, to start anew and write a batch of songs, resulting in The Mountain, released earlier this year. Apart from some high lonely cries from a pedal steel and some banjo strums, the sound comes from a new trio churning out stark riffs. Lyrically, some of the tracks seem like meditations on life after a bad breakup. Yet while Wennerstrom might be a survivor, she's not crying about it. She's ready to forge ahead and push any detractors out of her way.


Heartless Bastards with Jenny Lewis. 8 p.m. Sun., July 5. Mr. Small's Theatre, 400 Lincoln Ave., Millvale. $19.50. All ages. 412-821-4447 or www.mrsmalls.com

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