Lil’ Cap’n Travis
…In All Their Splendor
The cover artwork for the latest release from the band Li’l Cap’n Travis is that of a pickup truck from the rear heading down a sandy road towards the setting sun with a couple of surfboards hanging out the back. The artwork on the rear of the CD booklet is a drawing of a surfer with a board balanced on his head likely making his way to the oceanfront. Go figure for a band that calls the Central Texas locale of Austin its home. Things seem a bit more back to normal when we get to the artwork on the backside of the jewel case which depicts a couple of tall cactuses perched in the moonlight. Surfboards, sunsets, and cactus. Somehow it all seems so fitting when the sounds of …In All Their Splendor, the latest album from Li’l Cap’n Travis, comes floating out of an audio device. Go to the Glurp Records web site and the quick and dirty description of Lil’ Cap’n Travis reads “Austin’s sweethearts play a woozy kind of twang that incorporates the smirk of Pavement, the naive charm of the Beach Boys, and all the ragged glory of Crazy Horse.” Whereas it was about fourth months after receiving the disc, not to mention the countless spins during that time, before I came across this brief blurb, it was met with a “Eureka!”. Elements of each, from Pavement’s slacker-like, smart rock stylings to a trippy sort of Beach Boys pop dreaminess to Crazy Horses’ wall of sound crunch are all in bloom on …In All Their Splendor. (It climaxes early on the CD, track two to be exact with a sweet collision of it all titled “3.2 Beer of Love”.) The fact that the band was the subject of a cover story in the city’s alternative weekly The Austin Chronicle not long after the release of …In All Their Splendor is an indicator of its good standing in the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capitol of the World.” (Glance quickly at the photo of the band gracing that July 2nd edition and you might even had thought you were looking at a modern day equivalent of those Beach Boys.) Even with the big time press and all on its local front, Li’l Cap’n Travis remains pretty much a local entity with a loyal following apparently content with sticking to the Austin club scene. That makes it a little tougher for those beyond Lone Star lines types to get in on the secret that is Li’l Cap’n Travis. In other words, consider this is a tip. The rest is up to y’all! Anyway, that laid-back, Austin rock ‘n’ country sort of groove with an honest 1960s indie pop charm, something difficult to describe but easy to feel, is all over the grooves of the 15-track …In All Their Splendor which represents the band’s third full-length release. On the songwriting front, it is democracy hard at work with all five members contributing. Like its previous two longplayers, girls, country, Texas and drinking, not to mention fishin’ and fireflies, provide fodder for much of the band’s songwriting muse. Maybe what makes it all wash down so well is that you don’t get the feeling the band is caught up in itself at all. …In All Their Splendor sounds like music for the fun of it, a bunch of like-minded pals, who also happen to be bandmates, who like to party and play together. When they collide, a wonderfully woozy sort of magic happens in all its splendor, as in the case of this new one. Recommended. (Glurp Records, P.O. Box 685163, Austin, TX 78768, or www.glurp.com)
With its seventh studio release titled Rendezvous and the requisite touring that follows, New York City-based Luna calls it quits. It’s always good to hang ’em up on a high note and Rendezvous is exactly that, an album as good as any in the band’s dozen years together. Over those dozen or so years, the lineup changes have been few. That cohesiveness is all over the taut, atmospheric sounds of this swan song. It begins with “Malibu Love Nest”, a nearly five-minute masterpiece of lean, fast-paced, road-ready tunage which may arguably be the best thing the band has ever recorded. It gives way to “Cindy Tastes of Barbecue”, four minutes of pure tranquility and groove as fetchingly soothing as it is ethereal. “Speedbumps” which builds to a monster crescendo before giving way to the languid strands of “The Owl & the Pussycat” follow the same blueprint of the first couplet. That same back and forth, tug and pull sets the pace for all of Rendezvous, 11 tightly wound tunes as pretty with melody as they are sonic in substance. (Jet Set Records, P.O. Box 20519, Tompkins Square Station, New York, NY 10009, or www.jetsetrecords.com)
The Notorious Cherry Bombs
Go back some 30 years and they were just a group of hot pickers with a thirst for playing spirited, country-flavored tunes chock full of chops and good times. Now reunited in 2004 with the self-titled “comeback” album, The Notorious Cherry Bombs are nothing less than a country music supergroup. Boasting a lineup that includes Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, famed producer Tony Brown, guitar ace Richard Bennett, steel guitar star Hank Devito, and a rhythm section of consisting of another hot Nashville producer in Emory Gordy along with Larry Londin, it’s hard not to get excited about a comeback recording from a lineup like this. It is also obvious that the description “supergroup” is clearly in order. For all intents and purposes, this seven-piece lives up to the billing on the self-titled The Notorious Cherry Bombs. Actually, The Cherry Bombs were Mr. Crowell’s backup group when he was vying for attention on Music Row back in 1975. Not lasting much longer, the band reunited to honor Crowell at the 2003 ASCAP Country Awards dinner. It was just the spark needed to ignite things enough for a formal comeback. Now calling themselves The Notorious Cherry Bombs, this polished 12-song release from last summer is brimming with expert picking, superb vocal work, and a decent collection of songs that run the gamut from novelty (the current hit “It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips At Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long”) to heart-tugging balladry (“If I Ever Break Your Heart”) to Cash-styled, beat-happy, chick-a-boom fun (“Oklahoma Dust”) to hard country (“Forever Sunday”). It is all highly listenable stuff. Then again, how can you wrong with a cast as talented as The Notorious Cherry Bombs? The answer is that you can’t.
You may know him as the husband of one of the Dixie Chicks, or perhaps as the outspoken judge from the first season of the USA Network’s country equivalent to American Idyll appropriately called Nashville Star. Unfortunately, if that is all you know about singer/songwriter Charlie Robison, you’ve been missing out. Like many a decent country music artist these days, Robison did the major label thing with several reputable albums to show for it. For the typical reason of what have you done for me lately, Robison’s major label stay amounted to only a couple of longplayers. The past year saw him rebound with the upstart Nashville indie Dualtone Records and the release Good Times. For this album, Robison turned to his home turf of Texas in almost all facets tapping Lloyd Maines to produce, recording the album in Austin, and enlisting some of the Lone Star’s finest on the musician front to properly fuel the Good Times proceedings. The end result is a hearty dollop of edgy Texas country heavy on the Robison originals that goes against the Nashville grain in a righteous kind of way perfectly in keeping with Robison’s rebel ways. (Dualtone Records, 1614 17th Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37212, or www.dualtone.co…