by Janet Goodman
February 7. 2014 – “The further into life you get, the more you realize that life isn’t black and white, and that there are millions of shades of grey in between,” says Ed Jurdi, member of Americana-leaning The Band Of Heathens. On the Austin band’s fourth and latest studio project, “Sunday Morning Record,” they explore just these kinds of subtleties, in perhaps their most understated effort to date. Their 2011 “Top Hat Crown And The Clapmaster’s Son” album garnered my review that it “is all the time about the band’s musicality and groove. It’s vibrant with a capital V.” Still about musicality and groove, they have taken things down a notch here, and the sound is now easy with a capital E.
Released on their BOH Records label, the band’s album shows a natural evolution, undoubtedly stemming, in part, from a change in the lineup. Three members left since “Top Hat;” new drummer Richard Millsap and various bass players join original members – songwriters/musicians/vocalists Jurdi and Gordy Quist, and Trevor Nealon – and along with producers George Reiff and Steve Christensen, they’ve put together a stripped back, introspective collection of eleven tracks.
Interesting musical transitions within songs stand out, such as the waltz/shuffle combo in opener “Shotgun,” but the meat of the album reveals solid growth. Celtic drum and guitar is squared with lilting harmonies on “Girl With Indigo Eyes,” and remember-when song “Records In Bed” is lots of bass and slippery lap steel with a psychedelic outro. “Since I’ve Been Home” is tender and exquisite in a Beatles’ “Blackbird” kind of way. This band never tries too hard to impress, which creates an attractive welcome-mat soundscape for listeners.
Visit their website www.bandofheathens.com
Joining such lauded contemporaries as the Deadstring Brothers and Dawes in carrying the banner of rocking Americana is the Austin-based Band of Heathens, still a tragically overlooked group.
Maybe with its fourth studio album, the band will receive the recognition it deserves.
The group is blessed with two distinct singers and songwriters in Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist. They each add their own personalities, tones and points of view to their original songs, a la the Band or Buffalo Springfield.
And like those bands, along with Gram Parsons and early Poco, The Band of Heathens creates a unique roots-based sound that brims with rustic rock, country, gospel and folk touches. But on this latest, the band slightly refines its sound and songs to add a jumpy Little Feat punch and the occasional pop refrains and melodies.
“Sunday Morning Record” is a recording that fans will play throughout the week, as it dances and sways to a spirited rock ’n’ roll heavily immersed in American roots influences.
– Eric Feber, The Pilot
Change. It can either kill a group or ascend them to a new level of greatness. With Sunday Morning Record, the winds of change helped to push Austin, TX’s Band of Heathens into a whole new realm of craftsmanship that places the creative process of chief songwriting duo Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist into the stratosphere of the heroes they emulate. And that homebrew of Texas outlaw country and classic college jangle pop they’ve been slow cooking for nearly a decade comes to fall-off-the-bone perfection on their excellent fourth album. The 11 new songs on Sunday Morning Record adroitly chronicle the whirlwind of events surrounding their collective creation and go down as easy as the time of day represented in the album title, highlighted by such winning numbers as “Shotgun,” “Caroline Williams” and “Records in Bed.” Mr. Jurdi took some time out of BoH’s current touring schedule (which includes a performance at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar in Austin on 12/22) to chat with Jambands about Sunday mornings and Texas politics.
What is it about a Sunday morning that inspired you to title the new record as such?
Sunday Morning symbolizes a bit of a quieter time, it’s really the last bastion of time and space where we can kind of turn off the outside world for a little while and take things at a bit more of a leisurely pace.
What is your favorite thing to do on a Sunday morning, personally?
Hang around with my family, enjoy a nice long breakfast, listen to some good music and take a walk. It’s always a good time to clear your head and entertain some simple pleasures.
How did you approach the writing of these songs following the departure of Colin Brooks?
The only thing that really changed about the writing is that Colin wasn’t there to collaborate with, but Gordy and I wrote individually and together, as we always have and there wasn’t a whole lot of change in that dynamic.
Do you feel writing as a duo rather than a trio has brought about different ideas?
I do think it’s allowed us to bring in different ideas and explore particular musical avenues in more detail. Within having more ideas to work from, we were also able to have a bit more focus and direction because we were really able to create a unified vision, which I’m not sure we ever really fully realized in the past.
What albums were you listening to during the time you were making Sunday Morning Record and how did they slip into the creation of the album, if they did?
Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again
Vetiver- To Find Me Gone and Tight Knit
Jackson Browne- Late for The Sky
Bahamas- Pink Strat, Bar Chords
Pink Floyd- Meddle
Gregg Allman- Laid Back
Blake Mills- Break Mirrors
These records just gave us some ideas about the sonic palette that we were shooting for. They all are pretty atmospheric and have a lot of space and air in them. We wanted to strip it back a bit on this record and really let the lyrics and melody breathe by creating space in the arrangements. Plus, these records are all killer and were super inspiring to listen to while we were hanging out.
How did working on the record inside someone’s house as opposed to a conventional studio affect its outcome?
It created a more relaxed environment and really helped foster the creative atmosphere. There was no clock watching or pressure to get stuff done in a hurry. We had time to develop ideas and see them through.
Do you feel the warmth of a lived-in home crept into the sound of the album?
For sure. Vibe is so important when you’re making art or music, it really informs everything. We had our records going between takes, to clear our heads, the Daigen-Koh incense burning, good coffee, wine and sundries. Early in the day, we’d sit around in the living room and play the songs down on acoustic guitars or piano and just build it up from there. By the end of the day we’d have one or two songs tracked, so the workflow was really good. It was easily the most conducive environment to being creative that we’ve ever worked in. Everyone was in a very positive open space. I have to give George Reiff and Steve Christensen a lot of credit for allowing us to be loose and focus solely on playing music and creating moments, which is ultimately the goal when you’re making records.
Given that you guys are from Texas, what are your thoughts on Ted Cruz?
He pretty much seems like he’s towing a pretty predictable and boring party line. He’s playing off of people’s fears and I don’t see much original thought or solution based work being done by him.
How about Rick Perry?
He has nice hair.
Are you optimistic that Texas has the potential to be a more progressive state given the rise of such political figures as Wendy Davis and the Castro brothers? Does Wendy Davis have a shot at defeating Greg Abbott in the next gubernatorial race?
I think Wendy Davis was able to bring some attention to an important issue and create a bit of a public dialogue, which is always a good thing. That’s ultimately the first step in people becoming educated about issues and allowing them to vote or make decisions based on facts and knowledge as opposed to just voting blindly one way or the other. In terms of her having a chance in the gubernatorial race, that would really be a question best answered by James Carville and Mary Matalin, they get paid to talk about that sort of thing.
Succumbing to the pressures of personal relationships, creative differences, financial hardship, and the strain of life on the road with the same group of people day in and day out, bands come and go. The best bands are the ones who brave the changes and uncertainties that come with life as an artist and continue pushing forward. Austin country rockers the Band of Heathens are no strangers to the type of unexpected changes that can compromise the longevity of a band. Since Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist, and Colin Brooks formed the group in 2005, the Heathens have built a loyal following in Austin and the rest of the country through relentless touring and a reputation as an impressive live act. Despite finding success over the years, it was only a matter of time before the Heathens encountered a series of changes that threatened the future of the band. The group’s recent Sunday Morning Record, their fourth studio album, almost didn’t happen after the departure of founding member Colin Brooks and drummer John Chipman.
“Basically we were at this point where we were like, do we want to keep doing this, should we keep doing this as a band,” says guitarist and singer Gordy Quist.
These questions loomed as they prepared to enter the studio to make Sunday Morning Record, uncertain if it was possible for the Band of Heathens to exist in any way, shape, or form without the full lineup. Time passed and recording was delayed, but instead of calling it quits, Jurdi, Quist, and longtime keyboard player Trevor Nealon decided it just wasn’t time for a world without the Heathens. Instead of calling off the record or hiring studio musicians, Quist and Jurdi connected with drummer Richard Millsap and decided that the best way to get comfortable with the new members was to do what they do best: hit the road.
“There was a period of having to find a new drummer and bass player, and we found a couple guys and wanted to go out on the road before going into the studio so we could get our legs under us as a band and play live a bunch. We were probably ready to go into the studio about a year earlier, but with all of the change happening we decided to put it on hold and make sure the band [was] healthy and feeling good playing together before we went into the studio,” says Quist.
Taking the time to get comfortable as a band paid off when the band finally returned to the studio. Sunday Morning Record is more mellow than the band’s previous work, with Quist and Jurdi using the songs to reflect on the changes in the group and in their own lives as well. During the recording Quist and his wife gave birth to a daughter while Jurdi announced that he would soon be moving with his family to North Carolina, both of which only added to everything else that had happened and can be heard in the reflective, somber, but ultimately uplifting tone of the album.
“We’ve always tried to embrace change and let each album sound different than what we’ve done before. We knew we wanted to go into this record trying to capture more wooden acoustic sounds, and I think that was both because we were listening to a lot of records that sounded like that and we were also looking to those records for inspiration,” says Quist, who cites artists like Michael Kiwanuka, Jackson Browne, Vetiver, and Bahamas as influences on Sunday Morning Record.
The songwriting talents of Quist and Jurdi shine through with lyrics that are simultaneously an ode to the past and an optimistic outlook on the future. Instead of stressing over the fate of the band, there is a sense that Sunday Morning Record was exactly the kind of album the Heathens needed to make to cope with the unexpected changes brought on by the previous two years.
“In this case I think we’re really proud of the record. It’s a different record than anything we’ve done and it also reflects some of the sentiments that were floating through our heads around that year,” says Quist.
One could spend a lifetime reminiscing about the way things used to be, but for the Band of Heathens it is the changes that come with growth that have only pushed them to keep moving forward. While other bands may look back on the good old days and call it quits when times get tough, the Heathens made the best of the situation, and through it all they came out stronger than ever.
Gordy Quist sums up the bands optimistic attitude towards their future best when he says, “All of those things were kind of feeding some uncertainty and change in general, which personally can be tough and cause a little anxiety, but creatively sometimes it can bear really good fruit.”
1. The Band of Heathens – Sunday Morning Record - The Band of Heathens head back to a time when the depth of a Sunday morning was taken apart your favorite song. Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist were keeping a path forward amid personal and career hurdles. They found that space in their songwriting. The tracks are more personal; though quieter, there is sharp clarity to the album. There is no doubt, that this is music from The Band of Heathens brand. Heart and mind are both represented and appealed to in their songs, and Sunday Morning Record continues to deliver smart stories of real lives, with all the bumps, bruises, and smiles left in.
December 12, 2013 – When Gordy Quist listens to “Sunday Morning Record,” the new album by the Band of Heathens, in which he sings and plays guitar, he hears things that separate it from the group’s previous three previous studio albums: Acoustic guitars; lyrical sentiments of an obviously personal nature; mellowness; the influence of Neil Young and Jackson Browne, who were among the musicians he was listening to a lot during the making of “Sunday Morning Record.”
But to Quist, none of that adds up to a record that reflects a band that has aged, or is even becoming aware of aging. Quist is just 33, and he notes that the Band of Heathens, who got their start in the mid-‘00s in Austin, Tex., have recently been infused with younger blood. Drummer Richard Millsap, who joined the group last year, is in his early 20s.
“The band is younger, younger than it was before,” Quist said. “The record is not so much about age. It’s life changes.”
Quist said the sound and the lyrical expression of “Sunday Morning Record” come from shifts that the band and its members have gone through since their last studio album, “Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son,” from 2011. Ed Jurdi, a singer and multi-instrumentalist and co-founder of the group, relocated from Austin to Asheville, N.C. Colin Brooks, another original member, left the group entirely. Quist, who has also been around from the beginning, became a father.
“This is the most personal album we’ve written, much more personal than anything we’ve done in the past,” Quist said from Austin, where he was spending a day handling chores (a busted water heater) and his 13-month-old daughter. “That comes from what was going on in the background — my wife was pregnant with our first child; Ed moved to Asheville. A lot of change. We weren’t necessarily setting out to make a statement meant to change somebody else, but just a reflection of what was going on in our world. We’ve been a band for seven, eight years and this album we chose to go personal with the material. That’s just where we were at.”
The sound of “Sunday Morning Record” is a reflection of that mood. Instead of a Saturday night album — ripping guitars, crashing drums, living loudly in the moment — “Sunday Morning Record” is quiet and slower moving, encouraging contemplation. “Sonically, it’s the more wooden sounds, the acoustic nature of the record,” Quist, who will appear with Band of Heathens for a show on Friday, Dec. 13 at PAC3 in Carbondale. “It’s not mellow, but mellower than what we’ve done before. That was a reflection of the mood of the band, and also of what we’ve been listening to lately: Michael Kiwanuka, Bahamas, a band called Vetiver. A lot of Neil Young and Jackson Browne.”
The band itself is a whole lot different than what was put together eight years ago. At Momo’s, a now defunct bar that had been a center of musical activity in Austin, there were four bands who regularly shared the bill on Wednesday nights. The lead singer-songwriters of each band eventually pooled their songs in one group, the Band of Heathens, which celebrated a let-‘er-rip aesthetic.
“Back then it was no rehearsals,” Quist, a Houston area product who grew up on his parents’ albums (Dylan, Rolling Stones, a lot of Beatles) before discovering the songwriting riches of his native Texas (Townes Van Zant, Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark) and learning guitar, at the age of 10, from his father. “You show up, everyone falls in. As Ray Wylie Hubbard” — the Texas singer-songwriter who produced the Band of Heathens’ self-title, 2008 debut album — “put it, ‘You fall in. Then you fall apart.’ We weren’t going to rehearse the beginnings of songs, not rehearse the endings — just figure it out as we go along. We still try to keep that improve spirit, but we’ve tightened it up. It’s gone from four singer-songwriters with a rhythm section, which is where it started, to a real rock ‘n’ roll band.”
Exactly what sort of rock ‘n’ roll band they were, though, depends on which moment in time you were listening. Quist describes the first album as “swampy country blues.” “One Foot in the Ether,” from 2009, was closer to straight-up roots rock. “Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son” ventured into psychedelic ideas.
“Sunday Morning Record” began with “Shotgun,” the first song written, the album’s opener, and a tone-setter for the rest of the record. The lyrics are personal, a rough kiss-off to a former companion: “Airing out your dirty laundry/ Hanging all your so-called friends out to dry, dry, dry.” “It’s about things changing, people coming and going in life, everybody moving forward,” Quist said.
“Shotgun” was also meant as an innovative way to use rhythm and voices. “Ed and I wrote it mostly together,” Quist said. “We were experimenting with time changes in the middle of a song, and with unison singing — singing the same melody, then splitting into different harmony parts. Like the Everly Brothers, a duo-style singing deal where you get two voices melding into one.”
Quist said “Sunday Morning Record” could have gone in other directions. The group recorded approximately 20 songs for the album, not all on the mellower, introspective side. But they wanted a focused, cohesive statement, and stuck more or less to a particular type of song. “Girl with Indigo Eyes” echoes singer-songwriter Iron & Wine; “Since I’ve Been Home” has a hushed, confessional feeling.
Fans of “Sunday Morning Record” might not want to get overly attached to this facet of the Band of Heathens. Quist doesn’t believe that the group, not even a decade into its history, has settled into one style of making music. He’s not sure if they ever will, or if that should ever be the goal.
“It feels, even from the beginning, that the band has been on an evolution,” he said. “I think we’ll always be evolving, changing, not afraid to do things different. Our fans expect us to do something different with each record. It’s refreshing to know that people want to keep hearing something different from us.”
Band of Heathens– ‘Sunday Morning Record’: With this new release the guys were really letting their jammy-ness shine through in a light that works commercially. Great hooks, killer grooves, and just an all around awesome feel to this record. The Band influence and Levon in particular is very evident in this work, which is always a good thing. Sometimes I find myself walking down the street just singing “Caroline Williams don’t live here anymore” to myself and think, “damn, those dudes got me with that one”. A solid record all across the board.
Sunday Morning Record
The Band of Heathens
Sunday Morning Record
After the 2011 departure of co-founder Colin Brooks and the pursuant departure of the band’s rhythm section, remaining Heathens Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist were faced with some serious band rebuilding. Thankfully, the two were able to more than just put the pieces back together, coming out the other end of the near-dissolution for the better and turning out their best studio album yet. The opening track, “Shotgun”, says it all: pairing a warm, folksy melody to an ingenious set of time changes, common time verses against a waltzing chorus. Boasting a clean and polished sound, Sunday Morning Record is as smooth as Americana gets, harking back to the days when “AOR-ready” would have been just the right description. Strains of circa-1972 Eagles simmer under the surface of these songs, though Jurdi and Quist often do the original soft-rockers one better, digging into a thoughtful and serious vein of nostalgia that would have caused Don Henley to turn tail and run. The acoustic apology, “Since I’ve Been Home”, offers a bruising look at the itinerant lifestyle, the narrator observing as he settles back into being home, with all the sad weight of retrospection, “You know we almost had it good / We break like bad habits never could.” All in all, this fixation on retrospection serves them well—Jurdi and Quist look musically backwards, but don’t necessarily want to return there. Taylor Coe
That Nashville Sound’s Top Albums of 2013
10. Band of Heathens - Sunday Morning Record- The Band of Heathens has evolved its sound on each of its four studio albums, andSunday Morning Record may be the most apparent departure from the band’s rock and roll-ish debut – a decidedly more mellow, mature, worn sound. They time travel back to when the Eagles were putting some of their most timeless “Hotel California”-era material. There is a healthy mix of swirling organ, rock guitar, and on point harmonies that are combined with some smart and engaging lyrics: a recipe for success.
The Band of Heathens continues to surprise. While their new album offers up the Americana and Little Feat-styled funk fans have come to expect, there’s a thread of late 1960s production pop that’s a welcome addition. This opening track, “Shotgun,” tips the album’s surprise with its nod to “Everybody’s Talkin’.” Gordy Quist sings the opening “I heard that you were talkin’ ’bout me, I heard you had a smile on your face while you cried, cried, cried,” with a rhythm and melody that easily brings to mind Fred Neil’s original couplet. The song quickly establishes its own sound, but the unison singing, keyboards and electric sitar-like guitar preview echoes of Curt Boettcher, Gary Usher and Brian Wilson heard in several of the album’s tracks.
Ed Jurdi opens the album’s second song with a voice as warm and soulful as Quist’s. Where the opener was pleased to see an indiscreet ex-lover (or, perhaps, a recently departed, smack-talking founding member of the band) receding in the rear-view mirror, “Caroline Williams” is rife with the pain and confusion of the left behind. Recently arrived drummer Richard Millsap adds both rhythm and melody with his tom toms, and a short instrumental pairing of piano and wordless vocals echoes another element of late-60s studio pop. Jurdi and Quest wrote this album amid both personal and band changes, and transition is a running theme. In addition to relationships in formation, reformation and dissolution, there’s a longing for stability and simplicity.
The Heathens’ complexities come to the fore in the personal inventories of “Since I’ve Been Home,” the funky “Miss My Life” and the media-saturated world of “Records in My Bed.” The latter, with some terrific 70s-styled electric piano by Trevor Nealon, fondly remembers the thrill a favorite record brought in a world not yet fragmented by always-on media. Jurdi and Quist are memorable vocalists, ranging from husky soul to fragile Elliot Smith-like falsetto, but the variety of duet styles they manage is even more impressive. In addition to rootsy blends of country and soul, they bind tightly for pop harmonies that suggest Simon & Garfunkel, CS&N and the Beatles. Nealon and Millsap have added new elements to a band that was already multidimensional, making the Band of Heathens’ fourth studio album their most adventurous yet.
15. Band of Heathens: Sunday Morning Record (BOH Records)
While the Band of Heathens lost founding member Colin Brooks, they still put out one of the years best records. I did miss the grittiest of the Brooks originals, but remaining writers Quist and Jurdi more than made up for his absence with some of their best songs yet. Quist seems to write with everyone in Texas and is one of the my favorite songwriters out there and Jurdi’s vocals are amazing.
Album: Sunday Morning Record
Artist: Band of Heathans
Label: BOH Records
Release Date: September 17, 2013
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Kudos to Band of Heathens for working their way into the spotlight, from an initial bunch of semi-insurgents to a group so polished and professional that they can make an album like Sunday Morning Record actually appear to echo its title. Not that they didn’t boast an auspicious entrance; their first studio efforts were widely praised in Americana circles before subsequently soaring to the top of the charts, thanks in large part to the fact that each of its members were talented singer/songwriters in their own right.
Given that fact, it’s not surprising that this, their fourth studio album to date, sounds so assured. Accessible to a fault, and exceedingly mellow to boot, it flows with a natural ease usually accomplished by those with far more track time under their belts. From the graceful opening lines of “Shotgun,” through to the final wistful refrains of “Texas,” Sunday Morning Record proves its mettle as both a set of songs that’s radio-ready, and a disc that might even offer sweet salvation on a particularly demanding morning after. Only “Miss My Life,” a sampling of judicious honky-tonk which recalls Elton John’s bombastic “Honky Cat,” and “Shake the Foundation,” a southern stomp and shuffle, breaks the embrace, and even then, not for long.
Clearly, Band of Heathens have evolved into a band of first rate contenders. Seven years on, they’ve earned all admiration they been able to muster.
Since I’ve Been Home, Band of Heathens (from the BOH Records release Sunday Morning Record)
This is music that just makes you feel good. Even when they are singing sad songs, as they are here, there is just a warmth that emanates from the performances. This tender ballad reflects on how the singer and his family re-adjust to life when he returns home from the road. The harmonies are simply magical.
By The Bakersfield Californian – Cesareo Garasa
11/13/2013 – Though they hail from Austin, Texas, the Band of Heathens — essentially the missing link between The Black Crowes and the Eagles — sound more 1970s Southern California on their latest release, “Sunday Morning Record.” Specifically Laurel Canyon in the Hollywood Hills between 1973-75, when Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne were creating their own style of music that would blur the lines between pop, rock and country.
But “Sunday Morning” is no slavish mimic; it’s the best type of retro: fresh and familiar at the same time. The band will showcase the new material, released in September, on Saturday when they return to Bakersfield to play Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace.
The first album released since the departure of founding member Colin Brooks, bassist Seth Whitney and drummer John Chipman, “Sunday Morning,” understandably, features a different direction and sound. Gone is some of the funky grit, but in its place, remaining members Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist have emphasized clean tones and contemplation over fuzz (not totally, though; “Shake the Foundations” is so boldly fuzzy and thick that it could carpet your van).
At times each song on the album evokes a different influence: The Eagles (“Shotgun,” a fun blast of 1970s Los Angeles with a “Take it to the Limit”-type ending); The Faces (the jaunty “Miss My Life”); James Taylor (“Texas”); The Band (the excellent “One More Trip”); Harry Nilsson (the gorgeous standouts “Caroline Williams” and “The Same Picture”); and even The Beatles (“Girl with Indigo Eyes” echoes the “Day in the Life” timpani/tom drum sound and vocal/chordal harmony).
Instrumentally, the production is wet and muted — heavy on the towel-on-drumhead drum sound of the 1970s. The guitars are crisp, warm and, at times, as hauntingly pretty and ethereal as “Rumors”-era Fleetwood Mac (evidenced in the super-catchy, soulful “Records in Bed,” which, if I were a radio programmer, would be put on regular rotation. Forever.).
The vocals are clear, although harmonically limited, and even when singing to a faraway love on “The Same Picture” — the highlight of the record — the melancholy delivery is almost playfully bittersweet.
With country music embroiled in a civil war between the new breed of pop-savvy country artists and traditionalist stalwarts, there is, oddly enough, a generation gap happening within the same generation. The legitimate balance between the past and the future is being struck by artists whose use of the past is not a calculated conceit but done out of genuine respect, and whose use of new sounds and techniques aren’t overblown distractions for the sake of being cutting edge but more as embellishment — sometimes as subtle as a caress.
Artists like the Band of Heathens, the impressive Nicki Bluhm (Linda Ronstadt, version 2.0), Ryan Bingham and their rebel outlaw counterparts Bob Wayne, Joe Buck, Hank III and Wayne “The Train” Hancock are playing some of the most exciting and satisfying country-influenced music not being played on the radio.
One thing they all have in common: None of these artists are your dad’s country music, but they’ll never think they’re too good to listen to it — much less insult it.
“Sunday Morning Record” is a love letter to the past and, at the same time, a postcard to the future.
Sunday Morning Record or Afternoon Delight?
I once worked with a project manager named Jake, who was a nice enough guy. Nice enough that, upon finding out that I collected vinyl, decided to lend me some records that he had collected throughout the years that I could listen to. It was a favor from one vinyl purist to another—that kind of thing—and a way to break the ice between two new workers at the same job. It was a great gesture—I’d never share my vinyl pile, even to this day, for fear of it getting scratched—and for a few weeks I was in possession of a few Jimi Hendrix bootlegs and a couple of, dare I say?, Supertramp albums. A word about the latter: when Jake presented his copies to me, he pointed to 1977’sEven In the Quietest Moments and told me that it was a real Sunday morning record. I only wound up listening to the album once, so I might not be the most qualified to talk about that particular disc, but my recollections of listening to it was that Jake might have been right: there was a real soulful quality to the album that stood out, and I could kind of see where he was going with labeling it as something to listen to on the morning of the Lord’s day of rest. Anyhow, it was a great thing to do on his part, and I’m saddened in many respects that I no longer work with the guy. I’d love to borrow some of those records again. Maybe even own some of them.
This brings us to the new Band of Heathens record, which comes right out and proclaims itself in the title to be a real Sunday Morning Record—the sort of thing you might listen to with the sound of church bells tolling in the distance. I’m satisfied to note that the title is, in many respects, accurate, as this is a relatively lush and hush album of scaled down tunes. And it couldn’t have come at a more tumultuous time in the Band of Heathens’ discography. Vocalist and guitarist Colin Brooks left the outfit in 2011, and bassist Seth Whitney and drummer John Chipman quickly followed Brooks out the revolving door. That left remaining bandmates Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist having to fill a void to make the record that turned out to be the one in question up for review here. But you listen to the album and have to wonder if there was such a great upheaval in the band: the songs generally come across as being peaceful and easy, and there’s a real Ozark Mountain Daredevils vibe to the proceedings. While the latter may have had their “Jackie Blue”, the former, on this disc, cough up the outstanding “Caroline Williams”. So there’s that. And, yes, the Band of Heathens have, on this outing, earned comparisons to the Band, squarely, in other corners of music criticism. And you can see where other writers are going by drawing that line. While nothing comes close to the grandstanding of “The Weight” or “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, there’s a vibe that’s squarely late ‘60s and early ‘70s country-rock (if not farther along) to be had here.
But insofar as this is a Sunday Morning Record, it really works well no matter what time of the day you put it on. While it comes startlingly out of the gate with “Shotgun”, a song that offers shifting tempos that liken it to the musical equivalent of sands blowing around, and the aforementioned “Caroline Williams”, which is an all-around great deep-fried tune, the album really picks up steam somewhere around the midway point. “Since I’ve Been Home”, all three minutes and four seconds of it, might be the very best thing to be found on the album. It’s a sparse acoustic guitar ballad filled with dollops of melancholy and longing, and burrows itself deep inside the ear. Reserve this for the nighttime and the long dark tea time of the soul, if you must. “The Same Picture” with its plucked guitar notes and lavishly harmonized vocals, is another relative stunner; it comes across as outright jazzy and offers a left curve in the proceedings.
That’s not to say, alas, that the album doesn’t have its share of shortcomings. “One More Trip” feels like it could have been stolen from the Eagles’ songbook, which is delusory depending on your point of view (and I happen to think that the Eagles only had a handful of truly great material), and sometimes the lyrics come across as being too crude for their own good. “I Miss My Life” opens with the following cringe worthy bleating: “Everybody’s talking ‘bout / How they just can do without / They don’t know their ass / From a hole in the ground.” And songs like “Shake the Foundation” feel rather rote and lethargic.
Still, despite all of this, when you take the album as a whole, the lumps more or less smooth themselves out and what you’re left with is a record that you can take on either a Sunday morning or anytime else, really. Some might chafe at the soft rock strains that Jurdi, Quist et al have hammered out here, but for those willing and ready to go along for the ride, Sunday Morning Record has a number of tunes that are sweetly hummable and worthy of visitation. With final song, the six-minute “Texas”, the band even gives a shout-out to their home (they originated in Austin: “But I’ve never wanted to leave this town / Oh, Austin’s been a friend of mine / Texas we’re out of time,” goes part of the chorus), which feels like a brilliant summation of their roots.
And roots rock are where one might be tempted to file this record. It’s a countrified album in the best sense of what was done in the mid-‘70s with records such as It’ll Shine When It Shines to a certain extent, just with more emphasis on the country end of the pop spectrum. Still, there are enough gems to be found here that, while not the sort of thing that might be readily apparent on anyone’s radio dial, hit the mark. This is a disc during which you can simply sit back and let yourself glide away into a state of relaxation, so laid back are its general vibes. Which, to put it another way, is the sort of thing that a Supertramp-loving former co-worker of mine might have been quite enamored by. Sunday Morning Record is, quite easily, a record that lives up to its own promotional billing and then some. I hear the church bells chiming in the background every time I listen to this one, and that should tell you a thing or two.
October 23, 2013
CLAMS & JAMS VOL 1
As many of you know, we record most of our live shows and make the recordings available at the end of each night on a USB drive as well as at live.bandofheathens.com. Today, we are releasing what we hope to be the first of many compilations as a FREE download called Clams & Jams Vol 1. It’s a ”best of” of sorts, taken mostly from this last East Coast tour.It’s a free download, and if you dig it please share with your friends. To DOWNLOAD, click the cover image to the left or click here.
NEW: KEEP AUSTIN BEARD SHIRTS – FREE SHIPPING FOR A LIMITED TIME (US ORDERS)
Yes you’ve probably heard of “Keep Austin Weird”, but we’re pleased to share the “Keep Austin Beard” shirt, featuring the face (and beard) of our own keyboardist Trevor Nealon.
These shirts were circulating around Austin and went out of print, but we’re bringing them back and offering FREE SHIPPING for a limited time. Get one and help keep Austin Beard.
#2 AT AMERICANA RADIO
Sunday Morning Record is sitting at #2 on the Americana Radio Chart! Many thanks to all of the DJs and stations who have supported the band and continue to spin the music. We’re gearing up for the 2nd leg of the release tour with stops in NC, TN, GA, AR, and TX before heading to the West Coast. Thanks to everyone at press and radio for helping to pave the way for us as we continue to tour to support Sunday Morning Record.
On the album release front, we couldn’t be happier with the support we’ve been getting from all of you with Sunday Morning Record. We started recording the album almost a year ago, worked on it in short bursts, and then we kept adding more and more songs to the list of what we wanted to record, so it took a while. It’s been satisfying finally working up these tunes for the live show and getting some energy back from all of you at the shows. They’re still evolving, but they’re feeling good. I guess they’re really never done evolving anyway.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Some new (and old) music to check out… We’ve been listening to Bobby Charles self-titled album, as well as Zeus’s album “Busting Visions”. It’s crazy. And do yourself a favor and pick up the Wood Brothers new album “The Muse”. It’s fantastic start to finish. Produced by Buddy Miller.
Check them out below. We hope you dig it. You can stream on Spotify and/or we hope you’ll support the artists by purchasing these records.
Bobby Charles – Bobby Charles
Zeus – Busting Visions
The Wood Brothers – The Muse
Thanks for your support! We feel so fortunate to get to make the music that feeds
The Band of Heathens
Oct 24 – Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle
Oct 25 – Knoxville, TN – The Bowery
Oct 26 – Charlotte, NC - Visulite Theater
Oct 27 – Atlanta, GA – Vinyl
Oct 29 – Raleigh, NC – The Pour House
Oct 30 – Chattanooga, TN – Rhythm and Brews
Oct 31 – Nashville, TN – High Watt
Nov 1 – Little Rock, AR – Revolution Music Room
Nov 2 – Dallas, TX – Oak Cliff Music Festival
Nov 8 – Fort Worth, TX - McDavid Studio
Nov 7 – Fischer, TX – Rice Festival (Ed and Gordy Duo)
Nov 9 – New Braunfels, TX - Gruene Hall
Nov 13 – Odessa, TX – Graham Central Station
Nov 14 – Los Angeles, CA – The Hotel Cafe
Nov 15 – San Luis Obispo, CA - SLO Brewing Co
Nov 16 – Bakersfield, CA – Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace
Nov 17 – Berkeley, CA – Freight & Salvage
Nov 18 - Garberville, CA - Garberville Theater
Nov 21 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
Nov 22 – Eugene, OR – Sam Bond’s Garage
Nov 23 – Seattle, WA – The Crocodile
Dec 12 – Salt Lake City, UT – The State Room
Dec 13 – Carbondale, CO – PAC3
Dec 14 – Denver, CO – Cervantes’ Other Side
Dec 19 – Austin, TX – The Saxon Pub
Dec 20 – Dallas, TX – Granada Theater
Dec 21 – Houston, TX – Fitzgerald’s
Dec 22 – Austin, TX – Armadillo Christmas Bazaar