Over the fourth of July weekend we melted out into the heat to see a band. It takes a lot to get us out in the Texas summer, but a lifetime ago, Husband used to be in a band. He owned a Marshall amp that, one day last spring, he sold to a guy name Phil Hurley. Phil Hurley plays in a band called The South Austin Moonlighters.
We drove two hours south to a little town inside a town called Gruene, Texas (pronounced “green” for some reason). I was prepared to maybe like a song or two, but it turned out that The South Austin Moonlighters were really, REALLY good. The show was suitable for families; good music that wouldn’t insult anyone, but so good, it could turn a fly into a ballet dancer.
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Every single one of the guys could sing. They all RULED on their respective instruments. Phil Hurley was not just competent on the guitar, he loved the thing. It was quite obvious from his playing that nothing makes him more at peace with the universe than making that guitar do his bidding. Chris Beall–what a voice. My favorite song of the night was his “Suburban Avenue” a kind of country rock song that is on their brand new album Ghost of a Small Town. Songs have to be more than just music; they have to tell a story because I love a good story. Chris Beall tells good stories. The great thing about the band was that every guy writes music AND lyrics. This meant there was a great variety of songs from soul, blues and rock to a mix of folk songs/country rock.
Lonnie Trevino Jr. played bass, and he sang the way Phil played his guitar. It was like he had twelve or thirteen voices ranging from a screaming falsetto down to a voice that reminded me of the preacher songs of the South. He looks like a normal guy until he starts singing. Then you’re wondering where all that fantastic sound comes from! Check out: “I’ll Be Coming Home” on the new album — a bit reminiscent of “The Band.” Or this one that totally showcased Lonnie’s powerful voice, the band’s ability to harmonize AND had some awesome guitar licks: “Jesus (Make Up My Dying Bed)” – A deep southern soul song that is absolutely Stunning.
One favorite they played isn’t on any of the albums, not even the new one. Oh, I pity you not being able to hear it right now. Phil Hurley’s “Something About a Girl from Texas” was being talked about outside during one of the breaks before we even heard it. Wow. Now this is another of those songs that is a terrific story with great heart and a guy singing it with enough passion that you know he’s dedicating it to a very special girl. You want to sing along AND dance because this might be a love song but it’s got the kick of a big Texas hairdo. His voice fit the song perfectly with that sincerity that is integral to folk songs and country music. On the new album, you can get an idea of his talent by listening to “You Love & Me” or “Movin’ On.” TERRIFIC STUFF. YOU GUYS ROCK.
The drummer, Phil Bass, tended towards what I call bayou music. Yes, I know that isn’t a category, but there’s this sort of “Devil Went Down to Georgia” feel, only with more drums and a kind of haunting fast melody that makes you want to look over your shoulder. Bayou music–because you don’t know what might be lurking there. Check out: “Hold On” on the new album Ghost from a Small Town. AWESOME.
The band did mostly their own music, but they threw in a tribute to the late Merle Haggard and a generous hat tip to some early Fleetwood Mac–the Peter Green bluesy stuff, rather than the later pop/rock’n’roll. Chris Beall did lead singing on a James Taylor tune called “Machine Gun Kelly,” and I must say, the band took a kind of an ordinary croon by Taylor and turned it into a rocking out gem. Now THAT’S an outlaw song!
There was at least one song where the two lead guitars did harmony parts. Not all bands bother with the extra work or have the talent to play harmonies, but it was just another example of excellence by The South Austin Moonlighters. Shoot, not all bands can even sing harmony, but these guys layered the music perfectly.
If you visit Texas and have a chance to see them live–GET THERE! If not, check out their albums. If I could only buy one album this year, Ghost from a Small Town is it.
Amazon – The South Austin Moonlighters (Their latest is: Ghost of a Small Town.).
At CD Baby
Apple iTunes: Live At the Saxon Pub – The South Austin Moonlighters and Ghost of a Small Town