These Austin alt-country mainstays have gone to Nashville with their new record, Here Come the Derailers, which arrives in stores Tuesday on the Sony-owned Lucky Dog imprint. They're now labelmates with almost insiders like BR5-49, Bruce and Charlie Robison, and Jack Ingram, and while their sound remains recognizable--a blend of Buck Owens and the early Beatles--there are some definite changes. After three albums dominated by originals, the quartet decided to put a quarter in the Music City songwriting machine, and for a producer they went with Kyle Lehning, who's worked with Randy Travis, Waylon Jennings, and Mandy Barnett. But including three Jim Lauderdale songs is rarely a bad idea, and while Lehning's production softens the band's instrumental attack a bit, the tunes are still loaded with hooks and gorgeous vocal harmonies. The group tries a few new styles on for size: "Country a Go-Go" is a retro honky-tonk instrumental with twin guitar leads by Tony Villanueva and Brian Hofeldt; "More of Your Love," written by hit machine Kostas, has a Tex-Mex tinge; "I See My Baby" is Orbison-esque in its melodic grandeur; and a cover of "If It's Really Got to Be This Way," a late-era gem by the great country-soul singer Arthur Alexander, demonstrates that the group still has excellent taste. Of the seven originals, the only one that comes close to country-radio hokum is "You Know What She's Like," but thanks to its indelible bridge and Villanueva's warm, soulful croon, it probably has no chance at significant airplay. Lauderdale's disappointing "All the Rage in Paris," on the other hand, is a band-on-the-road turd whose chorus is a mere two-step away from line-dance hell. Tuesday, September 11, 6 PM, Tower Records, 2301 N. Clark, 773-477-5994, and 9 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport, 773-525-2508.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Shea.