Lonesome Heroes

Lonesome Heroes
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Can’t Stand Still is my reconciliation with the road and my response to the end of 7 years on the road with Landry McMeans,” reflects Rich Russell, frontman and mainstay of The Lonesome Heroes. A lot has changed in the 2 years since the duo that Austin Chronicle anointed “an institution of Austin’s psych-country scene” dropped their debut full-lengthDaydream Western to rave reviews for their compelling blend of indie-psych and country.

Russell and McMeans split up, McMeans kept the 1967 Shasta trailer that the pair had traveled in while devoting themselves to the western American roving tour that Denver Thread called their “1,974-mile-long art project,” and Russell kept the van, picking up a dynamic new group of musicians along the way. “I originally formed The Lonesome Heroes as a full band before I met Landry, but we preferred touring as a duo with her dobro and voice filling out our sound so well,” Russell explains. “After our split, I borrowed a great rhythm section from my friends’ band Fire in the Pines in San Marcos, TX, and the musical chemistry and new energy was instant. We rehearsed and learned the new songs in the spring of 2013 and played about 50 road shows that summer as the band that would recordCan’t Stand Still.”

In 2014, The Lonesome Heroes found itself reformed as a full time 4 piece. The dobro/acoustic guitar duo expanded to a standard rock and roll set up with electric guitar, bass and drums. Pedal steel, vibraphone, Wurlitzer, horns and organ round out the recordings, and the country core with indie-psych overtones remains, with an uptempo feel bolstered by a rock undercurrent. The band now makes its way across the country in a pop-up camper pulled behind a van. “We upgraded the number of members and downgraded the accommodations,” laughs Russell. “Now that we’re four smelly dudes hunkered down in a pop up camper, it’s less the romantic road trip of the past and more of a wild party on wheels.”

Rich Russell grew up in New York City, packing into small clubs to see bands like Sebadoh, Luna, Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth. “However,” says Russell, “I was always drawn to things that had some sort of country influence like Beck’s One Foot in the Grave, or the Silver Jews, long before I knew about country music.” He began digging into classic country, and it all began to make sense when he moved to Austin and felt completely at home in the city full of musicians drawing from those rich musical traditions. Russell spent his first year in Texas living in an abandoned nursing home that became The Austin Music Co-op. Naming themselves after Leonard Cohen’s “A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes” and playing out in a 1978 VW van, the band toured through 28 states, earned a sponsorship with QSC audio and a song placement on ABC’s Nashville, packed residencies at The Hole in the Wall, Luckenbach and Spiderhouse Ballroom, won a 2012 Independent Music Awards VOX POP Award and played SXSW 2013. After their split following SXSW, Russell finally sat down for a couple of months in Austin and, for the first time since hitting the road years before, devoted all of his energy to songwriting.

Can’t Stand Still is the result. The road continues and Russell intends to be on it. The beating heart of Can’t Stand Still is found throughout the record, most palpably on “Steel” – “Well if I was a highway, I’d be a thousand miles long / My road so twisted and tattered cause I don’t know where I’m bound” Russell sings. “And if I was a song, then I’d sing myself to you / But I’m only me and this song’s just passing through,” he continues, hypothesizing further “If I was a heart, I’d weigh a hundred and forty-nine pounds / My blood thick like soil cause my feet stay on the ground,” ending up at the realization that “If I could fly like a bird, then I’d flap my wings on back to you / but I’ve been stuck here on this ground / so saying goodbye’s all that I can do.”

Russell has reconciled with the road – he can’t stay away, and his re-formed and expanded Lonesome Heroes travel the same roads. “I don’t think of it as a breakup record,” he says. “It’s more of a musical map of the emotions and places I traveled through the last few years. None of the songs are overtly sad or desperate. They are more bittersweet than anything. I prefer to see it as a nostalgic reminiscence of that time period, and a look forward toward a continuation of the roving lifestyle that I love.”

Can’t Stand Still is set for release on CD and digital formats on January 27th, with a vinyl release on Whatbang Records scheduled for February 27th. The album was tracked at Spoon’s Public Hi-Fi in Austin by Brad Bell and Z Sound Recording in Austin by Ben Galloway, produced by Gary Newcomb and mastered by Grammy-winning mastering engineer Brian Lucey at Magic Garden Mastering (Black Keys, Beck, Arctic Monkeys). The Lonesome Heroes have played with countless bands over the years, including Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Deer Tick, Phosphorescent, Jim James, Mariee Sioux, Shovels and Rope, Wayne “The Train” Hancock, The California Honey Drops, Black Joe Lewis, and Gregory Alan Isakov, and will be back on the road this February with their new album.

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