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February 10th, 2009
Tuesday reviewsday: Two more bands

Scene Reporter

This week, we look at recordings by two bands from San Marcos.

The River Hymn
The River Hymn

The River Hymn is the full length self-titled EP for experimental rock gospel-esque group The River Hymn, which consists of Morgan Bierlein on vocals/synth, Colin Colby on guitar, Justin Filor on fretless bass and Miles Landry on drums. Comparable to a more soulful Beth Gibbons (lead singer of British trip hop group Portishead), singer Morgan Bierlein’s ethereal vocals are complemented nicely by penetrating bass riffs, mesmerizing guitar and rhythm drums.

The album begins with “In The Water,” an instantly inviting and dreary track evocative of an early Janis Joplin cut. Bierlein’s emotive, whispery vocals see-saw from a soft gentle cooing to a climactic howl throughout the track. “One Eye Open” begins with soft guitar riffs a low key bassline, stiff  rheumatic drums and Bierlen crooning “she’s passed out in the passenger seat again, with one eye open.”

Another tune, “Midway Colby,” goes into an unsettling epic guitar tangent which convenes with Bierlein’s abrupt wailing almost instantly. “Procession,” is an instrumental piece that remains actual to its title by coming across sad, yet sexy, and provoking a mental image of a funeral procession. The track begins and remains consistent with the slow drumbeats, weepy accordion and melancholy guitar riffs.

The art featured on the eight track album is made up of five intertwined owls atop edifice-like rocks in the three sole colors of red, white and black. The band’s name is on the bottom right in all caps. The back of the album, also consisting of the before mentioned colors, features a female statue flanked by three shadows, which appear to be bears or rabbits. A flock of birds flies across the “bears” and statue.

Clay Nightingale
The River and Then the Restless Wind

The River and Then the Restless Wind is the first self-released EP for local folksy Americana act Clay Nightingale. The band consists of multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Daniel Schaetz, Barry Walker on guitar, Jeremy Whiteon on keyboard/ glockenspiel/percussion, Joe Trent on pedal steel/guitar/percussion, Drew Schaetz, drums, vocals,  and Dave Yelacic on bass.

The symbolism behind the album’s title refers to the San Marcos River popular in many recreational activitiesm, and the oldest San Marcos bar, The Restless Wind, which is located right off the square on North LBJ. Titular to the album’s title, the theme of all the songs on the EP include the subject of drinking or floating on the river. Sounding like a puree of the Silver Jews, Townes Van Zant, and The Hold Steady, Clay Nightingale embodies and exudes a timeless alt-country sound.

“Eureka” features soft percussion, doo-wop guitar, a rich country twang and a church bell sound effect. Schaetz vocals, mildly sprechgesang  with a down tempo rhythm may suggest that he is unable to hit high notes. However, it remains essential to the entirety to the album. Missing Missing sweet, sleepy and indicative of a broken heart throughout. Schaetz is accompanied by female vocalist Stephanie Briggs, who chimes in on certain lyrics to show mutual emotions.

The duo croon in harmony, “I sure miss missing somebody, I sure miss missing somebody. If I could only miss you,” in the last stanza of the track. “The Bar is a Wonderful Place” is a playful ditty about the joys of hanging out at a bar personified by country riffs and a drunken circus-esque drum rhythm.

The album art is plain and brown, with the band’s name and album title printed in front. The back features a snapshot of two individuals who are most likely in the band clad in hair-rocker garb.

Clay Nightingale is currently working on their second album, which is set to be released mid-year. The River and Then the Restless Wind is the perfect album to hear at a dive bar which believably can be found on the jukebox at the Restless Wind.

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