How do you follow a debut album that hit No. 1 on both U.S. and Euro Americana radio? If you’re Austin’s The Band of Heathens you change the formula. While their eponymous debut was more on the acoustic side of things, “One Foot in the Ether” is a plugged-in rock record. This is a band that has rightfully been compared to the likes of The Band, Little Feat and The Black Crowes. They’re brand of rock is one that combines elements of blues, R&B, gospel and country, complete with Hammond organ and pianos – even some well-placed handclaps. They also happen to have three frontmen, and instead of simply swapping lead vocals from song to song the way Drive-by Truckers function, BOH trade verses on some of the tracks here.
With opening track “L.A. County Blues” paying tribute to the late Hunter S. Thompson, it’s a little surprising how many biblical allusions and spiritually tinged songs follow on the album. Don’t misunderstand, with lyrics like “We clean our guns while we turn our cheeks. We’re like demons and angels and dogs in heat,” and “She wants to do right, just not right now,” BOH isn’t aiming for Christian radio, and the songs are all pretty universally themed (One of the best, “Shine a Light,” draws heavily from gospel, showcasing the strength of voices in the band.). Those songs are balanced out with more earthly subjects on songs like “You’re Gonna Miss Me” and “Right Here with Me” (Both of which, along with “Say” would be very well received on classic rock radio.).
There’s nary a misstep on the album, other than a slightly awkward chorus or two, and even those songs aren’t songs I would skip. It’s very strong album from top to bottom, and it’s one I’ll be listening to for a while.