A lot of Texas music is only Texas music by virtue of name-dropping. “High Plains Alchemy”, the newest from John Edward Baumann is Texas music because it talks specifically about Texas and day to day life there in the second decade of the 21st century.
In a conversational tone close to that of Adam Carroll, Baumann explores the state’s economic boom, the possibilities in wind farming it’s plains and the burgeoning hipster scene in Marfa. It’s wry and observational, full of details about the economy and environment. It’s a tasty musical equivalent to your town’s alternative newspaper, the one that’s a little left leaning, but clever and clearly a crusade.
With solid country backings that are “laid-back” in the sense that they’re not chest-beating bar stompers, Baumann tells the tale of daily life full of little gems hewn from close observation. The Chihuahuan princess in “One Night In Marfa” probably fled the violence in Juarez. “Eagle Ford” finds the singer rushing to get in on the black gold rush and put low paying liberal arts degree jobs behind him. “Dogs” is a charming, scruffy tale about faithless pets and cheating women that seems like it was beamed in from the cosmic cowboy heyday of 70’s Austin.
While never once mentioning a book, or using a word you wouldn’t hear in your average bar, Baumann has created a literate, funny, and charming album that manages to come across as a both a breezy record and a short story collection of hummable literature. Some songs set out to be the song of the summer, this album feels more like a summer roadtrip, a quick hop, skip and jump across the Lone Star State in the hands of a musical Eagle Scout.