Recording with a bunch of fellow veteran Austin musicians dubbed the Woodpeckers, longtime Texas musician and journalist Michael Hall recaptures the sort of urgent intensity that has characterized his best music since his great 1980s work with the Wild Seeds and his five solo records of the '90s. Dead By Dinner, Hall's first release in four years, is the one that best captures his eclectic rootsiness, from surging rockers to earnest ballads and a few curveballs thrown in (check out "If You Knew How Much I Wanted You" with its gorgeous guitar playing, nifty organ fills and female background singers). Examples of the rockers include the opening cut "I Can't Believe You Touched Him", a nasty accusation that slices like a stiletto; "Angel", which tells the sort of ominous tale that Stan Ridgway specializes in; and "How To Be Strong", which opens like some primal '60s-vintage punk rocker. On the slow and mellow side, there's the flat-out beautiful "Truly": "I'm torn from tearing and drunk from drinking/And you want to know what a guy like me is thinking," Hall muses. "Come sit by my side and bring me more of that gin." Dead By Dinner closes with its only cover, an ace take on the standard "I Wish I Was A Mole In The Ground". Extra points for the Jon Langford-painted cover art.