Upon first listen the aptly titled, Band of Heathens release, Sunday Morning Record, seems to stand in contrast to the group’s prior live and recorded material. The sonically subtler collection of songs takes a few spins to ultimately reveal the rock, folk, country, blues, soul and gospel influences that make the Band of Heathens sound.
“Caroline Williams” and “Records in Bed” with its stuck in your head, pop hook choruses would have been top ten, crossover, radio hits back when there was such a thing. Like The Grateful Dead and Jayhawks, lead singers Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist’s harmonies are so beautifully striking, their meeting in Band of Heathens seems divinely pre-determined.
Lyrically, Sunday Morning Record addresses the bands trials and tribulations. Not the least of which was the unexpected departure of founding member Colin Brooks. While both sides took the high road publicly the opening and closing tracks suggest the road may have been quite low. The upbeat, delicately melodic “Shotgun” notes “Airing out your dirty laundry/hanging all your so called friends out to dry, dry, dry/say you want your independence/three years gone so hard to find, find, find.” The bluesy, soul wrenching, “Texas” is an example of how the band stirs all of its musical influences into a delicious concoction. Lyrically the narrator questions, “Got the news through aggravation/the last shot came from a crossbow/lawyers ask for reparations/for a work they’ve never known/and a song they never sung.”
New band members, drummer Richard Millsap and keyboardist, Trevor Nealon make solid contributions throughout Sunday Morning Record, particularly on the acoustic shuffle of “Had it All” and the bar room, honky-tonk blues of the first single “I Miss My Life”. If anything the changing line-up has broadened both the bands abilities and sound.
Lauded by critics and adored by a fervent fan base, BoH has found commercial success elusive. Meaning despite years of commitment and hard work the financial reward necessary to survive has been lacking. The slow lament of “One More Trip”, “Since I’ve Been Home” and “The Same Picture” are retrospectives of the conflicts created by their situation. Sunday Morning Record with its musical versatility and lyrical depth is quite infectious.