The Band Of Heathens “Simple Things”

BOH, 2023

Back to basics in a high-end studio in Austin delivers lush roots rock.

The Band of Heathens coalesced around three Austin-based singer-songwriters Colin Brooks, Ed Jurdi, and Gordy Quist, and the band subsequently won Best New Band at the 2007 Austin Music awards. Jurdi and Quist are the only original members of a band that has steadfastly remained independent, turning down major label deals and achieving a loyal fan base. A measure of the band’s success is that their catalogue has achieved more than 400 million streams, so they are obviously doing something right. The pandemic gave The Band of Heathens a chance to re-engage with their fans and rethink their direction, with the result that their ninth album, ‘Simple Things’ looks back to the roots rock that got the band noticed in the 2000s, resisting the temptation to add too much sonic experimentation in the studio and letting the power of the songs to come through. While they have cut back on the sonic layers, this doesn’t mean ‘Simple Things’ has a DIY sound, quite the contrary. The band recorded and produced the album in Austin using vintage mics to help get a lush sound in a high-end studio.

The opening track ‘Don’t Let The Darkness’ emphasises the need to concentrate on only those things that are important, with lush vocals, acoustic guitars and a steady beat on a song that epitomises the classic sound of The Band of Heathens. The twang factor is brought to the fore with the electric guitars of ‘Heartless Year’ with the organ maintaining the classic sound. We are in heartland rock territory with ‘Long Lost Son’ and it joins a long list of songs that mention the Brazos River with its mythic significance to Texans. Duelling telecaster guitars tells us we are in southern rock territory with ‘Stormy Weather’, with electric piano also in the mix. The tempo is brought down for the acoustic guitar and organ sound of ‘Single In The Same Summer’. The album ends with ‘All That Remains’ with a trippy sound that hints at the influence the Beatles have had on the band, as they explore the power of love.

The last Band of Heathens release, ‘Remote Transmissions, Volume One’, was a covers album with an array of guests. Whatever the merits of that record, it was a sign that the band were getting tired and they were unsure about their future. The pandemic downtime and the practical necessity of engaging with their fan base during lockdown have allowed the band to recharge their batteries and refocus on their musical direction. As they themselves sing about, you need to focus on what is important and dump things that aren’t, and the band have reconnected with their original sound but added a perspective that can only come from the 2020s. ‘Simple Things’ manages to keep the roughness of the roots rock of the band’s early days with a lush sound that works across the whole album. This could be the best Band of Heathens album, and even if it isn’t, it shows that the band still has a bright future.

8/10
8/10

About Martin Johnson 402 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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cmoss

Great article, thanks! One nit: I wouldn’t say that the Remote Transmissions release (covers album) meant they were tired or uncertain…these were tracks recorded during the pandemic for their weekly YouTube webstream they did for a whole year from March 2020 – 2021. They often had a special guest and the band members and guest would pick a song to cover and record their parts remotely from home. Then-bassist Jesse Noah Wilson would mix it all together. They ultimately selected some to release as an album as the fans watching each week really loved each week’s “treat”. There are plenty more and so a volume II is a possibility. All the remote transmission webstreams are available on YouTube. Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFYechMst8A

Hopefully all these Remote Transmission videos are a welcome rabbit hole to your readers.

Chris Moss
Frisco, Texas USA