We’ve talked before about Austin’s blues scene. Artists like Gary Clark Jr. and Carolyn Wonderland recall local legends like Stevie Ray, Ian Moore, Charlie Sexton, Doyle Bramhall II, W.C. Clark, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Contemporary bands such as Black Pistol Fire and, to an extent, the Bright Light Social Hour update the genre for the current musical landscape by mixing in hard rock, soul, and a host of other styles. And as any downtown denizen will attest to, the blues are alive and well in any number of Sixth Street bars on any given night (one of the best of these being the Eric Tessmer Band). Bridging the gap between the two poles of Austin blues (the classic and the contemporary) comes the Black Owl Society.
The Black Owl Society is a blues-rock trio that sounds like Soundgarden and the Black Keys collaborating on some of the darkest, dirtiest, Delta blues standards. They’ve just released their debut EP, The Black Owl Society, and it is an engaging declaration of bluesdom. Each of the members has been performing for years in various groups, most notably guitarist/singer Buffalo as a member of Indigenous, a Native American blues band that apparently gained some notoriety in the late 90′s/early 00′s. They’ve finally put together a brief EP to showcase their talents, and it does not disappoint.
The mission statement is album centerpiece, “Down.” It’s a nine-minute slow groove drone around which Buffalo coolly noodles licks in between wearily singing the verses. It actually never drags despite hardly moving harmonically at all – a fact that can partially be attributed to the ace rhythm section of Charlie Jones and Nate Boff. They captivate even through their relatively simple parts. While the song would be mind-blowing while high, even the chemically grounded can get into it. The rest of the tracks hover around three minutes, from the White Stripes-y “7mile Creek Blues” to the rolling “Looking for Truth.”The Black Owl Society - 'Burn the Past'
The hit single, though, (if the world worked like that) would be “Burn the Past,” which could be an Audioslave outtake and would probably garner some airplay with a bit more sheen to its production and less bite on its distortion. The Black Owl Society don’t want that, though. Their bite is what defines them, and makes this experience sound like more than your average blues band. The EP is available through their bandcamp site, and you can catch their live show next on Saturday night at Friends Bar on Sixth Street.