"Sewn Together," the new album by desert outlaws the Meat Puppets, is a bit like a declaration of liberation. It's the second full-length release from the veteran band, formed by brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood in a Phoenix suburb in 1980, since bassist Cris was released from prison after serving 18 months on assault charges.
But the collection isn't solely about the musicians' continued ability of overcome the adversity that's confronted them -- it's also a testament to the power of forgiveness and the musical bond between the Kirkwoods, whose band comes to L.A. tonight to play a showcase at the Mint.
"This time around, because we were playing live shows, we realized we're a better band than we've ever been," Curt Kirkwood said.
Championed by Kurt Cobain for its groundbreaking punk-country sound, the Meat Puppets were most popular in the mid-1990s, after a guest appearance on Nirvana's 1993 MTV "Unplugged" performance and the release of the album "Too High to Die" the following year.
But problems stemming from Cris' struggles with heroin addiction caused the band's fortunes to plummet, and Curt pulled the plug on the group in the late 1990s.
"I was doing solo for a while," the guitarist-singer said by phone from his adopted home of Austin, Texas.
"And then I figured I'd had enough of that for the time being, and I just started conceiving of doing an album with electric guitar. Coincidentally, I got news from Phoenix that Cris had really started taking care of himself after getting out of the can."
Cris Kirkwood routinely declines to speak to the press and was unavailable for comment for this article.
When the band re-formed, it was only after Curt had scrutinized his brother's cleaned-up act to determine whether Cris was capable of reentering the hazard-strewn life of a professional musician.
Cris' inventive playing on the Meat Puppets' 2007 recording endeavor "Rise to Your Knees" and his ability to cope on subsequent tours -- the band delivered acclaimed performances at the All Tomorrow's Parties festivals in London -- convinced Curt that the brothers should move forward.
"Cris was in bands in prison," Curt said, "and his playing and singing are better. This time, he was able to focus song to song, and that was really a goal."
Curt said being onstage together recharged the trio, completed by Ted Marcus, who replaces original drummer Derrick Bostrom, and they took that energy into the studio.
"When we were young," he said, "we were convinced that we could do no wrong, that everything we destroyed was beautiful, every note we played was too. And now, the good days are when we're playing. Then it's as if all worry and whatever disappears."
Recorded on vintage analog gear at the Saltmine studio in Mesa, Ariz., "Sewn Together" sounds big and warm, but it's a bit ethereal too.
Self-produced with the help of Curt's son Elmo, the album mixes the Meat Puppets' heavy-rock free-flights with speckled shades of intimate country-folk.
Songs such as "Blanket of Weeds" and "I'm Not You" bristle with energy, and the intricate vocal harmonies and off-kilter bridges in "Smoke," "Rotten Shame" and "Sapphire" further push the band's psychedelia-tinged country-folk into uncharted realms.
"I wanted to write stuff like folk songs and then make it bigger, just blow it up with the electric band," Curt said. "The cool thing now is that it doesn't sound like a garage band when we play."
Where: The Mint, 6010 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles
When: 8 tonight
Contact: (323) 954-9400