The Tender Things Dip Into Country, Folk, Roots and Swamp Funk on Impressive LP ‘That Texas Touch’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

Photo credit: Jackie Lee Young

On their third LP, That Texas Touch, The Tender Things continue their tradition of blending classic Outlaw Country music with elements of Lone Star groove for another remarkably satisfying record.

Founded by Jesse Ebaugh in 2018 after leaving the Heartless Bastards, he pulled in some of Austin’s prime session players – with resumes that included work with Steve Earle, Nikki Lane, and Western swing legends Asleep at the Wheel among others – and created a group whose musical chops are matched only by the amount of fun they clearly seem to be having. 

Across eight tracks on That Texas Touch, the band dip in and out of country, folk and roots but also channel some of the Muscle Shoals swamp funk. The title track sounds remarkably like something Leon Russell would have put out in the mid ‘70s. While “Pale Blue” nods in the direction of the classic Bakersfield sound.      

Thematically, Ebaugh taps into personal events here and writes about his experiences with ageism in the music industry. In addition, several of the songs tackle universal themes of human connection as well as isolation (particularly on songs like “My Condition”). “I’m trying with this batch of songs to become comfortable writing and singing from a first-person point of view,” he said recently. “I’m trying to use my experiences to connect with others whom I believe have had similar experiences. We all have the same basic needs for shelter, nourishment, work and love, and there’s no failure in relating the struggle it takes to maintain all four of those things in a life.”

And the more personal nature of the songs here makes for an even more compelling and relatable record than the first two offerings – both solid albums, but there is a strong step forward lyrically on That Texas Touch. The record was produced by Gordy Quist of The Band of Heathens, and the recording was kept local in Austin and is being released by Austin’s Spaceflight Records, a non-profit label.

At a time when Austin risks losing much of its redneck hippie charm thanks to the influx of tech jobs and Teslas, it’s heartening to know that bands like The Tender Things and The Band Of Heathens are still keeping it grounded in authenticity, churning out music stripped of calculation, trendiness and pretension in favor of solid groves and good times. 

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