It’s easy to look on Austin’s The Band of Heathens as a Texas take on the Drive-By Truckers, given their pass-the-baton mode of songwriting. The guitarist trio of Ed Jurdi, Gordy Quist and Colin Brooks all contribute songs to their self-titled debut. Those songs bear the individual flavor of each of the members, and the tunes written collaboratively swirl those flavors together gratifyingly.
They’re all bound together by a lazy brand of back porch blues that leans heavily on steel guitar and harmonica and a country singer’s songwriting sensibility. They ratchet up the groove for the occasional rocker, yet the Heathens almost always inhabit the most comfortable of places, places that sway and swing.
But what set these guys apart are their soulful vocal harmonies –more reminiscent of New Orleans’ Subdudes than the Truckers. That connection is acknowledged head-on with the New Orleans ode “Second Line,” which cuts from the same blues cloth of Anders Osborne. These are mostly simple songs—tales of cornbread and whiskey and other borderline stereotypical topics. But no matter; those sentiments are delivered with no less sincerely just because they’ve been delivered before.
Produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard and featuring guest spots by Hubbard, Stephen Bruton and Patty Griffin, The Band of Heathens is a satisfying slice of country soul.
The Band of Heathens is out now on BOH Records.