Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Band of Heathens Make Believers of Everyone

Austin's The Band of Heathens often sound like The Grateful Dead. They can improvise with best of the jam bands but they also manage to avoid the interminable extended solos of The Dead because their rock 'n roll is more structured and more song oriented. They can harmonize as well as Jerry Garcia and his buddies did and, as a bonus, when they play with a horn section you can also hear traces of The Band in their arrangements.

The Band of Heathens were born after the core of the sextet, Gordi Quist, Colin Brooks, and Ed Jurdi, all lead vocalists, multi-instrumentalists, and solo singer-songwriters, decided they liked working together as a group after sitting in with each other on stage back in Austin.

Both of TBOH's first two CDs were recordings of live shows, a daring move almost unheard of from a new band. Live from Momo's (2006) and Live at Antone's (2008), were both recorded in their home town. It took them until their eponymous third release (also 2008) for them to actually go into a studio to make an album. Fortunately, their songwriting acumen, singing, and musicianship are all fully developed talents that prove they are just as comfortable in that colder, sterile, more exacting environment.

The Heathens converted everyone into followers on August 9, 2011 during a show that was part of the weekly, free, summer, outdoor music series, Concerts on the Square, in Exton, Pa. The three vocalists/guitarists on the front line were the obvious stars but their organist, Trevor Nealon, and the rhythm section of John Chipman on drums and Seth Whitney on bass were given a lot of room to groove. In fact, many of the evening's best solos came from Nealon's fingertips.

Currently, the best way to learn about Quist, Brooks, Jurdi, and company is to download their new, free (GREAT PRICE!) two hour concert and three bonus studio tracks from their website. It's a great introduction to the group. The show celebrates The Heathens five years together with twenty tunes from Momo's on November 26, 2010. I don't know how long the downloads will be online so you may want to open their gift to you right now. Highlights include well received concert staples such as "You're Gonna Miss Me, "Say," and Odysseus."

Their latest studio CD, released this past April, is Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster's Son.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review Charlie, you really give a good intro to this band, which is one of Austin's finest. Thanks also for the two hour live recording; I just listened to it, and I was thoroughly entertained. While I listened to it I didn't really think of the Dead, but I was reminded of a great local band from the Bethlehem area called the unpronounceable. I've seen them several times and their energy and vocal quality is somewhat similar to the Heathens. I'll be sending you a live recording of the unpronounceable soon so you can hear for yourself.