The Texas Gentlemen
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
This Lone Star state quintet’s name might not be familiar, especially since this is the band’s recorded debut. But it’s likely fans of various Texas singer-songwriters have heard them supporting a wide array of far more recognizable names. Everyone from the rootsy likes of George Strait, Nikki Lane, Ray Benson, Kris Kristofferson and Joe Ely to pop stars Ed Sheeran and retro soul man Leon Bridges have utilized the Texas Gentlemen as backing musicians, displaying just how easily they adapt to various genres.
This first release under their own moniker is the result of the group, led by organist/sometime singer Beau Bedford, spending four days ensconced in Muscle Shoals’ legendary FAME studios. The five piece invited a variety of generally low profile friends, jammed and cranked out eleven tracks with a rotating cast of singers in a variety of styles. The result is a wobbly, fun, frisky and diverse collection that reflects the quick, live-in-the-studio, often first take recordings. Unfortunately the process didn’t seem to take writing songs all that seriously which leaves this as a loose batch of listenable, generally enjoyable but far from memorable material with as many misses as hits.
Guest Dan Dyer gets three writing or co-composing credits, but neither the tunes nor his relaxed, some might say lazy, singing on country ballad “Pretty Flowers” and the folksy, dryly humorous “Trading Paint” is particularly impressive. Paul Cauthen contributes vocals to “Gone,” a track that starts off as a waltz ballad, transforms into a more upbeat rocker, then back again in a confusing and sometimes jolting combination that doesn’t go anywhere other than show that the Texas Gentlemen can handle a range of tempos. Pianist Daniel Creamer takes on soft pop in the McCartney/Beach Boys inspired “Superstition” that devolves into smarmy night-clubby schlock. First single “Pain” is an affable pop rocker that doesn’t jump out as anything unique.
The band fares better when they jam like Booker T. and the MG’s on the opening funk workout of “Habbie Doobie,” the bass heavy instrumental rock of the title track and, perhaps best of all, a vibrant take on the classic oldie rocker “Shakin’ All Over.” Those show the Texas Gentlemen doing what they do best;locking in and tackling a groove. A few tunes such as Noah Jackson’s Stax styled “Bondurant Women” click with a natural, leisurely percussive vibe reflective of the easy going recording process.
While TX Jelly proves this one time studio aggregation has chops, the jumbled, often disjointed set featuring multiple vocalists seems to be throwing styles against the wall to see what sticks. Most don’t stick, which shows The Texas Gentlemen to be talented musicians who mesh well together but need to harness that to quality original songs with a consistent singer to deliver them.