After seven years together, the Casket Lottery has earned a reputation as one of the hottest live shows going. With skillful songwriting and musicianship, the Kansas City-based outfit produces a potent rock hybrid that flirts with pop-punk and emo without being either. Guitarist Nathan Ellis and bassist Stacy Hilt are graduates of venerable everything-core giants Coalesce, but don't expect growling vocals or light-speed drumming. The Casket Lottery is more interested in heartfelt lyrics, driving riffs and general rockability than in the aggressive-musical-onslaught style of Coalesce.
On its latest effort, the four-song Smoke and Mirrors, the act tackles well-worn topics -- from corporate radio to prostitution -- with originality and passion. Junior Richardson's drumming provides a pocket for Hilt's understated bass lines, while Ellis's cathartic vocals and sizzling fretwork soar ecstatically above the fray. Spiked with several incisive lyrical moments like "I'm a middle-aged amusement park who can't stand anything," Smoke and Mirrors demonstrates that the Casket Lottery still has enough power and perseverance to produce music far better than most of the major-label filler that passes for punk these days. And the group's current tour with its longtime friends in Limbeck will prove that it still knows how to bring down the house.