10/31/2013 – The Band of Heathens were almost a text book case of how to do Americana music right. They burst onto the scene in 2005, building a local following in Austin, a town known for supporting musicians. They followed this up with a pair of self-produced live albums that paid homage to two of Austin’s favorite music venues. The first, Antone’s, is a blues-rock club that has featured heavily in the careers of such artists as Muddy Waters and Bonnie Raitt, and spawned Clifford Antone’s record label. Momo’s was a quieter club, better known for intimate showcases and as a venue for breaking local talent. These two albums introduced the band as home town boys with their eyes on both the past and present of Austin music. 2008 saw the release of their first studio album, one that saw them recording with Texas music icon Ray Wylie Hubbard. The band seemed to be hitting its stride in 2011 with the experimental Top Hat Crown and the Clapmaster’s Son. However, that became the year that the center fell out of the band. Colin Brooks left to work on other projects, and bassist Seth Whitney and drummer John Chapman soon followed. Sunday Morning Record finds founding members Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist in a contemplative mood, creating some of the most lyrically stunning work of their careers.
“Shotgun” opens the album with a lush dose of melancholy surfer rock that draws it inspiration from Harry Nilsson. “All I hear now is the wind blow riding shotgun in through the past, the band croons in close knit harmony. Sunday Morning Record is a quieter affair than “Top Hat Crown and the Clapmaster’s Son,” one more concerned with story and substance than with style. It does lack the free wheeling spirit and reckless wonder of their previous release, but it matches the artistry with carefully crafted melodies that perfectly fit every song. “Caroline Williams” is a beautifully sparse blues rock ballad. This is not to say that The Band of Heathens have fallen into some sort of Antone’s inspired funk.
“The Girl with the Indigo Eyes” is a sweet and sunny ballad that falls almost half way between The Byrds and Simon and Garfunkel. There is a distinct vibe to the album, one that speaks to the late 60’s and early 70’s that lends a comfortable sense of familiarity, a reminder of earlier times spent listening to records. “Records in Bed,” the songs that gave the album the title line, is an homage to lazy days spent listening to albums and pondering how they relate to ones life. Sunday Morning Record is that sort of record, one that invites close listening on thoughtful meandering mornings. “Since I’ve Been Home,” find the boys contemplating the work of building lives with their families around working on the road. The simple, pretty melody and honey sweet harmonies belie the songs overall melancholy. The album closes with “Texas,” a breezy slice of folk rock that gently lulls the listener even has it sticks with them.
Autumn in Texas is an odd season, one that those from colder climes would likely not recognize as such. Its a time when leaves stay the same drought infused brownish color they turned in late August, The temperature drops into the upper 80’s, which offers respite from the recent triple digits, but hurricane season brings a rash of storms across the gulf raising the humidity. Its a season of football games watched by tank top clad girls and their shirtless boyfriends. In short, it is like Summer, only with the traditional events and beginnings that mark the season elsewhere. Sunday Morning Record is the perfect album for an Autumn in Austin. It is fueled by the same nostalgia that hits most adults around the start of a new school year. This is echoed by a sun drenched retro vibe that hints vaguely at an endless summer. In short, Sunday Morning Record is the perfect band of Heathen record. It is the prefect reflection of Austin, and a damn fine rock album for the rest of the world.
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