James Hyland & The South Austin Jug Band, Broken Spoke, Wednesday 14

Live Shots

James Hyland & The South Austin Jug Band

Broken Spoke, Wednesday 14

There's a phenomenon out of Texas that's got some folks in the media, primarily critics and radio programmers, scratching their heads. It's being called "Texas music," and its primary purveyors are Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green, and Charlie Robison -- not exactly critical darlings, but artists who write solid songs with a country flavor. James Hyland and his band want very much to be part of this newly minted trend. They wear the requisite beat-up cowboy hats, while the bass player plays barefoot -- yep, they've got the look down pat. They're young and competent, and their musical ability has grown since the last time we caught up with them. The problem is the songwriting's lack of originality. Every song sounds like it could have been written by someone like Keen, Robison, or maybe Steve Earle -- admittedly not bad role models, but Hyland and friends for the most part seem to imitate without adding anything new. Another problem is Hyland's singing, an affected drawl that makes every song start to sound the same, even when the band manages to successfully vary musical tempos throughout its relatively brief set, as they did at the Spoke. The standout player is fiddler Warren Hood (son of Champ), who's got a nice and easy touch that doesn't prevent him from letting loose with some lightning runs. The rest of the band was overshadowed by Hood's finesse, but the audience, a healthy mix of young and old as always at the Spoke, didn't seem to notice. They showed hearty approval to the drummerless band's tales of the working class and broken hearts. The "Texas music" audience is growing, despite its perceived lack of substance and originality, and critics be damned. There were only a handful of badges and wristbands spotted at this show, and the locals and regulars seemed to like to like it just fine. For Hyland and friends, that was surely enough.

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