critic's pick 199

Like its title suggests, Zombiefied is something of an album that has risen from the dead. And what could be more fitting for Halloween than that?

A seasonal treat from the kitsch-savvy but seriously rocking roots music combo Southern Culture on the Skids, the recording was designed as an eight-song EP disc for Australian release in 1998. Why it never surfaced in America until now is anyone’s guess. But to celebrate its return from the hereafter, SCOTS mainstays Rick Miller, Mary Huff and Dave Hartman have added five newly recorded songs to make Zombiefied a full length album. Bet you didn’t know zombies had growth spurts.

But what makes the album – as is the case, really, with all SCOTS recordings – is the vibe. The trio has so persistently masked its obviously schooled swamp-rock gumbo sound with enough onstage trailer park schtick to make many dismiss (or embrace, depending on your entertainment vantage point) the group as a novelty act. What is really going on is a band with roots-rock chops to spare zeroing on material and performance perspectives that keep its music fun. And this is where Zombiefied scores big.

A love of low-rent horror flicks – the kind where sex and gore are almost necessary by-products as long as they don’t make the movie come in over-budget – fits right in with the SCOTS’ rural roots music vision. The title track rolls on guitar hooks deep fried in reverb from Miller and a fat, high carb backbeat courtesy of Hartman. The resulting music is a little surf, a little bit psychobilly and a whole lot of fun when the lyrics sink in (“my girl’s more dead than alive”).

Miller moves front and center for a light instrumental slice of hullabaloo boogie (Swamp Thang) while bassist/singer Huff has a field day with the beyond-the-grave vocals (seriously, that’s how far back in the mix they are placed) on the J.D. Loudermilk teen lullaby Torture. The music is set afloat on a sea of organ orchestration that is more sentimental sounding that torturous.

But we all know zombies also like to knaw on something, well, substantial. To that end we have a meaty instrumental revision of an early Creedence Clearwater Revival gem, Sinister Purpose. The swampy CCR/John Fogerty guitar dressing has been a prominent element of the SCOTS sound for years. Here, with all the intended voodoo sentiment in place, the tune positively glistens in the midnight moonlight that makes Zombified one of the greater guilty pleasures to pass for treats this Halloween.

Penn OKs switch in insurance plan go to site highmark blue shield

Intelligencer Journal Lancaster, PA February 21, 2007 | Justin Stoltzfus Savings of $10,000 per month expected Penn Township supervisors authorized a change in health insurance policies for township employees Feb. 12.

Roadmaster and supervisor Daryl Lefever, police Chief Larry Snavely and township manager Connie Lucas formed a committee to investigate whether the township should make a change in health insurance policies.

Lucas reported Feb. 12 a change to a Highmark Blue Shield group policy could bring down the total premium from $22,000 to $12,000 per month, saving thousands annually while covering 39 municipal employees.

In a follow-up call Feb. 13, Lucas said township employees are insured currently by a HealthAssurance plan with a zero deductible.

The new plan, Lucas told the board Feb. 12, carries a $1,000 deductible.

Employees would be responsible for a $250 deductible, with the township paying the remaining $750.

But even if all of the employees use their entire deductibles, Lucas said, the cost will not reach the levels of the HealthAssurance plan.

“It saves an incredible amount on the premium.” she told the board. web site highmark blue shield

Lucas also suggested it would benefit the township to pay Erin Group Administrators an annual $1,100 to administer the group policy.

Supervisor chairman Dave Sarley agreed, saying township staff doesn’t have time to administer the plan.

“I would prefer it to be outsourced,” Sarley said.

Supervisor Ron Krause said the move might affect the township’s current three-year police contract.

Lefever said the current contract says officers should receive a “same benefit” but doesn’t specify if coverage or rates would remain consistent.

Sarley said the contract, in its last year, has “multiple interpretations” and needs to be improved.

Sarley said the township will use attorneys to “clean up” wording on a future contract.

On the issue of the proposed change in health plans, Sarley said the search for the best policies will be ongoing in future years.

“It’s not just Penn township.” said Sarley. “It’s a game.” He said nearly all municipalities and businesses are forced to “shop” for health care plans every year due to market competition and schemes by insurance companies, which he said deliberately cause big changes in premiums to lure in customers.

The board authorized a switch to a Highmark Blue Shield PPO medical policy to be administered by Erin Group and a United Concordia dental policy through Benecon.

In comments Feb. 13, Lucas said the United Concordia/Benecon plan represents “a consortium of municipalities” and could help the township get the most efficient coverage.

She said the police contract runs out at the end of 2007, and township officials will start negotiations within several weeks.

Justin Stoltzfus

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