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Wheeler Brothers
Portraits
Bismeaux Records
www.wheelerbrothersmusic.com


In Austin, high praise is a fickle beast. Copious acclaim there begins and ends on stage, in the flesh; at the mercy of the eyes and ears of their fabled concert-going throng. That shrewd fact is not lost on Austin-based Wheeler Brothers. Born out of a potent local following via their live shows, the band is creating a gentle murmur as they get set to tour behind their debut album, Portraits.

Overall, the album is caught at the intersection of vivid bright spots and neophyte growing pains. If not for the acute elasticity of their sound, the Wheeler Brothers might be mistaken for mid-90's retreads. Instead, their craftwork stretches into the unforeseen, leaving the listener blessedly agog. "Mississippi," a purported crowd-favorite live, is the first track that warrants real pause with assists from the glockenspiel, barreling riffs, slide guitar, and banjo. Anointed with a punk ethic, "Home For The Holidays" is full of Modest Mouse orneriness (with horns and stammer to prove it). "Call Me In The Morning" bleeds post-punk folk-rock pop gusto - and everything in between. "Portraits" and "Focus" are subtler departures that veer off the map and take a Gram Parsons' tact into sweet delirium. Some moments do get wayward, however. "Save The Nightly" is an overzealous arrangement that crams in too much filler. "Ghost In The Valley," on the other hand, is just plain vapid and may have been better served as leftovers.

Portraits, on the whole, is a bullish first act. With the momentum of Austin's homecourt advantage at their backs, one would expect Wheeler Brothers to slay even more dragons outside city limits.

-K.K Coe

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