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CD Review: Case Federal & The Agents' Natural Born Night Owls 

There's almost a disco/funk feel to the jazzy intro of "Haus Mule," the first song on Case Federal & The Agents' latest album Natural Born Night Owls. Federal comes in with a lounge vibe in his vocals, and just when you think you've got the band figured out, in come the guitar riffs out of '60s rock — a wah pedal helps flex the notes — crushing any preconceived notions you have. The sextet refers to themselves as avant-jazz — perhaps due to the addition of a saxophone that helps redefine any borders when the band leans too much toward rock or folk. The sax floats through the music like a Pink Floyd outtake while bass riffs bring in that jazz genre. It's the guitar that usually shines though, driving the songs forward into jam territory. At times the lyrics and vocals seem like a formality as the band shines in its instrumental layers. The band's music could easily be a showcase for Federal's talent on the guitar, but instead his fret work is complimented by the bass and sax as each has its own moments to shine. His vocals are weak at times, but this isn't a showcase for them. It's clearly the music itself that rules the roost around here — I only worry that the band is trying to do too much at times instead of reining it in and focusing on their bread and butter. "No Hands" has Federal's voice in a Vaudevillian atmosphere before the guitar again finds its rock-infused home. The album wraps with the 10-minute "Waiting in the Fall," giving the band plenty of time to shine where its talents truly lie — in the rhythms, notes and atmosphere it's able to create through instrumentation.

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