Right in the Middle with moe.

As the first lines of “Captain America” come through the speakers, moe. instantly establishes itself as a group that does not take things too seriously. Formed in Buffalo, New York in 1991, moe.’s mix of pop and rock-a-billy bluegrass has attracted quite a following for the quintet. On Dither, the band’s first studio recording since 1999, moe. serves up tunes perfect for watching the day go by with only slightly thoughtful lyrics, but melodies that are light and fun.

“New York City,” which some music critics are estimating will be big radio hit, is a lilting homage to the Big Apple. With a definite Celtic rhythm and background melody, the song is a nice sentimental piece. During the bridge, the listener can almost see Michael Flatley breaking into some Riverdance steps. The lyrics talk of cab rides at five in the morning, roller-skating on Sundays in the summer, and early morning rides on the subway; the descriptions create a vivid picture of the city.

“Can’t Seem to Find” sounds like something right off Tom Petty’s Wildflowers album. Interestingly enough, the liner notes mention that the band had been listening to Wildflowers for months when “Can’t Seem to Find” was written. Coincidence? Probably not. The vocal delivery even sounds like Petty; it is almost uncanny. No matter what the speaker does, he just cannot find time to be with someone who is obviously important to him. However, he does not sound too upset about that fact; he tells her that he cares, but, gee, there just are not enough hours in the day.

“Water” is inconsistent with the rest of the album. It is quite heavy both in vocals and musicality. The deep, throaty vocals and hard guitar riffs are a definite step away from the airiness of “New York City” and “Captain America.” The style of the bridge is reminiscent of southern rock, like something that the Allman Brothers Band or Marshall Tucker might come up with. It is a nice breakaway from the kick-back numbers on the rest of the album because it shows some diversity in the band.

It seems that the fashion these days is for bands to take songs from the 80s and put their own spin on it. moe. chose “In a Big Country” by Big Country. It is hard enough to get the original version out of your head, and now this group had to go add to the madness. moe.’s rendition is true to the original, but with their rock bluegrass touch it is a nice update.

Finally, “Tambourine” is a sweet tribute to a girl who is obviously something special. She is described as being like “cold mountain water in a dry desert stream.” This girl can be hot as an August afternoon one minute and cold as ice the next. Once again, this is a song that requires no brain cells to process.

Dither puts you in the mood to drop everything and sit back with a refreshing beverage and a few of your most fun friends. The stress level of these songs is zero. moe. takes no issues with society, nor does the band want to change the world with their music. It seems that the band from Buffalo is content to float along on their easy-going lyrics and happy guitar riffs. And that’s okay too.