When a group literally brands themselves a band of heathens they better have something besides mere paganism to back it up. A song with an opening chord that sounds plucked right from ‘Street Fighting Man’ is a good place to start. The Band of Heathens are another in a seemingly endless line of quality Americana/roots-rock bands out of Austin, Texas. Established in 2005, they’ve released five studio albums and nearly as many live ones. Their latest is 2016’s Duende, which the band’s website identifies as a word taken from Spanish flamenco music and used to describe a heightened state of emotion, expression and authenticity, attributes to which they say they aspire as musicians. I guess that’s all pretty cool, but it might come off as a tad pretentious if they weren’t also so damn good.
Having starting out with that Keith Richards-like riff, this track settles right into an early Black Crowes feel and arrangement as it builds through two verses, two choruses, a quick slide solo, another verse and chorus, and then, when the bass starts to walk at around 3:12, it takes flight. The tune was recorded live in the studio after they’d spent a couple months on the road, in hopes that the recording would be able to capture the sound of the band coming properly unhinged by the end of the jam. I mark that as a success. I even think the “Woo!” vocal flourishes in this ending jam section recall the “Woo woo” of ‘Sympathy For The Devil’, perhaps another nod to the Stones to bookend the song.
I saw these guys play live just over a year ago at City Winery in New York, and after putting on an excellent show for nearly two hours I realized at it’s end that…they hadn’t even played this (my favorite) song. What does that mean? Among other things, it means they also have a whole slew of other great tunes in their repertoire – they even did a cool cover of the Dead’s ‘Brown-Eyed Women’ – and more importantly, it means that next time through town I’ll definitely be back to see these awesome heretics again.