The Band of Heathens
Sunday Morning Record
By Al Kaufman
The name Band of Heathens conjures up images of boys in overalls playing one string basses and banging on wash basins and other assorted metals while downing some blinding moonshine. The actual Band of Heathens have never lived up to their name in that respect. What they have done is deliver some high quality alternative country rock (three studio and two live CDs worth) through the years and follow that up with some stunning live shows.
But in 2011, after releasing the studio CD Top Hat Crown and the Clapmaster’s Son, and the live CD/DVD set, The Double Down: Live in Denver, founding members Colin Brooks and Seth Whitney left the band, as did drummer John Tripman. Meanwhile, singer-guitarists Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist were going through personal changes as well. Quist and his wife were preparing for their first child, while Jurdi and his family were leaving their beloved Austin, Texas to move to the equally crunchy Asheville, NC. Sunday Morning Record is the result of these growths and changes.
Like the title suggest, this CD has a certain peaceful, easy feeling to it. It does not rock as hard as previous Heathen releases, and that is by choice. Quist and Jurdi, with keyboardist Trevor Nealon and drummer Richard Millsap, aimed to produce a more thought provoking, intimate record. They wanted something to ease people away from the constant bombardment of useless information that fills our screen, phones, eyes and ears. Sunday Morning Record has an almost ‘70s soft rock feel to it right from the get go. “Shotgun” starts off sounding a whole lot like Harry Nillson’s “Everybody’s Talkin’” before it adds some George Harrison and Elton John influences. Other songs pay reverence to the tuneful ragged jams of The Band (“Miss My Life”) and the Allman Brothers (“Records in Bed”). But the band is not merely ripping off sounds. They create their own quiet jams of guitar, keyboards and vocal harmonies in their songs that deal with joys and anguishes of change. The aptly titled “Shake the Foundation” provides a nice bluesy jolt as well. But the closing number, “Texas,” is the emotional highpoint. Jurdi’s loving farewell to his hometown, and his attempt to adjust to his new location, has the power to provoke tears out of anyone who has ever had to move from a town they have grown to love. “I never wanted to leave this town/Oh Austin you’re a friend of mine/ Texas we had a time,” sings Jurdi with the same sweet sorrowful delivery of the best James Taylor. Sweet and gentle with an emotional wallop; these Heathens certainly have soul.
The Band of Heathens play Vinyl on October 27th.