Local Music Feature: The Bitch is back

Formed five years ago in Athens, Southern Bitch threw up grit and groove on its funnel cloud of a debut, 2002's Thunderbolt. They were different from other Athens bands: no new wave, psychedelic pop, jangle or noodling jams, just rousing Southern rawk. The quartet, led by husband/wife guitarists Adam and Wendy Musick, immediately gained ground within the fan base of tourmates the Drive-By Truckers with their rousing, red-clay roots rock, laced with touches of Son Volt, Tom Petty and the obligatory Neil Young.

Shortly after the group's debut, life took a hard turn when drummer Rick Conley died in March 2003. But after a hiatus, the Musicks soldiered on alongside bassist Chuck Bradburn and new drummer Chris Ellenburg. A song, "Free Man Now," from Southern Bitch's sprawling new album, Snake in the Grass, is appropriately about reinvention.

Snake, while not reinventing the group's sound, puts more of its influences on display. Opening track "True Born Leader" swells to a stoner rock chug and features notes that sound like they came from the guitar of U2's the Edge. The next cut, "Don't You Think It's Time," features clipped, burbling Pete Townshend-style tones. "Free Man Now," with its plinking tack piano, has the jitters of Detroit proto-punk, and "This Time" sports a swirling strut reminiscent of David Bowie's Spiders From Mars. This entire, gnarled undercurrent buoys an engaging narrative thread about how poor leadership is bleeding the red, white and blue dry.