At the risk of posing a question that might have a scary answer, what are they putting in the water over there by Galveston Bay?
First, from the chemical spew of Baytown there came the Morrissey-meets-Neil Young glory that is Scattered Pages. And now, from across the Fred Hartman Bridge in LaPorte, there's Buxton, an even younger band with a broadly similar, twang-tinged indie rock palette.
Simply put, this album's a stunner, from the Fahey-esque guitar intro of opener "Mane of Gold" onwards. You can get your brood on with the atmospheric, slow ten-minute suite of "Flame" and "Bones" in the middle of the record, or put on your step-dancing clogs to the hillbilly rave-up "Westward." "Mothers" reminds me of some kind of Russian Cossack dance of the damned, while album closer "Living Room" poses some of the same eternal patricidal questions put forth in The Brothers Karamazov.
If that sounds eggheaded, it's my fault. At surface level, you can just enjoy the beauty of the sounds. A Family Light is great highway music, big sky songs that are cinematic in scope. Frontman Sergio Treviño has an anguished yelp that cuts through the band's hummably melancholy, wood-grained banjo-pedal steel-acoustic guitar arrangements, and the band has an all-too-rare sense of dynamics and knack for strong choruses and male-female, call-and-response vocals.
Hats off to producer Reggie O'Farrell. Not only does he coax a great shimmering sound out of the core band (Treviño and multi-instrumentalists Chris Wise and Jason Willis) and a revolving cast of eight more backing musicians, but the sequencing maximizes the emotion ofthe ride.
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Treviño might not be the guitar player M. Ward is, but he's a better singer, and this record at its best will take you to the same wind-whistling craggy peaks that Ward's do. How could a town as bleak as LaPorte create music so dazzling?