Let It Burn

Asskickers bandleader Bob Howard continues to pursue his mission of mixing country-western values with the power of heavy rock and the mocking irreverence of punk, and on Let it Burn, the third album by his band of Chico’s finest musicians he delivers a collection of tunes that range from the deeply felt political discontent of “Anger in My Soul” to the goofy, unrequited love of the Ramones-esque “Monkey Bar Girl.” Howard’s classic country baritone is perfectly complemented by Scott Pressman’s tasty lead guitar work throughout, and the rhythm section of Steve Bragg on drums and bass player Alan Wood keeps everything on a rock solid grove even as John LaPado’s pedal steel guitar opens the tunes like a luminous rose. “I don’t like strangers./ Everybody’s strange,” growls the gravel-voiced narrator of “My Dog Bites,” in a perfect blend of absurdist humor and sociological insight that has become a trademark of Howard’s ever-maturing songwriting, and the searing guitar solo is enough to peel the paint off your dog house. Go get this one and kick your own ass.