The Band of Heathens – Top Hat Crown & The Clapmaster’s Son (BOH)
Settling into their third studio album, this Austin quintet’s gumbo of funk, soul, blues, gospel, country and rock may no longer be a surprise, but it’s just as entertaining as on their previous outings. Better yet, having toured extensively, fans can imagine how the concise jams of these four-minute songs will play out on stage. Little Feat, the Band, the Jayhawks and the rootsy side of the Grateful Dead remain touchstones, but working across multiple genres with three singer/songwriters and a solid rhythm section, the band creates their own unique sound. The Gulf Coast is much on the songwriters’ minds as they harmonize for a cover of “Hurricane” and ruminate on the nonchalant consumerism underlying the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on “Free Again.” There are touches of Dr. John’s New Orleans funk in “Enough,” echoes of Memphis in the horn chart of “The Other Broadway” and a riff on “I Ain’t Running” that echoes War’s “Spill the Wine.” The set closes on a rustic note with the vocalists trading verses for the acoustic gospel “Gris Gris Satchel.” The album feels more like a moment of artistic consolidation than a new step forward, but the group’s breadth of influences and depth of musical grooves are still fresh and rewarding.
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