Houston Music

Chasmatic

Between them, the members of Chasmatic -- bassist Josh Denkmore, drummer Jeff Senske and singer-guitarist Marshall Preddy -- have played in such local luminary bands as Lucky Motors, the Cinders, Phineas Gauge and the Wholesome Rollers. Preddy wrote all ten of these songs about women, love and longing, broken relationships and one man's weary philosophy of life, which are set mainly to what they call "a country-rock bar band with indie pretensions" backdrop.

The first track, the up-tempo "Way (Way) Texas," finds Preddy's husky voice singing lines like "Got a stepside Chevy with a dog named Devil in the back / cruising down the highway with Lone Star between my legs / and when the Son comes down tonight he's gonna find me hard to find…going way, way Texas / gonna leave it all home tonight," accompanied by acoustic guitar, a twanging Telecaster and an in-the-pocket rhythm section. It could be a lost Steve Earle or Radney Foster track.

Besides the first cut, some of the stronger songs on their self-produced disc include "Car Trouble," with lines like "I spend this life a gallon at a time," and "Summer Kids," with its beautiful piano riff and lazy vocals that sound like a more polished Paul Westerberg. The emotion-filled vocals of "Southern Hemisphere" highlight its mournful tale of romance. Meanwhile, "Julie July" finds Chasmatic mining a more indie rock vein as they ride out of the barn and turn up the guitars, which brings up a quibble: They should've thrown in a couple more rockers.

These days the No Depression/alt-Americana genre is overpopulated with cookie-cutter bands unconvincingly rehashing the well-worn grooves defined by Earle, Lucinda Williams and Townes Van Zandt. Chasmatic nicely sidesteps that trap by not shoveling out any lowest-common-denominator yeehaw bullcrap. At times they sound like a slightly poppier version of Son Volt; at other times they bring to mind a more rural variant of the Replacements, and it's a safe bet they have discs by bands like Wilco, the Old 97's and Neil Young in their collections. While they're not afraid to wear these influences on their sleeves, they don't come across as overly derivative, and at least they're drawing from the best in the business. If they can do this well on their own, imagine what they could sound like with a budget and a producer.

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Timothy J. O'Brien