The Band of Heathens have always balanced the urge to rock out with a wide introspective streak. Yet even for this contemplative crew, new LP Sunday Morning Record is particularly pensive. Change prompted BOH's current concerns.
In 2011, co-founder Colin Brooks and the band's rhythm section flew the coop, leaving songwriters Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist as keepers of the Heathen's flame. In addition, Gordy started a family while Jurdi relocated from BOH's beloved Austin to Asheville. Not surprisingly, Sunday Morning Record is focused, if not obsessed, with moving forward. Yet Jurdi and Quist have not simply soldiered on; they've blossomed as songwriters, crafting sparkling soft rockers tinged with regret.
The Heathen's longstanding 1970s influences are still present. Lead track "Shotgun" channels Harry Nilsson's take on "Everybody's Talking." The country soul of Van Morrison pops up in "Caroline Williams," as does a delicate Cat Stevens guitar figure in "Girl with Indigo Eyes." Some elements are new to the BOH arsenal. The harmonies of "The Same Picture" suggest a trailer trash Beach Boys, and "Shake the Foundation," the LP's funkiest, hardest rocker, echoes the '70s glam of Slade's "Coz I Luv You."
Yet the album's centerpiece is "Texas," Jurdi's adios to Austin and hopeful hello to the Carolinas. Here, James Taylor jostles with The Faces' "Cindy Incidentally" before the song stretches out into a gospel coda that harkens to Sticky Fingers-era Stones, when Mick and Keith were most enthralled with Gram Parsons' cosmic Americana.
With this final cut, BOH moves past acceptance to transcendence. Although concerned with degrees of doubt and hope, Sunday Morning Record is primarily about shades, not just the dusty browns of Texas and the verdant greens of North Carolina, but also the emotional gray scale where feelings are not simply black or white. The band will perform at the Visulite Theatre on Oct. 26.