Austin360 On The Record is a weekly roundup of new, recent and upcoming releases by local and Austin-associated recording artists.
OUT THIS WEEK
Mike & the Moonpies, “Cheap Silver and Solid Country Gold.” After a decade of gradual rise as a local and regional country favorite, Mike Harmeier’s band had a minor national breakthrough with last year’s well-received “Steak Night at the Prairie Rose,” which made Rolling Stone's list of top 20 country/Americana albums last year.
They raise the ante considerably on this eight-song release recorded at London’s iconic Abbey Road Studios. The Moonpies’ core here stays deeply rooted in Texas twang, but nine musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra give these tracks a touch of class, drama and beauty with tasteful arrangements. The orchestra kicks in with gravitas right from the start of lead-off track “Cheap Silver,” signaling the band’s got something up their sleeves.
Harmeier’s easygoing croon soon glides in as the strings mingle gloriously with the honky-tonk tones of steel guitarist Zachary Moulton, guitarist Catlin Rutherford, bassist Omar Oyoque, drummer Kyle Ponder and keyboardist John Carbone. “You Look Good in Neon,” the only one of these eight tracks that had been teased out before Friday’s surprise album release, picks up the tempo but keeps the old-school countrypolitan mood intact. “Danger,” which features a guest vocal from Shooter Jennings, hits a little harder as new-father Harmeier offers hard-won lessons to his young son. The mid-record ballad “Young in Love” surprisingly comes from Austin indie-rocker A. Sinclair, serving as an ideal canvas for the strings to do their thing.
Rising indie-country star Nikki Lane chimes in on “Miss Fortune,” a gambler’s-romance tune with lyrics perfectly in pocket (“Two broken hearts on a hot streak, ain’t got nothin’ left to lose”). The cheating song “If You Wanna Fool Around” is the weakest link here, only because the theme is well-worn, but musically it still sidles up well with the rest of these tunes. “Fast as Lightning,” by contrast, is almost an abrupt break sonically, charging ahead with a pace fitting its title and propelled by spot-on, rapid-fire lyrics that essentially recount the weeks in which this album got made (“Luckenbach to London, pickin’ with the symphony”).
Everything leads up to the brilliant finale, a cover of Austin troubadour Gary P. Nunn’s classic “London Homesick Blues” that the Moonpies wisely bring back to the land where Nunn wrote it almost five decades ago. The strings are worth their weight in solid country gold on this one, and the slight chordal tweaks the band and producer Adam Odor applied to bring out the melancholy of Nunn’s lyrics add one last masterstroke to what’s plainly the best country record any Texas act has made in 2019.
The whole thing’s over in about 32 minutes, begging to be played again and again and again. Release show Aug. 8 at Mohawk outdoor. We’ll have an interview with Harmeier in next week’s American-Statesman and on austin360.com. Here’s the opening track “Cheap Silver”:
AUG. 9: Jesse Dayton, “Mixtape, Vol. 1” (Blue Elan).
AUG. 9: Chris & Adam Carroll, “Good Farmer,” playing Aug. 21 for Texas Radio Live at Guero’s.
AUG. 12: Church On Monday, “For Being There,” release show Aug. 12 at Continental Gallery.
AUG. 16: Hickoids, “All The World’s A Dressing Room: Live in L.A. 08.24.2018” (Saustex).
AUG. 16: Hanna Barakat, “Siren,” release show Aug. 30 at Come & Take It Live.
AUG. 23: Midland, "Let It Roll" (Big Machine).
AUG. 23: Croy & the Boys, “Howdy High-Rise” (Spaceflight), release show Aug. 24 at Sam’s Town Point.
AUG. 23: Seth James, “Good Life” (Cherry Bomb).
AUG. 30: Matthew Squires, “Visions of America,” release show Aug. 30 at Independence Brewing.
SEPT. 6: Golden Dawn Arkestra, “Darkness Falls on the Edge of Time” (11A).
SEPT. 13: Shawn Colvin, “Steady On” 30th anniversary edition, new solo-acoustic take on her debut album.
SEPT. 13: Hot Club of Cowtown, “Wild Kingdom” (Gold Strike).
SEPT. 14: Andrew Nolte, “Climbing Uphill” EP, release show Sept. 14 at Saxon Pub.
OCT. 18: Fastball, “The Help Machine” (33-⅓).
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