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Alone and 'Ashamed,' a Golden Boy Falls

The lone singer with a guitar will always be an icon of American folk music, but modern American folk is a diverse and rich genre that branches into rock, country and blues. Deer Tick understands this: Its new album pays as much homage to Tom Petty and John Fahey as it does to Bob Dylan. While the variety of its songs is admirable, "Ashamed," the album's most Dylan-esque track, is also its best.

Over deft acoustic fingerpicking, songwriter John MacAuley's reedy twang relates the story of a golden boy — "the boy your mother wanted you to meet" — who has failed to live up to his name. "I should have been an angel," he wails. "What a crying shame / what we became." Rich, haunting imagery of death, violence and angels lends an almost apocalyptic nature to the otherwise tranquil song.

But the instrumentation is symbolic, as well. On the final, short verse, MacAuley's deft fingerwork is accompanied by drums, violin and multi-harmony backing vocals. The song ends abruptly and too soon, much like the life of a man who's failed to realize his potential.

Listen to yesterday's 'Song of the Day.'

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Caroline Evans