Four albums in, the Band of Heathens faced an upheaval. Vocalist/guitarist Colin Brooks left the band in 2011 and, not long afterward, so did the rhythm section of bassist Seth Whitney and drummer John Chipman, giving co-leaders Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist the opportunity to redefine the band somewhat on their 2013 album, Sunday Morning Record, an opportunity that they seize. Often, the phrase “Sunday morning record” suggests something sweet and mellow, but there’s an earthiness to this album that flies in the face of the notion of a quiet coffee and croissant. Which isn’t to saySunday Morning Record would sound offensive on the day of rest, because there’s a soulfulness to this music that lends itself to contemplative listening, the kind of concentration that comes easier on a Sunday. What gives this album power is its simplicity. That directness can be deceptive — witness the Beatlesque harmonies of “Since I’ve Been Home,” a trickier melodic act than you might expect from these roots rockers — but it’s also resonant, sounding cozily familiar upon first listen and then gaining strength upon repeats. Occasionally, Jurdi and Quist are reminiscent of a gentler, sweeter, weary Black Crowes, one that doesn’t rock so hard, but the Band of Heathens, like the brothers Robinson, place emphasis on both song and sound. As good as they sound — and they have a skill for blending rock, folk, blues, and country in a way that sounds rustic and fresh — it’s the songs that give Sunday Morning Record its lasting power, and its strength in the wake of so much upheaval speaks to the gifts of Jurdi and Quist as songwriters and frontmen.
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