Lone Star Sounds: New music from Fox and the Bird and more

Posted 7:13am on Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014

With another week comes another round of fresh local albums for public consumption. Let’s take a spin through three of this week’s noteworthy releases.

Fox and the Bird, ‘Darkest Hours’

When I Was Young, the opening track of Fox and the Bird’s sophomore record Darkest Hours, is a scant 43 seconds, but it distills the Dallas quintet to its essence. The voices arrive, one by one, until they’re locked together in harmony — music being made in its purest form by a band describing itself as “a choral collective of rotating songwriters and singers.” That tangible joy carries through the self-produced album, which is notably darker than its predecessor, 2011’s Floating Feather. “Hearts, they break at night,” goes one forlorn line in Habit, “like the aging and the dimming of our sight.” (The downbeat mood even extends to its hometown, as the group works in an affable cover of Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s mildly caustic Dallas.) Still, there is beauty in the bleakness, as the group ( Dan Bowman, Jacob Metcalf, Petra Kelly, Paul Grass and Sarah Scott) marshals its ample skill in service of sparkling songcraft.

Online: foxandthebird.com

Ronald Shannon Jackson, ‘Live at the Kessler’

Just days after what would’ve been his 74th birthday, the late Ronald Shannon Jackson’s final North Texas performance (and last live appearance anywhere) was set to be released on iTunes. Live at the Kessler, recorded in July 2012 by the Oak Cliff venue’s masterful sound engineer Paul Quigg, captures the Fort Worth native working through original material (People We Love; Petals) and covers from the likes of Wayne Shorter, backed by bassist Melvin Gibbs, guitarist Gregg Prickett, trumpeter John Wier and violinist Leonard Hayward. This bittersweet, seven-track offering is the first in what will hopefully become a steady stream of as-yet-unreleased Jackson material — the composer/drummer’s son and executor of his estate, Talkeye Jackson, is working with Britt Robisheaux and Curtis Heath to posthumously release the sonic and visual projects that Jackson was working on at the time of his death.

Online: ronaldshannon jackson.com

Reverend Horton Heat, ‘REV’

Like scorching Texas summers or disappointing Dallas Cowboys seasons, you pretty much know what you’re going to get when you press play on a new Reverend Horton Heat record, but that doesn’t diminish its pleasures in the least. REV, the Dallas psychobilly trio’s 11th studio effort (in stores Tuesday), doesn’t shake up the formula too much — there’s plenty of hot rods ( Smell of Gasoline), ’50s sci-fi kitsch ( Zombie Dumb) and red-blooded animal urges ( Let Me Teach You How to Eat) spread across the 13 tracks here. Adept at goosing up-tempo country-rock with enough attitude and twang for five bands, Reverend Horton Heat proves the old axiom true: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Online: reverendhortonheat.com

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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