Home Is Where The Heartland Is

From muscular rock structures to bittersweet acoustic melodies and rich string arrangements, the Nixons, a road-tested Oklahoma City quartet, deliver a kind of emotional journey across America with their new record, Latest Thing.

On the West Coast, frontman Zac Maloy becomes disoriented on "Blackout" (RealAudio excerpt), on which he sings, "Just when you thought you could fight this battle/ They move the Sunset Strip to Seattle." The wry observation might earn a wink from fellow musicians, but Maloy isn't consumed by irony.

Back in the band's native heartland, Maloy sees "an old man bend to plant another seed," and turns "Calling Yesterday" (RealAudio excerpt) into an earnest look at renewal. A subtle cello colors the melancholy "Gabriel," a tale of finding solace.

Sometimes things happen too fast, as on the hard-driving "The One," inspiring the lament, "I couldn't see you were the one," sings Maloy, "It's like I lost you in the sun."

Rooted in '60s riffs, the Nixons wield modern technology to find new directions for reliable chord progressions. With the help of producer Stephen Haigler (Jimmie's Chicken Shack, Inch), guitars resemble horns on "Drama Queen" (RealAudio excerpt). But the Nixons aren't afraid to get back to basics on the stripped-down, acoustic "Last Song," a reflective meditation at the end of a solid 13 tracks.