When alt-country group Semi-Twang issued its 1988 debut, it met with little interest. Things change: with bands like Wilco and Drive-By Truckers at the forefront, a Semi-Twang 2009 reunion made sense.

Following sophomore project Wages of Sin (2011), Semi-Twang comes on strong with its self-released third record, the roots-leaning The Why and the What For, a mix of new material and others penned decades ago.

The 12 songs weave from burly opener “The Wrong Side of the Tracks” (which channels the Black Crowes) to New Orleans soul/zydeco hybrid “Au Contraire.” Singer John Sieger melds Steve Earle’s folkish tone (on greed-suffused “The More She Gets the More She Wants”) with Van Morrison’s outsider-soul swagger (the brooding “A Handsome Man”). Elsewhere, Memphis-styled music (horns-laced “Dark Out”) sits easily next to Nashville-tinted tunes (“Love Interest,” the homage to a best friend with benefits), and each song has a story to tell: listeners who take time to dig deeper will find much to savor.

Grade: B