I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly. In the wonderfully weird world of the Texas Gentlemen, anything can happen. And anything does on their killer debut record TX Jelly. The cover is brandished with an illustration of a jar of jam, and listening to this oddball collection of songs is like jumping right in, blindfolded. The six-piece Dallas outfit recorded all 11 tracks at Muscle Shoals institution FAME Studios, and on it, they prove they’re not cut out to be a one-genre band. At once soulful, twangy, funky, rocking, spiritual, rootsy and groovy as all hell, TX Jelly is the kind of loud entry that gets noticed.
The group, made up of the core six Beau Bedford, Nik Lee, Daniel Creamer, Matt McDonald, Scott Lee, and Ryan Ake, seems to operate from a spontaneous, jamband space, going where the beat takes them, and as a result, we’re left with a record that is both imaginative and a blast. Having gotten a start as a backing band for various country and rock artists, my introduction to the Gentlemen came during the 2016 Newport Folk Festival, when they joined Kris Kristofferson and Joe Ely on stage for an unforgettable set. Since then, they’ve joined countless others, but never stepped out on their own into the spotlight. With TX Jelly, we’re treated to a wild and wacky foray into the band’s still evolving identity.
Songs run the gamut from the party time grooves “Habbie Doobie” and “Pain,” to the smooth, retro pop-soul of “Superstition” and the classic country sound of “Trading Paint.” There’s a throwback vibe to all of TX Jelly, from the dramatic, spoken-word style of “Pretty Flowers” to the sun-drenched ’70s soul rock of “Bondurant Woman.” The beating heart of the record is southern fried and countrified, but TX Jelly is not exclusively a country record. It’s an authentic, confident sprawl of exploration and Americana from a group of musicians who don’t just love playing music, but also have a deep rooted appreciation for its history.