Reviewed by Doug Freeman, Fri., Nov. 11, 2011
CrooksAuditorium Shores, Nov. 6
Crooks had a sparse crowd at opening Sunday, but their lonesome, windswept country provided an appropriate salve for the third-day festival hangover and dust-embittered blues. The fourpiece's frontman Josh Mazour plays the classic Austin cowboy, with aviator sunglasses and long, dirty-blond locks spilling from beneath a cowboy hat, but it's the combination of his Neil Young twang and lead guitar and multi-instrumentalist Sam Alberts' horns and banjo that allows the band to flourish on barroom ballads and alt.country. Beginning with the highway call of "18 Wheels" from last year's Lonesome, Rowdy and Restless EP, Crooks' barren Southwestern textures hardly needed emphasizing given Auditorium Shores' beaten turf, swerving into a deep honky-tonk turn that cut licks out of Haggard's "Big City." Most of the set previewed new material from an upcoming debut LP, with the exception of dark foray "My First" from their eponymous 2009 debut. Crooks is still a little uneven and undecided on direction, but they're certainly headed down promising routes.