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  • Monahans Low Pining
    Friday, December 7, 2007

    When I heard that Milton Mapes mastermind Gregg Vanderpool had started a new band, it excited me. He's been an underrated talent, and though I vaguely knew of him when I lived in Lubbock, I've always said he's captured the darker essence of West Texas. Or, as I once told a friend, Milton Mapes is to West Texas what Centro-matic is to Denton. Though Vanderpool cannot compare to Will Johnson in the prolificacy department, musically speaking, the two bands tread the same ground, both specializing in no-frills hazy, stoned, and often superior rock music. To carry the comparison to Centro-matic a bit further, Monahans is not unlike South San Gabriel. Not only does the name derive from one of Texas' most beautiful natural attractions, but both bands allow their members the ability to explore hazier, mellower, and more intricately detailed sounds. Low Pining doesn't contain much of the power-pop/country/coolest bar band in the world-style material of Milton Mapes. Only one song, "Undiscovered," kinda-sorta does...but that's it. Okay, "Along My Shores" does, too.

    Throughout the record, Vanderpool and company meld classic country-rock with a more modern sense of atmosphere, so what they're doing sounds both modern and traditional. Occasionally, like on "Blind Tide Sails & Weather Vane Hearts," and "End of Night" they dive straight into the Blues. When they explore the heavy, dark instrumental passages, like on "Traveling Song," Vanderpool leads Monahans even further towards Bruce Springsteen territory. I made the comparison years ago to Milton Mapes' Westernaire. "Traveling Song" sounds like an outtake from Springsteen's latest, Magic. It also finds the band heading towards the bigger sounds of, say, U2 circa Joshua Tree. I'm also hearing a bit of Cowboy Junkies, but that's a bit too easy of a comparison, as the Junkies' Margo Timmins adds her vocals throughout.

    In other words, Monahans' Low Pining seems to indicate that Vanderpool's musical palate is starting to expand and grow in directions heretofore unknown. This is a good start, and whether Monahans is a completely new band or is a one-off and a new Milton Mapes record is on the way, the songs found here make me eagerly await Vanderpool's next creative step. Low Pining is quietly one of the better records of the year.

    Listen To: "Traveling Song"

    Low Pining is available now on Undertow Music

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    posted by joseph kyle @ 12:13 PM  
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