Like the whimsical invention of bookish, genre-gobbling roots-music fans like myself, the Mollys wear their multiculturalism on sleeves and bouzoukis. In this quintet, Celtic, conjunto and a bit of folk rock meet in the melting caserola of their native American Southwest. Befitting a band who would dub their do-it-yourself label Apolkalips Now, the Mollys approach the ethnic character of the styles they explore with a healthy sense of play and flexibility, and even their own ethnic identities slip and slide, unpredictably, from song to song. Nancy McCallion will both write and sing a tune like "Rosie," a rich, well-focused snapshot of the O'Odham American Indian culture of Arizona, while Catherine Zavala sings, as scabrously at times as the Pogues' Shane MacGowan, a story of the aborted Scottish temperance movement of the 1950s.
Apart from some wicked accordion playing by Kevin Schramm, what's most engaging about the Mollys, separating them from many other roots-folk bands, is the dark, intelligent density of their original material. McCallion penned most of the songs on their latest album, Moon Over the Interstate: Her stories of working-class lives, souls slowly unraveling as a result of economic or spiritual strain, are instantly believable, witty, at times a bit angry, hinting at a punkish energy that never feels like hipsterism. (It was through catching both the Pogues and Los Lobos in Tucson that Zavala and McCallion figured out how to fuse their roots-music love with a rock & roll wildness.) Fans of Brave Combo and One Fell Swoop have at least two reasons to make the Mollys' first St. Louis gig: They're every bit as danceable as the first band, and the second will be opening.