My cousin Joshua is Tour Manager for The Band of Heathens, a rock band from Austin, TX. I’m glad he is, because it’s a cool job with an impressive band. Plus, it meant we were on the guest list Saturday night at Mississippi Studios in North Portland!
Knowing that Joshua has been working with this band, I’ve been checking out their music on Spotify and via free downloads from their site for the past few months. There’s also a great collection of live shows on Archive.org, many of them recorded and uploaded by Joshua, a.k.a. Joshua Cain.
They’re “kinda like if Rimbaud, Keats, and Rilke strapped on guitars and hooked up with a bad ass rhythm section… literary and sinfully cool,” says, Texas music legend Ray Wylie Hubbard, who produced the band’s first studio album. The Heathens were also voted “Best New Band” at the 2007 Austin Music Awards. And the band’s second and third albums–One Foot In The Ether and Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son, respectively–have done particularly well on the Americana charts. In 2009, they appeared on Austin City Limits with Elvis Costello.
In other words, this outfit is going places. Now that we’ve seen them perform live in the cozy confines of Mississippi Studios, it’s easy to see why. Frontmen, Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist are great singer/songwriters and performers. Keyboardist Trevor Nealon also made quite an impression. It was also fun for me to see Jurdi wearing a Dancing Bear patch on his jacket. I love how many musicians are influenced by Jerry Garcia, particularly so when it’s not obvious in their music. The Band of Heathens isn’t a jam band. It’s a rock band than jams a Texas-brand of country.
Speaking of jams, I love how they worked “Rain” by The Beatles into their Portland set on Saturday. Perfect song in the right place. I also totally enjoyed the band’s cover of Gillian Welch’s “Look at Miss Ohio” which appears on One Foot In The Ether. Their originals “Jackson Station,” “Hurricane” and “Medicine Man” also stood out.
If you like a music informed by gospel, Mississippi Delta blues, Texas hill country balladeers and psychedelic rock, give the Heathens a listen and look for them on tour. I didn’t get the full impact of their music until Saturday night, much like I didn’t get the full impact of Grateful Dead’s music until that fateful night at the Spectrum in 1985.