Celestial Navigation
Ananaki Records

South Austin Jug Band fans may be a bit blindsided by group leader James Hyland’s new solo effort, Celestial Navigation. Filled with steel guitar-laden, thoughtful pop songs a la Austin’s Lil Cap’n Travis — a style Hyland actually describes perfectly on “Lowcountry Sound” —  the album is an exercise in soft-yet-dense country pop. And the combination of pop sensibility with an overlay of country sounds seems perfect for those who are growing tired of the rowdier “Texas music” thing and looking for something deeper and more musically intelligent. Hyland’s SAJB mates prove themselves perfect for these quiet, pretty, introspective songs that reflect life themes that Hyland gathered in 10 years of butting his head against the music business and the road. Don’t let the lazy lilt fool you, though. Hyland is a hell of a writer; “Radio City” is one of the few “what’s wrong with the music business” songs that doesn’t bore us to death: “Nothing fresh ever gets through the door/I’m sorry but it ain’t about talent around here any more/in Radio City.” Hopefully Celestial Navigation will put Hyland on the path to greater success and visibility, and lead some old listeners to new levels of maturity. What a beautiful pop-country gem and high-protein food for thought. — WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH