Written by James Killen
Aug 24, 2013 at 02:00 AM
ImageIt’s been a couple of years and half a lifetime of changes since The Band of Heathens put out a new record. They hit the scene almost accidentally in 2005, releasing their first live recording, “Live from Momo’s”, in 2006. They had been getting together on Wednesday nights for song swaps at the now defunct club that once resided over Austin’s Katz Deli. Brian Keane was the first of the four songwriters to leave the band in 2007. The band then embarked on a flurry of live performances and tours that took the Americana market by storm. More than half of their recordings were live and often featured multiple versions of the same great songs.

In 2011, Colin Brooks, another of the original songwriter foursome, chose to pursue other musical options, leaving Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist to carry on as the last remaining Heathens. Rumors were aplenty with concerns for the fate of the band in the future, but it looks to this observer that there is new life welling up in the wake of the changes.

The soon to be released, “Sunday Morning Record”, contains 11 new songs listing Ed and Gordy as cowriters on each of them. This is the biggest influx of new material to the band since its inception. Many of the great songs that drew so many fans before had been individual compositions of the band’s members, brought with them from solo careers, somehow impeding the creation of an actual creative band persona beyond the performance milieu. This is something new for the Heathens.

The disc’s opener “Shotgun”, dances around the karma encountered in changing relationships with changing tempos and prominently featuring Treavor Nealon’s keyboards. “Caroline Williams” strikes that balance between pop, soul and country that signals an Ed Jurdi led composition. “Miss my Life”, settles into a blues/pop platform that promises a great live potential for piano/guitar jams.

The guitar rhythms that provide the infrastructure for “Girl with Indigo Eyes” remind me of some Jerry Garcia riffs that reside in the attics of my mind. “Records in Bed” (the thinly disguised title track) opens with a dobro slide lead and recalls the days of waking up on weekends and losing oneself in music before having to deal with the world as it presents itself.

“Since I’ve Been Home” takes me back to the style of some of the great Simon and Garfunkle or Beatles tunes of the early 70’s. “The Same Picture” is almost a hill country Beach Boys style composition, in that it lays an ethereal sentimental vocal track over a simple melody and rhythm. “One More Trip” bears Gordy’s mark and features a very mellow country keyboard and some excellent pedal steel by Ricky Ray Jackson.

The blues that creeps into everyone’s life had the biggest influence on “Shake the Foundation” with its duck walking wah-wah guitar effects. The reflective ballad, “Had It All”, calls one back to reconsider the situations that have been left behind. The final song, “Texas” sounds to me to be the culmination of the Jurdi and Quist partnership, exhibiting equal portions of influence by each artist and a keyboard theme trailing into the background.

This writing effort is a little different from previous BoH efforts, but not at all inconsistent with the feel of the band. The compositions promise an ongoing Heathen entity in the Americana scene. If anyone had concerns about the nature of the personal relationships involved in the departure from the Heathens of Colin Brooks, Seth Whitney and John Chipman, be aware that all are mentioned in the “thank you” liner notes of the disc. Change is inevitable. I see this one as a positive and growing opportunity for another creative voice in the Texas Americana.