Fate intervened one day, when Waggener found Gean's name on a fellow Dallas pastor's website. In 2009, he eventually got Gean on the phone, traveled to Dallas, and uncovered a handful of unreleased material. Don't Let Me Fall, 2009's 11-song LP, was Heavy Light's first release, and the first proper full-length for the Relatives, 30 years after forming. Now, Waggener says, they're like extended family.

"They know they have to come back with a bullet," he adds. "Gean was sweating it while [Tommy was ill]. He toured solid through the '50s to the '90s, so he is on top of things like that. He's aware of what it is to be a working band. He sees the big picture. He defers to [me and Charisse] to hip him to what's going on today, but the general framework, he totally gets that. He's the leader of the band. It gives me some insight on how James Brown might have run his band."

That was apparent last month, when the Relatives did a taping for KLRU in the old Austin City Limits studios. The group, dressed in impeccably tailored, matching suits, was at full force. The crowd, a mix of Austin musicians, record collectors and students, gathered at the edge of the stage. During the extended breakdown of "Don't Let Me Fall," Cedric, Tommy, Tyron and Gean all moved right and left in unison, a physical manifestation of their faith — something those outside the church don't often get to see.

Gean (left), Tommy (right) and The Relatives
Gean (left), Tommy (right) and The Relatives
Gean (left), Tommy (right) and The Relatives


The Relatives headline Bridge-o-Rama on Saturday, March 3, on the Ben E. Keith Stage, 312 Singleton Blvd. The event starts at 1 p.m. and also features Rattletree Marimba, Quimikoz Del Son, Possessed by Paul James and Home by Hovercraft.

The final song was new, and Tommy and Gean apparently wrote it the night of the taping. It certainly had that James Brown feel, and Black Joe Lewis guitarist Zach Ernst, who performed with them that night, should also get a nod for stepping in and refreshing the sound. "Gean's the force that keeps it authentic," Waggener says. "But Zach comes in and makes it more powerful."

Add to that the fact that Spoon's Jim Eno is producing their next album, and the Relatives' second act comes into focus a bit more. You can't help but believe fate is as much a part of their foundation as faith. I ask when they started recording the new songs, and Gean doesn't miss a beat.

"Um, 1971."

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If he truly believes that "god is in control", why'd Tommy have surgery to remove his cancerous prostate? Didn't baby jeezus want him to have that?


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I was at the show at the Loft when they played w/ Black Joe Lewis. It was out-of-this-world insane. Truly one of the more memorable concerts I've ever been to.

Then Black Joe Lewis came on.

Just two different worlds, sounds and vibes. Relatives ARE the sound. BJL are trying to make that sound. Not saying the latter isn't good but hey just ain't got no soul.

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