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Local CDs: Wild Child, Scott Biram, Will Sexton, and Sons of Fathers

Austin sounds from new faces, old friends

Peter Mongillo

This week, we take a look at two bands new to the scene and two veterans, both of whom have overcome physical hardship.

Wild Child

'Pillow Talk'

(Major Nation)

Bands like Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward's She and Him have graced iPod and Volkswagen commercial soundtracks and created an industry of cute, with precious, jazzy vocals and delicate acoustic backing bands. At first listen, Austin's Wild Child, with its sweet vocals and ukulele-driven acoustic music, falls solidly into this category. Listen closer, and things are much darker, and funnier, than they seem.

"Both of our senses of humor are similar, we are both really sarcastic, and say things that we should probably think about before they say them out loud," says Kelsey Wilson, who, along with Alexander Beggins, makes up the core of the group (there are six total members in the band).

For Wild Child, who released its debut album "Pillow Talk" two weeks ago, the humor is an asset that transforms music that doesn't exactly push boundaries into something more interesting. Love songs reveal themselves to be honest, dark stories filled with lies and manipulation.

Wilson, 21, and Beggins, 23, began writing songs together only a year ago, when both were on tour as the backing band for the Migrant, which is led by Denmark-based musician Bjarke Bendtsen. Looking for something to do during long hours spent in the tour bus, they began crafting songs on the only available instrument, a baritone ukulele.

"Everything just kind of fell right into our laps," Beggins says. "I don't think we would have picked the baritone ukulele to frame our songs around, and I don't think we would have gone for a duo."

That's how it happened, though, and it works. The songs, many of which follow a conversational style in which Beggins and Wilson finish each other's sentences, rank among the more interesting material to come out of Austin lately. Aside from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes' hit song "Home," it's not something that many can pull off . "I'll Figure You Out" is a slightly twisted waltz that might have been committed to tape in one take, but nevertheless shows songwriting chops that feel like they've had more than a year to develop. Title track "Pillow Talk," a picture of a couple at home with their lies and resigned to the end of their time together, carries a surprising amount of emotional heft for a song backed only by a ukulele and a touch of piano.

"It's easier for us to just talk than sing," Wilson says of the duo's creative process. "The both of us aren't very good songwriters alone, at least I'm not, but together, it's like I know what to say here, but I have no (expletive) idea how to end it, and he does."

Whatever it is, they've hit on something that works.

(Wild Child plays Dec. 10 at Stubb's on a bill with David Ramirez and His Band. www.wildchildsounds.com.)

Scott Biram

'Bad Ingredients'

(Bloodshot)

The problem with musicians who fall into the vague category of blues/country/singer-songwriter is that it's often not easy for them to sell the forlorn, road-warrior narrative that comes with those genres in a convincing way. Austin-based one-man-band Scott Biram is not one of those people. He can back it up. This is a guy who survived a head-on collision with a tractor-trailer at 75 miles per hour and a grueling recovery back in 2003.

"Bad Ingredients" is gritty and emotional. Pain seeps up from beneath a voice that often sounds like he doesn't have that much energy left, and he's using every ounce of it to tell a tale that's both honest and twisted. On "Open Road," which is Biram's "warm, safe place," he paints a picture of a man at ease with discomfort and at home with his vices as a touch of distortion and a muted stomping sound complete the image. "Broke Ass" is a novel packed into four and a half minutes, where Biram somehow turns some pretty offensive lyrics about a stripper girlfriend into something sad and moving. It's hard to listen to the record and think that he hasn't lived every second of his music.

(Scott Biram plays Nov. 26 at the Mohawk. www.scottbiram.com.)

Will Sexton

'Move the Balance'

(self-released)

Back in December 2009, Austin writer/singer/producer Will Sexton had a stroke that robbed him of his ability to remember his songs. During his recovery, "Move the Balance" was released and went largely unnoticed as the story of his health took center stage. Fast forward nearly two years, and the album is getting a re-release, which is a good move, as this is music that deserves a listen. From the opener, "Move the Balance," to the low-down "Best Intentions" and melancholy "Close the Airport," Sexton's a troubadour who weaves words together with ease and has musical chops to match.

(Will Sexton is on tour. His next scheduled Austin show is Dec. 17 at Antone's. www.willsexton.com.)

Sons of Fathers

'Sons of Fathers'

(Blanco River Music)

Sons of Fathers, which consists of principal members David Beck and Paul Cauthen along with Dees Stribling and Regan Schmidt, initially called the band Beck and Cauthen, before that other musician named Beck forced the duo to change the name. The new name comes from a track on the now self-titled debut album, a kind of accidental theme song. It's a fitting one, though, that shows off the different ways in which the group likes to flex its muscles. A stomping, mountain music-style number that doesn't divert too far from the mish-mash of traditional American genres that has proved a successful formula for the Avett Brothers, it features vocals from both Beck and Cauthen. It has an element of subtle humor, though not as much as opener "Weather Balloons," in which the narrator longs to take flight, balloon boy style.

The Sons of Fathers Facebook page has the band listed as a "lo-fi indie band from Austin, Texas," though there's not much that's lo-fi about the album, which Lloyd Maines co-produced. "Wind Turbines," with its rustic mandolin, and "Adam & Eve" with its easy-going, road-ready country rock, are more like musical comfort food. Nothing particularly mind-blowing is going on, but the duo's mission seems to be more about honing thecraft than blowing minds.

(Sons of Fathers has several shows coming up in the area, including Nov. 23 at Gruene Hall, Nov. 26 at the Scoot Inn and Nov. 30 at Momo's. www.sonsoffathers.net.)