“Graffiti Girl” by Mark Pickerel and His Praying Hands, from Snake in the Radio (Bloodshot Records):
In an early incarnation of Screaming Trees, Mark Pickerel sang and Mark Lanegan played the drums. The Marks traded places before the Trees released their first record, but Pickerel never abandoned his frontman ambitions. After drumming for everyone from Nirvana to Neko Case, Pickerel reclaimed the microphone on 2006’s Snake in the Radio, his solo debut with backing band His Praying Hands. The pompadoured Pickerel looks like Chris Isaak but sounds more like Lou Reed, recasting the city-cool baritone in a rural-rock setting. On this year’s Cody’s Dream, Pickerel alternates country ballads with raucous, riff-driven numbers, but his voice stays calm, impervious to lovelorn lyrics and rising volume. Pickerel moves back behind the kit for two Cody’s Dream tracks, but when playing live, he leaves the percussion to his hired Hands.