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Music Review: Band Of Heathens – Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son

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I listen to a lot of music by artists I know little or nothing about. Much is forgettable but every once in a while I encounter a band that has produced an excellent album. The latest to fall into that category is The Band Of Heathens.

Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist, and Colin Brooks were all solo artists who happened to be appearing in the Austin, Texas area at the same time during 2006. They began performing with one another and The Band Of Heathens was born. They form the nucleus of the band as singers, songwriters, keyboardists, and guitarists. They are joined by bassist Seth Whitney and drummer John Chipman.

Since 2006, they have released two live and two studio albums. The band returns on March 29 with Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son.

The sound can best be described as Americana in the tradition of The Band. The songs are melodic and convey stories of the land and the people who inhabit it. It all adds up to American roots music that has a timeless nature to it.

There is a lot to like here. “Medicine Man” has a blues feel with ominous vocals and lyrics. “Should Have Known” has a nice acoustic guitar foundation, as it moves in a country direction. “The Other Broadway” has a gospel revival meeting feel, complete with a pumping piano. “Hurricane” and “Gris Gris Satchel” have a New Orleans feel to them.

The band is active in the studio and on the road, having played close to 200 shows during 2010. Their music has a wonderful vibe and spirit that makes listening both pleasurable and interesting.

Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son is a breath of fresh air. It will hopefully be a deserved commercial breakthrough for the band.

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