IT'S A RARE THING when a person who writes about music for a living stumbles across something good by accident. Pretty much everything comes packaged to please, whether it's accompanied with a ream of advance press or just some publicist's lame idea of a tie-in gift. But Verbena's debut CD, Souls for Sale (Merge), came with nothing at all. I slipped it into the player and was rewarded with a warm blast of sexy hotpants Southern rock, played and sung by a guy and a girl you just knew had to be tall and skinny and slouching all over the place, probably romantically involved at one time, now slightly bored. Images of a scratched-up wood-cabinet speaker dragged out on a porch littered with crunched, empty Schaefer cans swelled in my mind, as I noted again that it's only folks from the South who manage to pull off the "baby" thing in songs without sounding like a cheeseball.

Later that night, seeing the band at the Croc, I joined a handful of fans who had also been bowled over by Souls for Sale, and we were rewarded by a warm blast of Southern rock sung by an impossibly skinny and slouched guy and gal. Honestly, it was one of the most stunning shows I've seen by a band I knew nothing about, the likes of which I hadn't experienced in years.

Since then, the Birmingham, Alabama trio has signed to Capitol Records and recorded their debut for that label, Into the Pink, produced by former Seattle resident Dave Grohl. Perhaps because the distinctly crumbly crust of grunge is detectable among the sexy hot rock this time around, Verbena frontman Scott Bondy is reticent to say too much about Grohl's involvement, other than to note that the Foo Fighter got involved with the band because "Dave was dating a girl who liked our record." "If you look at it from my end," he continues, "you can see where we'd get tired of people always wanting to talk about him producing our record rather than our record itself."

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