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Critic's Choice

Nathan Hamilton, Tuesday, August 15, at Quixotes True Blue and Wednesday, August 16, at the Dark Horse Saloon in Boulder, is on a roll these days. The Austin-based singer-songwriter (and former leader of the late Sharecroppers) has just won the revered New Folk award at this years Kerrville Folk Festival. Its a serious honor, one that in the past has launched the careers of such heavies as Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen. Hamilton is building on this major dose of Americana credibility with the release of Tuscola, a collection of banged-up country tunes he hammers into shape with his group, No Deal. The disc features Hamiltons rugged, ranch-hand voice, as well as a gravel-road feel and themes that include bar fights, gunfire, vengeance and other wholesome affairs. Its the kind of meaty folk that insurgent country folks can find satisfying, with its blending of acoustic guitars, banjos and fiddles into spooky sketches. Tuscolas characters drink in some tough places: In Devils Full Moon,: for example, closing time at the local joint leaves someone in the corner, spittin out a tooth: and a bartender wiping blood off the bar. Granted, this isnt the kind of entertainment the Cheers clientele would go for. But fans of Hamiltons award-winning predecessors just might.