Cosmic Americana

Stone Wheels: “High in the 90’s”

While “Old Austin” is best embodied by Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, and Armadillo World Headquarters, thankfully there are plenty of other old souls still permeating that “country hippie” aesthetic of decades past. Take for instance singer-guitarist Andrew Gerfers and his homegrown quintet Stone Wheels, who shared their first studio single back in 2015 and dropped their eponymous debut full-length in 2018. Listening to Stone Wheels is like cracking open a time capsule from an alternate 1960s where the Lone Star State was lacquered over with LSD and polishing it with the clarity of modern production. Complete with beatnik principles, “flower child” connections to nature, and far out counterculture ruminations, Stone Wheels has stayed true to their hedonistic country spokes straight through the COVID-19 pandemic. And just yesterday, following up their 2021 EP From the Forest to the Sea, Stone Wheels ushered in the official start of summer with a new standalone single. Less of a heatwave warning and more of an Orange Sunshine-tanned flashback to cooler days (especially with the recent passing of Austin icon Teresa Taylor), “High in the 90’s” blows off the forecast and takes you on a rolling four-and-a-half-minute piece of musical meteorology, a lackadaisical Cosmic Americana masterpiece that’ll will lift your spirits, whatever the weather.

Modern Fools: “Wasting”

For as many people (especially bombastic media personalities) who’ve made a monkey of themselves in the COVID climate, we’d like to think that just as many, if not more, have done a lot of growing up instead. In the past three years we’ve seen a ton of such success stories, and today we’re commending the hurdle-topping turnaround of Josh Blair.

Even before the start of the pandemic, this New Hampshire singer-guitarist had already lost a friend to substance abuse and endured strains in his romantic relationship. When Blair began traveling the nation in a short bus at the height of lockdown conditions, he had plenty of time to reflect on his musical path leading up to this period of dejection; he’d been a punk drummer as a juvenile before graduating into bassist and guitarist for a hip-hop/psych/rockabilly outfit. But in this newfound, fragile mindset, Blair didn’t quite resonate with the overtly downtrodden discourse of many punk lyrics nor the slapdash style-over-substance approach of his subsequent cross-genre project. Instead Josh Blair turned to the matured wisdom of blue buckaroos like Townes Van Zandt and Hank Williams, and in doing so laid the groundwork for Modern Fools.

Rather than split the difference by going straight to cowpunk or psychobilly, Modern Fools embraces the timelessness of classic crybaby country as Blair’s first foray into bandleading and songwriting. Blair recruited longtime buds Justin Gregory and Jon Braught to record Modern Fools’ 2020 debut Seer – albeit completely separate due to COVID restrictions – and tomorrow, with the addition of Ian Galipeau, Modern Fools unfurls their formalization as a four-piece.

The quartet tracked their magnificent sophomore album Strange Offering together in Blair’s home studio, and that sense of unity really ratchets up the caliber of these forlorn originals. These ten gloomy cosmic country tunes arrive bright and early tomorrow, so be sure to set some time aside this weekend to appreciate Strange Offering in full. And if you want to open up the contemporary-tinged, vintage-inspired waterworks early, “Wasting” is where you wanna be. Like admiring the slow slip of sunlight into a distant horizon, “Wasting”‘s languid trot, softly-howled harmonies, stoic lyrics, sanguine song structure, and abrupt heartbreak of a final chord – all at just over five minutes – is by no means a misuse of your time.

Stone Wheels: “Nothing More, Nothing Less”

With Valentine’s Day this Sunday, we’re just about halfway through Love Austin Music Month. For the past couple weeks we’ve partnered with Austin Music Foundation to help showcase their compilation, ATX Gen Next: Adventures in Lockdown and today AMF releases Side B of the collection. It’s the same cast of characters from Side A but re-structured into a new experience.

Driftwood “cosmic Americana” outfit Stone Wheels wrapped up the record’s first half with their concoction of ’70s-era country and ’60s-style psych and returned for the penultimate offering on Adventures in Lockdown, “Nothing More, Nothing Less”. So give Side B a spin when you can, and let Stone Wheels roll you out of the work mindset and into a chilly weekend.