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The Bards of Baytown

Scattered Pages' urban art-country music is as pretty as its hometown is ugly

That consistency is present not just across the span of the album but also within each individual song. The last few years have seen a renaissance of pop songcraft in Houston -- guys like Arthur Yoria, Tody Castillo, Michael Haaga, Lanky and Spain Colored Orange have always rejected the long-cherished Houston notion that musical spectacle trumped actual verse-chorus-verse songwriting, and Scattered Pages are firmly in this new and very welcome vein.

Hancock says that he had that point hammered home to him again and again while reading Bob Dylan's memoir Chronicles, Volume One, and that he's taken it to heart. Still, it's easy to miss the skill in Hancock's lyrics -- the band's music distracts from the substance of what he's singing, though his vocals sound great. He has a very soft-spoken approach on the mike, so you find yourself humming along rather than taking the trouble to learn the words, which often are very dark. "I'm attracted to lore, romantic characters; anything that's ill fated from the outset I enjoy," he says. (Did we mention his dry wit?)

Lately, in addition to their every-other-Thursday gig at Brasil, Scattered Pages has been doing shows with Tody Castillo and Spain Colored Orange, both of whom speak highly of them.

Coming from just down the road, Scattered Pages has finally arrived.
Coming from just down the road, Scattered Pages has finally arrived.

"They're my favorite local band at the moment," states SCO's singer-keyboardist Gilbert Alfaro flat out.

Castillo prizes them almost as highly. "Nobody in town is really doing what they're doing," he says. "They are all really good musicians -- Kurt is one of my favorite bass players, and Andy is amazing both on drums and also all the other stuff he does. People ask me how to describe them, and I say, 'It's this Belle and Sebastian pop thing mixed with like a Tom Waits kind of circus or carnival deal. Very theatrical."

And when I caught the band at Brasil a couple of weeks ago, the final song of their first set reminded me of This Year's Model-era Elvis Costello covering "Jambalaya." Another pithy descriptor that comes to mind is one that Clem Snide used a few years ago: "urban art-country enthusiasts."

But whatever you call 'em, know this: Scattered Pages is poised to become one of those bands you can brag to your grandkids about. And think how superior you'll feel if you're able to tell those whippersnappers, "Hell, I saw Scattered Pages at Brasil. Course that was way before they were famous...Now fetch me that gin and I'll tell you all about it."

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