Assembled by songwriter Greg Vanderpool in 1999, Milton Mapes began with fluid membership and broad strokes befitting the West Texas landscape that served as the group’s inspirational wellspring. Their 2001 debut EP, The State Line, defined the promise before 2003’s full-length Westernaire sealed the deal in a windswept haze of rock, folk, and country elements.
Vanderpool wrote with a light touch, encapsulating transient yearnings with enough ambiguity for listeners to imprint their own meaning. One such listener was Robert Plant, who covered “The Only Sound That Matters” on 2010’s Band of Joy.
“Our goal has always been to try and make albums that sound timeless, but ‘The Only Sound That Matters’ is the song I’ve always been the most sentimental about,” admits its author. “It begs the eternal question of ‘Why is music meaningful and essential to our lives?’ Robert Plant covering that song nine years later and telling me his appreciation for the lyric was certainly reaffirming.”
Milton Mapes morphed into the more rock-minded Monahans, who counted Sinéad O’Connor and Cowboy Junkie Margo Timmins among guests on their four albums. Vanderpool released his first solo disc, Rescue Letter, last year. Although he and Mapes mates Roberto Sanchez, Britton Beisenherz, and Jim Fredley never stopped playing together, Saturday’s show is the first in a decade for the band named after Vanderpool’s late grandfather. They’ll be joined by pedal steel player Phil McJunkins as they perform Westernaire in its entirety.
“It feels more like a celebration this time around,” says Vanderpool. “The songs were mostly written in 2001-2002, so it’s nice to reflect on that period of self-discovery and that era in Austin. I wasn’t here in the Seventies, Eighties, or Nineties, so I don’t want to wax nostalgic about Austin too much, but 2001 was a great time to be here.”– Greg Beets