Texas®

OK, I’m so behind on my goal of discussing every artist on this year’s ACL Fest bill with all of you fine folks. I’m not gonna lie, I’m nervous about completing the task before the grand festival in Austin’s Zilker Park takes place in less than a month from now (9/16 -18). So, in future weeks, we’ll get really serious about covering more ground, but today, I want to focus on one band. Perhaps this is the main band I’m personally looking forward to catching. They’ve gone from little-odd-alt country-band-that-could status to legit worldwide festival headliners who’s  albums are perhaps the most spiritedly adventurous of any mainstream rock band outside of Radiohead.

Who? My Morning Jacket, of course.

Barreling out of Kentucky, the Jim James-led outfit has made a living out of throwing others expectations of them out of the tour van window. James displayed his otherworldly falsetto long before Bon Iver came along and is as responsible as any for bringing the shuffling, mellow, pedal-steel vibe of laid back alt-country into the indie-rock realm as anyone.

Of course, as soon as folks started hearing word about MMJ, the band decided it was time to get funky. And in doing so, they grew into not only a massively popular group, but into one of the more polarizing popular groups around. Their 2005 album, Z, is basically considered their breakthrough album (it finished #10 in the prestigious Village Voice Pazz & Jop Poll for 2005), and indeed ushered in a more abstractly rocking element into their catalog than had been there before. It’s almost impossible to not like that album, as far as this writer’s concerned.

So many bands would’ve looked to safely build upon that momentum. That’s not to say that said band would’ve carbon-copied the successful album and whimped out in hopes of gaining even more fame, but few would’ve purposely chosen the route MMJ chose. The road less traveled? How about the road that shouldn’t be traveled? Unless your My Morning Jacket, that is.

The 2008 release of Evil Urges took the band further away from their celestial, folky roots and closer to “what are they thinking’ terrain. Blending simple, classic rock, Prince-flavoredbaby-making R&B and some pretty silly prog-rock (see: “Highly Suspicious”), the guys made a few heads scratch with the album, but thanks to the expanded catalog’s attention and their live mastery of the new material, the chance that the band took really didn’t seem to hurt the momentum that had been building in the previous years.

The past few years have seen James perform as a part of the super-group Monsters of Folk and even as a solo-artist under the name of Yim Yames. The time off from MMJ served them all well it seems, as Circuital, the bands latest album is an absolute gem and is likely the album that many had hoped for when Evil Urges was released. Unpredictable without being non-sensical, and adventurouswithout being unnecessarily experimental, there’s little question that this album is one of the year’s very best, regardless of region or genre.

For years now, Centro-matic, a band that began in Denton well over a decade ago, has been known as a prolific group that has risen to a rather lofty status in the world of American Indie-rock. Led by Will Johnson, now an Austinite, the band hasn’t yet put out a record that one would consider anything less than stellar.

The band members themselves are highly sought after when it comes to contributing their individual talents to other’s projects, even. Johnson was the touring drummer for the massive Monsters of Folk project, and he also played guitar on Patterson Hood’s (Drive by Truckers) last solo album. Of course, that’s aside from his many producing projects. Drummer and sound engineer extraordinaire Matt Pence has toured with Jason Isbell while multi-instrumentalist Scott Danbom has played with Slobberbone and Sarah Jaffe. See? In-demand!

Their new album, Candidate Waltz, has reawakened many to the greatness of this band and has already began earning more than its fair share of rave reviews and predictions of the album finding its way onto a solid amount of year-end-best-of lists (Hint: There’s no way it’ll avoid landing on this blog’s list of 2011′s Best Texas Albums. Not a chance).

Enough of me blabbing. Since it’s always nice to see fellow Lone Star dwellers win praise from outside of our own borders, I’ll just let you see for yourself, OK?

 

 

 

 

So, there. Centro-matic might be a band from our state, but it’s clear that their appeal lies beyond the Red River. Still not sure? Check out the tour schedule for the guys. There aren’t many corners of the great 48 they wont be hitting soon, if not later…