The Band of Heathens
Sunday Morning Record
Gram Parsons referred to it as “Cosmic American Music,” that mixture of country, soul, and rock that otherwise defies description, and perhaps no one around now personifies it better than The Band of Heathens. Sunday Morning Record is their fourth studio outing (the band has also released four live albums since its debut Live From Momo’s in 2006), and leaders Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist, along with Trevor Nealon on keys and drummer Richard Millsap, have rarely sounded better or more soulful.
“Shotgun” opens in a relaxed, Jayhawks sorta feel that displays all of the Heathens’ talents: great harmonizing vocals, a subdued but vital guitar line, and Nealon’s Nicky Hopkins-esque piano. “Miss My Life” is a strutting rocker that wouldn’t sound out of place on an early Elton John record (and early Elton is the bomb!) — “I’ve given you the best of me/Now you want the rest of me” — and it’s followed by the psychedelic country of “Girl With Indigo Eyes.” Imagine Gram singing on Sgt. Pepper’s via Austin.
Produced by George Reiff (Ray Wylie Hubbard) and Steve Christensen, the record captures one of our best and hardest working bands at the its height, with great songwriting, powerful performances, and loads of sonic earcandy that fits like a great pair of jeans: broken-in and not too tight. These guys know how to create a mood and at their best — such as on “Caroline Williams” or the ending ode to their home state, “Texas” — they allow their gifts to slowly build to an emotional apex, albeit in their own ambling way, never rushed, never shouted, but rather with grace and a rare form of majesty all their own. Sunday Morning Record is aptly named — a time for careful listening and reflection on life, love, and endless Saturday nights. Cosmic American Music is in good hands with The Band of Heathens.