At the midway point, 2012 is looking like a better-than-average year for high-profile releases from Texas artists—we’ve already seen an array of nationally noted albums from both icons (Lyle Lovett, Willie Nelson) and upstarts (Sarah Jaffe, Kat Edmonson). With the summer touring season about to hit full swing, the coming weeks are also looking robust and promising, with a line-up of records highlighted by a national debut, anticipated new sets from veterans, and a pair of subtle reinventions from restless bandleaders.
Lovers (in stores now)
THE STORY In six years together, the El Paso band has overcome its hometown’s geographic isolation the old fashioned way—by getting in the van and relentlessly touring. This move earned them the attention of the venerable Chicago-based independent label Victory Records, which released The group’s national debut on May 8. On the album, what initially sound like traditional three-minute pop songs reveal complex ’60s and ’70s R&B undertones. “We’re soulful, but not some kind of blast from the past,” said Nicole Boudreau, the band’s lead singer. “At the end of the day, we’re a rock band.”
START HERE Lead single “Bartender” swings at a frenetic dance floor-ready pace. “It’s got more swagger than a lot of our songs,” Boudreau said, adding, “Crowds in bars that have no idea who we are catch on immediately.”
Big Station (out June 5)
THE STORY In March, the Austin-based singer-songwriter earned a nice round of pre-release publicity when his South By Southwest set at the Austin Music Awards featured a surprise four-song appearance from Bruce Springsteen. More recent gigs have tested material from his eleventh solo album, a series of songs mostly co-written with Chuck Prophet, his longtime collaborator, and produced by Tony Visconti. “It’s not a huge left turn,” Escovedo said. “But I think pound-for-pound it has a wider scope than my other records.”
START HERE Anchored by a simple Eddie Cochran-inspired riff, “Man Of The World” reads like a page torn from the “Most Interesting Man In The World” beer commercials only with significantly less bravado. “It’s about a guy that’s learned to take a punch,” Escovedo said. “It’s about coming from punk rock and being able to have traveled all everywhere, seeing a lot of things, but still kind of laughing at the fact that it even happened. It’s me. It’s a lot of guys I know.”
Rubble Guts and BB Eye (out May 29)
THE STORY Dallas’ Tim DeLaughter recently reunited his 21-member Polyphonic Spree for their first tour in four years. During his hiatus he focused on writing some new songs that laid the groundwork for Preteen Zenith, a band that started as a low-key recording project with Philip E. Karnats, his former bandmate in Tripping Daisy.
START HERE “Damage Control” is a muscular pop song that sounds like the early days of Tripping Daisy. It also features a cameo from another Dallas musician DeLaughter met in his Tripping Daisy days. “I’d always wanted to record with Erykah Badu,” DeLaughter said. “And I totally heard her voice fitting the chorus. I wanted it to be low-key. And beautiful.”
All Fall Down (out June 5)
THE STORY The Grammy-winning Austinite has no reservations about her six-year gap between studio albums. “I need the time,” said Colvin, whose autobiography will be released by the HarperCollins imprint William Morrow on the same day as the album. “I have to live a little bit and get excited about making a record. And I know when it’s time. When you’re touring and what used to be new songs start to feel too easy and old to you, that’s when you think, ‘Let’s go get scared again.’”
START HERE The loud and revenge-laden title track highlights Colvin’s production partnership with Buddy Miller, the Nashville guitar player and producer who has toured with her, Patty Griffin and Emmylou Harris as Three Girls And Their Buddy. “It probably sounds bigger sonically than people expect from me,” Colvin said. “I told Buddy to put all the guitars on it you possibly can, until you’re sick of yourself.”
The Dreamer (out June 5)
THE STORY There are plenty of pop songs on Mr. Miller’s latest solo album, but if there are also more pedal steel and country flourishes than usual, it is because he said he decided not to worry as much about delineating between his solo work and the sound of the Old 97’s, the Dallas band he has led since 1993. “The 97’s have evolved lately into more of a garage rock band,” Miller said, “so they’re passing on things I would have expected them to like in the past.”
START HERE A breakup is at the heart of “Out Of Love,” but the title reveals a double meaning. “I wrote it after spending a long day with a friend going through a divorce,” Miller said. “There’s anger, but there’s also that wistful realization that for as great as it was, it might not have been great enough to keep it from slipping away.”