Review: The Band of Heathens – Sunday Morning Record

4229-The Band of Heathens-Sunday Morning Record-65687ffd6cabc753It takes balls to introduce yourself to the world by releasing two live albums out of the gate. But that’s the way The Band of Heathens prefer handling business. Over the course of the band’s first three studio albums, the Austin, Texas outfit have developed into a blues-driven band, known for their live performances. Yet on their latest release, Sunday Morning Record, The Band of Heathens all but strip away the blues for a more soulful sound.

On Sunday Morning Record, The Band of Heathens have taken the reverse path of My Morning Jacket, stripping away the sheen, harkening back to Eagles-era harmonies (“Girl with Indigo Eyes”) and Dennis Wilson California cool (“One More Trip”). Recent changes within the band come through on songs like “Texas,” a James Taylor homage to the band’s hometown of Austin, Texas.

Came crashing through the window
And it gave away so fast
All I hear now is the wind blow
Riding shotgun through the past

There’s quite a bit of spilt love and finger pointing on Sunday Morning Record, be it on “Shotgun” or the lone blues rocker, “Shake the Foundation.” Where the band excels in their new sound also finds their weak spot on the drawn out vinyl communion of “Records in Bed”:

Sunday morning service
Records in your bed
Well they’re good for your soul
Oh while they feed your head

The band’s proclivity towards the jam band spectrum rears its head on Sunday Morning Record. While elongated songs may work live, on record such posturing comes across as undisciplined studio theatrics. That said, the strength of Sunday Morning Record lies in the songwriting. While solo artists are often lauded for their wordsmithing, Sunday Morning Record should be in the same conversation as albums from Jason Isbell and John Moreland. To turn face on a tested foundation, The Band of Heathens have stepped outside their comfort zone on Sunday Morning Record to deliver their best album to date.

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