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Music Review: The Band of Heathens – The Band of Heathens

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Written by Fumo Verde 

I grew up on the country sounds of Willie, Waylon, Hank, and Merle and representing the ladies, Patsy, Dolly, and the sweet Miss Loretta. Acquiring a taste for the new sound of country kind of made me throw up in my mouth just a little bit, and why after Sept. 11 did every other song have to be about God, country, and family values? Thank reason for the Band of Heathens. Here comes a fresh style of county with genuine lyrics and a steady southern beat. Coming out of Texas after being noticed at the Austin Music Awards as one of the best new bands, these Heathens slowed down to make this self-titled debut. So crack open a cold one or pack a freshy-fresh bowl and get ready to enjoy some country music Austin-style.

“Don’t Call On Me” opens up the disc with a perpetual rhythm that will get your feet tapping as the guitar strumming feeds the beat of the drums. Clever lyrics tell the story of everyday life and someone who is fed up with it too. Nothing too complex, which is good when doing a first album because it gives people something to identify with, and this brings us in. Songs such as “Jackson Station” and “Maple Tears” have that down-home southern twang with instruments, such as the lapsteel, mandolin, and Dobro. “Maple Tears” has that “Home on the Range” vibe with a slight hint of Delta Blues. This song alone gave me goose bumps. Patty Griffin adds her lovely voice, lending a lonely soul feel and a sense of realism to the lyrics. This whole album has a deep soul to it, even on the one song I considered the “radio friendly” tune, “Heart on my Sleeve,” and I’m finding myself humming the chorus in my head every now and then.

For a first album the Heathens did a fine job with tender songs like “40 Days” and fun songs such as “Cornbread,” and though “40 Days” seems like a biblical reference the song talks about loving someone through a turbulent world. Again, Patty Griffin joins in and really gives it an emotional bump as a duet.

“Second Line” is another with a Delta Blues feel as the lyrics tell the tale of drunken debauchery over a backdrop sound of mandolin along with slide guitar played by Ray Wylie Hubbard, who helped produce the album. Gurf Morlix adds pump organ, which breathes a sultry sound, giving the tune a gritty taste.

“Hallelujah” closes out the eleven-track disc as the tale is told that for this band, the road is their saving grace and from what I have read about them, these katz are an “On The Road Again” band. From this CD alone I would highly recommend seeing the Band of Heathens live as I also highly recommend The Band of Heathens. I used to feel that mainstream sound of country was as down to earth as cow shit in the meadow, but now with these Heathens out there making music such as this, that has all changed. Get the CD and go see them if they come by you.

This is Fumo Verde saying that I like my cornbread in the morning.

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  • TK

    I’ve seen them live and heard tracks on the radio, and wow. I completely agree, Fumo, Band of Heathens is a great new band to watch.
    Austin’s public radio (KUT is known for carefully selecting a series of music to set up insightful segues) played a rare track from “The Band” and moved right into Band of Heathens. Different, but complementary. If you keep The Band in heavy rotation when you shuffle your music tracks, I highly recommend adding Band of Heathens to the mix.

  • Record Raven

    Ok, took your advise and could not agree more. These guys are great. This is the freshest new sound I have heard in a long time. If they keep writing and recording songs like these, they are destined for stardom. Caught their show at Gruene Hall and they are even better live.

  • How did you take Fumo’s advice if you already saw them live, which I am presuming was before the review was posted last night?

  • Record Raven

    Bought the newest CD man.

  • kjacas

    My wife and I have been listening/watching these guys for about a year now and they just keep getting better every time we see them. Do yourself a favor and go see them live.