Album Reviews

The Band of Heathens

Duende

Artist:     The Band of Heathens

Album:     Duende

Label:     BOH Records

Release Date:     01/13/2017

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God-fearing or not, these Heathens have quite a bit to be thankful for. They’re naturally very talented, all five. And by the sounds of Duende, they’ll realize much deserved, big success. The Band of Heathens play no gospel music that I can hear. Which is strangely missing, as roots music often comes from there, and usually leaks back through. But not here. The Heathens write and sing and play about life so extraordinarily well, and in many different ways, without it. The word duende is defined as a spirit, interestingly enough. Or, a quality of inspiration and passion. Or, the power to attract through magnetism and charm. All three definitions permeate this, the Band of Heathens’ fifth studio effort in their ten years as a band. Something else.

The scene on the cover, and the scruffily-handsome guys in it, calls to mind a vintage 1970s Eagles album jacket. Perhaps by design. Because like the Eagles, songwriters and singers Ed Jurdi and Gordy Quist and the band combine elements of country, rock, soul and the blues like a breeze to form a singular, creative sound. But generally not Eagles-like. Cut deliberately like an old LP, with five songs a “side,” the album consistently rivets, a step up overall, and once again, from its fine predecessors. High aspirations—musically and lyrically—in the pop-funky “All I’m Asking” settle down quickly into the bouncy, Southern back-woodsy, but no less inventive groove of “Sugar Queen.” “Last Minute Man” celebrates carefree self-indulgence with deft picking and cool melody before “Deep is Love” presents astoundingly catchy, percolating soul like the Beatles might have played it. The Fab Four again come to mind, along with JJ Cale, in the shufflin’ “Keys to the Kingdom.” Of course, every great rock band seems to have their Stones jones goin’ on at some point, and the Heathens indulge it with crunchy Keef guitars and pure, piano-pumped rock on “Trouble Came Early.” The power of that kind of shit cannot be underestimated! But “Daddy Long Legs,” number two on “side” two, takes the cake for infectiousness. Greasy, highly kinetic soul that just plain kills it dead, the song stands very tall in otherwise very imposing company. Buy this album.

-Tom Clarke

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