Texas Platters Finale
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Junior Brown hasn't released a new album in seven years, so while the aptly titled Volume Ten arrives at a short length, it's mighty sweet. Brown's rumbling baritone echoes through the six tracks in full force atop his legendary guit-steel, the local country icon playing it tongue-in-cheek while bemoaning modern technology on the Roger Miller-esque "Hang Up and Drive" and "Apathy Waltz." Hometown ode "I'm Headed Back to Austin Tonight" and rollicking instrumental "Almost to Tulsa" are well worth the rides. Local quintet Mice & Rifles likewise return with a stellar offering after five years away from the studio. Third EP Lebe Wohl in Tejas picks up where the locals left off, raging roots guitars sliced by Kevin Brinkkoeter's low, crackling vocals and bitingly critical lyrics, especially on "In God We Trust" and scorching "Allegiance." The band's still at its best when Brinkkoeter grits his imagistic emotionalism into more personal angst, as on "This Will Begin to Hurt" and "Grind My Teeth." At the opposite end of the spectrum, acclaimed neon light innovator Ben Livingston lays down three new tracks on Flesh and Bone that capture his deceptively whimsical songwriting. The title track proves strongest, a winding tale of religious conflict that offers up Mary Magdalene as "super-fine jailbait." Livingston's songs are immensely interpretable, an outsider's amused gaze even at their most sincere, like the yearning "Gasoline." The Tourist & the Town, the sophomore EP from MaryAnn & the Revival Band, follows last year's Proper with more swooning, country-rooted pop. "Listen" opens upon Marina Hendrix sounding like Aimee Mann with more aggressive backing, Ray Flynt's percussion driving hard throughout the EP. "Priscella Blvd" romps even as the harmonies flatten, and "Sea Shanty" gently swells longing, but "Two-Way Broken Hearted Street" baffles, as its slowly unraveling crush inexplicably breaks into a funk riff.