Lou Poster has spent the last two decades fronting Grafton, among the best flat-out rock bands in a scene full of flat-out rock bands.

Lou Poster has spent the last two decades fronting Grafton, among the best flat-out rock bands in a scene full of flat-out rock bands.

As the clock ticks closer to 40, the second act in his American life has made its way to vinyl with his new combo Drift Mouth and the band's first extended player, Franklin County Nights.

As an aging rocker from West Virginia, it would be an easy guess what Poster was working on. Likely some combination of insurgent country or Appalachian murder balladry, or maybe even full-on Leadbelly blues.

Instead, Poster actually sings. And actually can sing. Best known for a ragged howl behind the mic, it is almost jarring to hear his muscular and surprisingly effective timbre. It brings to mind a rawer, world-weary Gordon Lightfoot, or a backcountry version of idiosyncratic cult favorite Scott Walker.

The five songs on Franklin County Nights may influence that opinion a bit. Like Lightfoot and Walker, Drift Mouth doesn't shy from solidly structured, narrative balladry, evoking the sort of character sketches found in both country and Tin Pan Alley.

These country touchstones are obvious, and to be expected. Honestly, Franklin County Nights sounds much more like a Richard Thompson album, with a Midwestern vibe replacing Thompson's frequently British stiff upper lip. Or a later Elvis Costello record if Costello grew up in Lancaster and recorded at Musicol.

Influences further afield than Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard do Franklin County Nights a real service. By steering clear of the obvious, easy choices, Poster and company have created a rootsy record with deeper roots than expected.