BIG BACK FORTY, JOHN WALSH & THE SINKHOLES 4/11, BEAT KITCHEN With pedal steel guitar and twangy vocal harmonies, Big Back Forty, a quartet from Columbus, Ohio, injects a smidgen of country into otherwise anemic songs like “Blood,” but it’s not enough to resuscitate the group’s stodgy heartland rock. Antimatter Eisenhower (National Seed), the first CD by John Walsh & the Sinkholes, from Bloomington, Indiana, finds lead guitarist Paul Aarstad evoking some nice garage-rock atmosphere here and there, but this does little to offset the drippiness of Walsh’s folky, vibrato-laden vocals.

CASH MONEY 4/11, EMPTY BOTTLE Guitarist and singer John Humphrey lacks the lung power of Robert Plant, but that only makes more enjoyable this white-hot local duo’s quest to retrace the backwoods-smokehouse roots of Led Zeppelin’s lustrous blues rock on its debut album Black Hearts and Broken Wills (Touch and Go). The journey concludes on an unexpectedly melodic note, “Nightwind,” a ballad that recalls the Plant-and-Page Honeydrippers’ revival of “Sea of Love.”

Ronnie James dIO 4/11, JACKHAMMER’S Dio, the original replacement for Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath back in 1980, has enjoyed one of the more resilient careers in metal. The recent Angry Machines (Mayhem) finds him still in good voice at 47, though lyrically he’s starting to grab at straws, like when he connects Orwell and the women’s movement for “Big Sister.” Plus, after that Pat Boone cover of “Holy Diver,” it’s hard to hear this pompous stuff without wondering how it would sound backed by a swingin’ big band.

SARAH GREENE 4/12, NO EXIT This New York-based blues rocker holds a degree in music composition from Smith College. Her second album, Never Been So (Monk Music), showcases advanced guitar technique enhanced by tasteful economy. In a more unctuous performer’s hands, a song like Greene’s original “Rape in Disguise,” with lyrics that point an accusatory finger at an abusive family member, would verge on unbearability. Yet she wisely holds back on her vocal and saves all the rage for a dazzling guitar break.

THROW 4/12, DOUBLE DOOR On this local trio’s recent Invisible Daylight (Buzz), the impact of its nuanced, surging instrumental work, reminiscent of early Crazy Horse, is inevitably damped by songwriter Wade Iverson’s molasses-slow vocals.

UZ JSME DOMA 4/15, LOUNGE AX This avant-garde Czech band’s name is pronounced “oosh smeh doma” and means “now I get it.” Unloved World (Skoda), its latest American release, features quirky sax-driven instrumentals punctuated by operatic ensemble vocals, with an underlying symphonic sensibility that might appeal most to Zappatistas.

DWINDLE 4/17, LOUNGE AX This Minnesota three-piece ventured to Seattle last October to make its sophomore release. The mediocre result, Recently Okay (Guilt Ridden Pop/TRG), intersperses enervated vocals with drawn-out grunge-guitar workouts on song after long, simplistic, tedious song.

–Frank Youngwerth

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of CASH MONEY by Tony Moschini.