Spotlight: Milton Mapes

Cedar Street, 11pm

Spotlight: Milton Mapes
Photo By John Anderson

While most Next Big Things tend to burn quickly, Milton Mapes plays the kind of music you warm up to gradually. Once you're warm, their languorous fusion of rock and alt.country keeps burning like a campfire around which good friends talk into the early morning.

Formed in Dallas in 1999, Milton Mapes began as singer-songwriter Greg Vanderpool with a revolving cast of musicians. "Milton Mapes" is his grandfather's name.

"I think he gets a big kick out of it," chuckles Vanderpool.

After a stint in Nashville, Vanderpool and drummer Roberto Sánchez relocated to Austin in 2001; Milton Mapes' seven-song debut, The State Line, was released later that year. The disc earned regional kudos for its desolate West Texas soundscapes populated by protagonists reaching for something they never quite attain.

Today, Milton Mapes has morphed into a steady band with the addition of guitarists Ty Chandler and Jeff Jones, and journeyman bassist Chepo Peña, and with that solidified lineup comes a desire to use more electricity. The result is the currently unreleased Westernaire.

"If the last record was more like Neil Young's Harvest, this one has the Crazy Horse thing," describes Vanderpool.

Among the choice pickings on Westernaire is "The Only Sound That Matters," a warm, acoustic ode to boozy nights spent alone in bars watching bands play, something the songwriter often did in Nashville. Vanderpool's ear for simple-yet-evocative phraseology contributes to the sense of longing that permeates the music.

"I missed the grand parade," he sings in the marathon twang-rock opus "The Sad Lines." "But all I could think to say was 'Bye.'" Vanderpool also upends a century of songwriting with "A Thousand Songs About California," which eschews the standard protagonist heading West theme, instead focusing on the friend left behind. Vanderpool hopes their SXSW gig will enable Westernaire to see the light of day sooner rather than later.

"I just want more people to hear this one than heard the last one," says Vanderpool. "But more than anything, if you live in Austin, you want to play SXSW."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Milton Mapes, Greg Vanderpool, The State Line, Westernaire

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