Edie Brickell and New Bohemians return Friday February 19th with a strong new and anticipated effort, Hunter and the Dog Star via Thirty Tigers that should appeal to early, as well as new and casual fans. The band’s fifth studio release clocks in at 41 minutes; features 11 all new cuts, and is their first collective effort since 2018’s critically acclaimed Rocket. Recorded and Produced by Kyle Crusham at Arlyn Studios in Austin, Hunter and the Dog Star is a welcome return statement from a band that should never be counted out.
In the mid ’80s into the early ’90s, The New Bohemians were a band that broke onto the scene at a time when the music world was in the midst of change. Hair bands were giving way to grunge, and stars of the late ’60s and 70’s were in the midst of re-establishing themselves and their careers. With the success of the hit single, and MTV video, “What I Am” from Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars, in heavy rotation, it was just a matter of time before the whole world found out about the special little band out of Dallas, Texas. The New Bohemians were big with the college crowds of SMU and UNT, with word of mouth stretching their spell all the way down to Houston, and ultimately my increasingly impressionable self. The band routinely packed the infamous Deep Ellum clubs such as Tree’s, Suds, Poor David’s Pub, Club Dada and more, belting out sets of clever originals and improvs, along with jam filled covers of Steely Dan, Bowie, Wings and more sprinkled in. I attended several of these shows, and even collected and seeded a handful of live show recordings courtesy of the band and sound crew. Great times, and definitely great music that I remember ever so fondly.
The band quickly became the “next big thing,” with the record company really pushing them into mainstream. In fact, the last times I saw the band, they packed the Tower Theater in Houston, a show which saw me sitting a table away from Lyle Lovett and guests, before the band sold out the Bronco Bowl in Dallas, and seemingly moving on to bigger and better things. As is the nature of things, there also proved to be more hassles, expectations and the 2007 tragedy of multi-instrumentalist Carter Albrecht’s accidental death from a stray bullet.
With Hunter and the Dog Star, the New Bohemians have released the first collection of new songs that really managed to connect with me since Ghost of a Dog. The album opens with “Sleeve,“ a peppy homage to the addictive nature of the tattoo. The cautionary “Don’t Get in the Bed Dirty,” follows and rolls with an rhythmic, somewhat Prince-like funk, sprinkled with a brief, almost Beatle-esque flair. Therein lies one of the special natures of the band. Mystery, and their ability to capitalize it to their benefit, keeping the listener, and sometimes even the band, guessing just what they might work in next. Vocally and lyrically, it’s all too easy to spotlight vocalist Brickell, but in truth New Bohemians are a band that collectively become so much more than their individual sums. Guitarist, Kenny Withrow (also bass and synth), bassist/keyboardist Brad Houser, percusionist John Bush and drummer and percussionist Brandon Aly. Also lending a musical contributions were Cusham (background vocals and various keys), Burton Lee (pedal steel) and additional background vocals from Kelley Micwee and Alice Spencer.
The bouncy “Tripwire” followed by a lean and direct “Horses Mouth,” kicks off the second half, before the dreamy “I Found You” navigates the first noticeable jammy explorations with Withrow’s guitar snaking about the rhythmic percussion. “Miracles” returns to a dream-like feel with Withrow really stretching out again, particularly in the first solo, before Houser’s keys and a living, breathing percussion segue into the spacey “Evidence,” making this a pairing of songs that should really become a vehicle for exploration in live shows. The self affirming “Power” closes things out on an upbeat, punchy note that leave one longing for more.
Truth is, just from my very first listen, I didn’t feel a real connection until the second half of the record. But as often happens, with subsequent listens, I came to realize that the first half really sets the stage, much like a first set does for a two set show. But still, it is the second half of the album that really stands out and finds the old New Bohemian magic for this listener. As a whole, it’s an incredibly solid effort, one that soundly revisits and captures the magic of those early live shows, as well as the first two albums that connected with so many, myself included. Hunter and the Dog Star is an infectious, earthy collection of songs that retains a crisp, organic “small batch” feel of songs that were truly crafted with love and adoration in a family-like collaborative effort. There’s a special bond between these musicians, and it feels re-vitalized and fresh here. Good music should transport the listener. The New Bohemians have done just that with Hunter and the Dog Star. Highly recommended.
Find out more and pick up your own copy by visiting the band’s webpage here: https://ebnewbos.com.