The Broken Spokes

Some of the leading lights of Texas retro-country have split or faded, and the enduring diehards (Eleven Hundred Springs, Dale Watson, Two Tons of Steel, etc.) are hitting the point where their tributes to generations past are at least a generation old themselves. As long as there’s bar bands the torch never really drops, but if it ever does, Houston’s Broken Spokes would be solid candidates to pick it up and run with it. There’s something transcendent about frontman Brent McClennan’s clear tenor twang and off-handedly detailed songwriting approach riding atop the timeless honky-tonk chops of his bandmates (Willy Golden on steel guitar and Josh Artall on lead guitar/piano particularly jump out of the mix): it’s a bit like if Bruce Robison borrowed Wayne “The Train” Hancock’s band to rub some pilsner-soaked sawdust on his studied songcraft.  The band’s slim-yet-hearty, eight-song debut kicks off conventionally enough with “Friday Night Special,” a catchy straightforward hopper that plays gateway drug to the more emotionally fraught likes of “Moved Into a Bottle,” “Cloud Full of Rain” and a cover of Gabe Wootton’s “Love Ain’t Around.” The Broken Spokes aren’t all that stubborn in their old-school tendencies, but there’s also no ironic distance between them and the sounds they’re borrowing. The sweetly earnest “Song I Love to Sing” and “All the Same” would be good fits for just about any act atop the modern Texas country totem pole, but it’s doubtful that any of them could top the originals already committed to record by this pleasant surprise of a new band tipping their hats towards old times. — MIKE ETHAN MESSICK