The Band of Heathens

Austin, Texas roots rockers the Band of Heathens play music that filters contemporary singer/songwriter and alt-country flavors through the guiding influence of dusty 1970s soft rock. Founded by three songwriters, the group specialize in tales with a distinct Southern flavor and characters with a taste for misadventure, buoyed by tasteful arrangements and harmonies. 2008’s The Band of Heathens was their first studio album after a pair of live discs, 2013’s Sunday Morning Record saw them reworking their sound after some major personnel shakeups, and 2020’s Stranger was a thoughtful LP reflecting a time of American upheaval.

Formed in Austin, the Band of Heathens became a group totally by accident. Songwriters Colin Brooks, Gordy Quist, and Ed Jurdi were all doing regular sets at Momo’s in Austin when they began sitting in with each other, eventually making the whole thing one big show that they called the Good Time Supper Club, which was essentially three singer/songwriters in the round backed by a solid rhythm section of John Chipman on drums and Seth Whitney on bass. What started out as a spontaneous side project soon became a full-fledged rock & roll band. The Band of Heathens’ first two albums were both live affairs, 2006’s Live from Momo’s and 2007’s Live at Antones (which was also released on DVD), while their third, simply called The Band of Heathens, was produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard and released in 2008 on BOH Records. A year later, the group released their second album, One Foot in the Ether, which again gained strong notices in Americana circles.

A third album, Top Hat Crown & the Clapmaster’s Son, appeared in 2011, and then the group saw some lineup changes. Vocalist/guitarist Colin Brooks left the band in 2011 and, not long afterward, so did the rhythm section of bassist Seth Whitney and drummer John Chipman, giving co-leaders Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist the opportunity to redefine the group on their 2013 album Sunday Morning Record. They added drummer Richard Millsap, bassist Scott Davis, and keyboardist Trevor Nealon, and this lineup recorded Duende, which appeared in January 2017.

For their next album, the band turned to an unexpected source; 2018’s Message from the People Revisited found the Band of Heathens covering all ten selections from Ray Charles’ 1972 album Message from the People, which featured the soul icon performing songs reflecting the issues of the day. The group traveled to Portland, Oregon, to work with producer Tucker Martine for 2020’s Stranger, a set of songs offering both solace and commentary as America struggled through a difficult year.

Source: Mark Deming – AllMusic

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