The Texas Gentlemen | Floor It!!! | (New West)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars
There is more than an hour of music on the sophomore album from this Lone Star outfit. Little of it sounds like it emerged from Texas.
That’s not necessarily a problem. Still, it’s unusual to hear music influenced by the ’70s pop of Gerry Rafferty, Badfinger, Elton John and others emerge from an act that has famously supported Kris Kristofferson, George Strait and other Texas notables. Perhaps the loss of founding member Beau Bedford explains why the group that floundered somewhat on its 2017 debut has returned as a fundamentally different band, now fronted by guitarist Nik Lee and keyboardist Daniel Kramer.
This quintet is more solidified, even with its schizophrenic musical palette. There are some roots leftovers to this new, more pop-oriented groove as things get funky on The Meters-styled instrumental “Bare Maximum.” But any previous traces of singer/songwriting country and folk have vanished, replaced with slick, tightly knit, retro-styled pop/jazz fusion, often with strings (and even a choir).
Take “Charlie’s House,” an eight-minute epic that manages to cram ELO, Elton John, Billy Joel, Little Feat, Leon Russell and Steely Dan influences into its extended length with surprising success. Tighter titles such as “Train to Avesta” add strings and horns to melodies that are radio-ready, as long as that radio is tuned to an FM station from 1975.
On “Dark at the End of the Tunnel,” the Gentlemen go full-on Steely Dan for a six-minute instrumental that shifts into Return to Forever complexity in its midsection. The sweet “Hard Rd.” feels like a lost Harry Nilsson or Randy Newman B-side, and the closing title track starts as a rugged mix of Little Feat with T. Rex glam, shifts into a melodic bridge, then moves to a dreamy close.
It’s miles from the bluesy/folk/country you might expect from a band with “Texas” or even “gentlemen” in its name. But proceed into Floor It!!! with an open mind and find plenty to enjoy.