Once upon a time, long before tech boomed or Rick parried, Austin was the home of outlaw country. But it seems today’s hyper-commercialized rhinestone cowboys have sent genuine purveyors of that rough and tumble, heart-wrenching, hell-raising music on the lam.
Enter Crooks, a four piece Austin band (Josh Mazour, Sam Alberts, Rob Bacak, Andrew VanVoorhees) whose refreshingly original sound harkens back to outlaw days of yore.
“We lean on certain things but try to do it in a different way,” says lead singer Josh Mazour, who with his long dusty blonde locks looks every bit a latter-day Willie Nelson. “We’re a bunch of guys who played in rock bands before we played in a country band, so I guess we don’t follow the traditional approach. We play country the way we want to play it.”
Their way is at once unabashedly good-timing and alarmingly sincere. Tales of hard-luck loners, the open road, and the exhilarating potential of a new gun create visceral soundscapes. “Like you’re in Texas, drinking whisky out in the middle of nowhere,” says Mazour.
We’re a bunch of guys who played in rock bands before we played in a country band, so I guess we don’t follow the traditional approach. We play country the way we want to play it.
Crooks’ 2010 EP “Lonesome, Rowdy and Restless” won critical acclaim not only from the Austin music cognoscenti, but also from the likes of MTV and music blogs nationwide that adored the band’s gritty, evocative sound, which often features spaghetti western style trumpet. “That’s kind of our signature,” Mazour allows. “We started humming trumpet melodies at practice one day…and realized it works, and people love it.”
Crooks is currently recording its first full-length album, expected by the new year. “The overall theme is hard-working people trying to make ends meet, but it’s going to be all over the map soundwise: bluegrass, Tejano, the trumpets, ballads, maybe some rock. I’m really excited,” Mazour says. And with good reason: the band is collaborating with legendary Texas Tornados accordionist Flaco Jimenez on a few songs, and has teamed up with Austin producer extraordinaire Danny Reich for the album.
In addition to regular shows around town, Crooks will performing at CultureMap Austin’s Official Launch Party on October 6, and at FunFunFun Fest on November 6. Then what’s next?
“Get the record done by new years,” says Mazour, “tour in February, hit South by Southwest, and then back on the road. We’ll probably start talking to labels, but when the time’s right that’ll all come along. Until then, it’s been going really well just doing it on our own.”
Spoken like a true outlaw.