The Band of Heathens
The Band of Heathens
By James Calemine
The Band of Heathens should be heard. This debut release certifies the Austin group’s songwriting strength and musical ability that allows the compositions room to breathe. In other words…these well-crafted songs will transfer well to a live audience.
There’s not one, but three singer/songwriter/guitarists in this group: Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist and Colin Brooks. Between the three styles of each songwriter, this material retains a fresh quality.
Recorded in the band’s home state of Texas, this album was produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard. The album was mixed by George Reiff who served as bassist for Black Crowes’ singer Chris Robinson’s band New Earth Mud, which may explain some of the glorious desperation in these six-string revelations.
“Don’t Call On Me” cuts to the chase as a opening ragged-but-right rocker. “Jackson Station”, a country blues train song, contains the images: “She’s been up all night with crows dancing around her eyes,” that evoke an everyday struggle between sin and salvation.
“Maple Tears” blends country twangs with an acoustic guitar, broken-hearted storytelling and Patty Griffin’s soulful background vocals will make folks think they’re almost in church…and they are, but it’s a different kind of church…
“Heart On My Sleeve” marks the first straight-out rocker, and it’s evident this song proves road-tested. A lazy, front-porch song, “Second Line” lends a slow, sanctified grace to Griffin’s vocals on this tune that ranks as one of the album’s strongest. The Band of Heathens will not struggle to find work...
Quist’s gritty “Unsleeping Eye” vies for the album’s meanest rock and roll song, and will sound sinster in some humid, low-ceiling joint where the dancing girls have already broken a sweat. “Cornbread” emerges as another fine country-blues song. The dobro on “Nine Steps Down” injects a backwater echo into this dirt road country tale.
A moody “Hallelujah” closes the album with the lyrics “the road is my saving grace,” and that’s good because it doesn’t look like The Band of Heathens will be home for very much longer.