Apache 5, Henry the Archer, Barrel Delux
Apache 5 is the band fronted by singer-guitarist-songwriter Joshua Loewen (also an occasional Fort Worth Weekly scribe), with whose old band Voigt I first played a Stooges song in public. Since then, he's played bass in Chatterton and formed this band, which added fret magician Sir Steffin Ratliff (Bindle, Pablo and the Hemphill 7, Stoogeaphilia) on guitar two years ago, and had the misfortune to have all of their equipment stolen on the eve of their debut CD's release show. (The thieves even stole the CDs, bahstids).
Thankfully, they were able to re-equip and soldier on, and from their performance at Lola's, I can attest they've evolved into a tight, organically rockin' unit, playing songs equally redolent of garage-rock grunt and Gram-via-Stones twang. As a frontman, Josh is confident but not cocky, and he puts the songs across well. Behind him, the riddim section (Chuck Brown, bass; Austin Green, drums; and the curiously named Maui Mang on keys) provides supple, agile support, and Sir Steffin creates light as well as heat, crafting solos of impeccable melodic sense. The album they're currently working on with Britt Robisheaux will be out next year, and should be a corker.
Speaking of guys that used to be in Bindle (and Pablo, and the li'l Stoogeband), Matt Hembree and Kevin Geist -- who's been making up for lost time by drumming in three bands, although he recently let one of 'em go -- are two thirds of Henry the Archer, the stage persona of soundtrack composer Richard Hennessy. He has solo and band CDs recorded prior to hooking up with the former Bindle engine room. A new one with them is due next year.
Onstage, Hennessy's kind of an odd duck, displaying a quirky sensahumour, and he attacks the guitar the way Nathan Brown used to (he's primarily a pianist). He writes taut, peppy pop songs that have a ska/punk edge, and sings 'em in a strong, high tenor that occasionally gives way to a falsetto: imagine Marc Bolan fronting the Police. All the while, Hembree and Geist are toying with the riddim; their sheer musicality and joy in playing together are evident in everything they do.
Finally, Barrel Delux is the band formed by what was left of Hasslehorse -- that'd be bassist Ratsamy Pathammavong and singer-guitarist Vinny Pimentel -- when John Frum moved to Seattle and Ray Liberio set out to see how many bands he could play in simultaneously while working a straight and doing graphics for evabody under the Sun (including Barrel Delux).
Although it's always been Vinny's band, he sometimes got overshadowed by Mike Bandy's messy psychedelia when Bandy was on board as second guitarist-vocalist. The arrival of the steady, sturdy Atkinson brothers (ex-The Waves and Slapp Canyon Reverb Band) -- that'd be Jamez on guitar and B.B. on drums -- upped the rock quotient in Barrel Delux's unpretentious Y'allternative sound, and gave Vinny a firmer grasp on the helm. The new lineup took its time working on this material before committing it to shiny silver disc. Vinny's perfectionism paid off, and the eight tracks on Back When represent an advance over the Coat Hanger Antenna EP.
Opener "Jesus Criminey," "Hallow's Eve," and closer "Dark Eyes" are medium tempo rockers with a dark, somber undertow, which Vinny sings in a bruised but workmanlike voice -- imagine Phil Lesh fronting Blue Oyster Cult. The single "Holiday" and the title track have enough jangle and sincerity to earn them a place on Americana radio, but much more to the point is "Barrel of Fun," which juxtaposes choppy, Stones-like chording with a wailing, high lonesome guitar line. "The Outside" contrasts soft and loud passages to build and release tension, with Jamez stretching out to good effect. "Supernova" features a repeated instrumental bridge that's reminiscent of the work Steve Hunter did for Bob Ezrin. Fort Worth Sound's estimable Bart Rose did yeoman work capturing the sounds.