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Music Review: Wheeler Brothers – Portraits

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Austin, Texas is well known to natives as a hotbed of creative new music and through the city’s enthusiastic support of the yearly South by Southwest event, which continues to nurture enormously talented young musicians.

The Wheeler Brothers are a great example of this creative energy.  Set for release on June 21, the Wheeler Brothers’ new CD, Portraits, has already debuted at sold-out pre-release parties around the state.   

Wheeler Brothers - PortraitsAfter giving it a once-through quick listen, I was immediately struck by the unique and quirky compositions.  The Wheeler Brothers have it going on!  Far from the expected “one song wonder,” the entire album is filled with very catchy, listenable tunes and instrument mastery to be expected from much more seasoned musicians. Nolan, Tyler and Patrick are the real life brothers, while the smooth vocals of Danny Matthews and the guru-like talent of the steel guitarist, A.J. Molyneaux, round out the indie-rock band.

The second track, “Mississippi,” is often a crowd favorite, with good reason: killer lyrics and kickin’ backbeat with a nice little storyline.

But, my personal favorite might just be the funky “Just Another City.”  It reminds me of a young Leon Russell a little, tossed in with a flavor of Randy Newman.  Great, catchy keyboard riffs, too. 

Then again, like a good Django Reinhardt song soaked in a little tequila and lime, “Ghost in the Valley” has gotten the most playtime on my laptop in the evenings.

Truly, it was hard to narrow down a single song favorite; Portraits doesn’t have a bad tune in the bunch.  If you’ve never added an Austin band to your library, you can’t go wrong with this premier CD by the Wheeler Brothers.

‘Course, you don’t have to just trust my instincts; someone much more astute, Mr. Ray Benson, frontman for Asleep at the Wheel and nine-time Grammy winner, was so impressed by their unique sound and talent that he signed the Wheeler Brothers to his own Bismeaux Records. (They are keeping good company, as the Texas Tornados, Willie Nelson, Jason Roberts, and Leon Rausch are among the label’s famous artists.)

You can catch the Wheeler Brothers live in Dallas at the Across the Street Bar on Friday, June 24.  I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to them live, but I’ve been told they are awesome in person with a fun, infectious stage presence.  Catch them soon so you can say, “I saw them when…”!

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