And then there is the album-finishing "Good Times Comin'," an utterly ripping Dixie jazz number, all instrumental and as bouncy and fast-moving as anything the Hot Club of Cowtown has put out. The guitar work is just pristine, and the contrast between the rapidity of the finger-picking on the electric and the slow whine of the pedal steel is sublime.

I confess that I'd like to see this kind of expert playing and understanding of music history employed with a tad more edge and pushing of the creative envelope. When the bass line of "Penny in the Sun" reminds of the Weakerthans, there's definitely a pang of desire for them to move more in that kind of bitter direction ("I Hate Winnipeg," anyone?).

But that's not the Molenes' bag. Rather, with a song like "Four Feet Under," which plays like a new-country version of "Circle Be Unbroken," they show they're perfectly happy living and breathing inside the traditions they're building upon: "Somewhere I have a sister who loves me/Somewhere a mother still feels the pull."

The Molenes have taken the mother tongue of American roots music and shown once again they are utterly fluent.

Sam Pfeifle can be reached atsam_pfeifle@yahoo.com.

GOOD TIMES COMIN' | Released by the Molenes | with the Coming Grass and Amanda Gervasi | at Empire Dine and Dance, in Portland | Oct 23 |www.themolenes.com

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