Long drives in Texas demand a certain soundtrack. Hills, prairies and farms are the stuff of country songs, but the kolaches, watchtowers and Wendy's along the way reflect a small-city life that hokey banjos and good ol' songs ignore. It's country, but it's more than country, and Li'l Cap'n Travis' latest, ...In All Their Splendor, fits such a drive perfectly.
Though the Austin band tiptoes into rock and soul territories, LCT's sleepy songs are decidedly C&W. The guys cut loose a bit, including the slide guitar wail of "With Caroline" and the My Morning Jacket explosion of "Broken Headlight," but the band otherwise avoids attention-hungry solos in favor of warm, fully formed compositions. On "Swimming Pool," strings and pedal steel ride just a few notes above the guitar, and the result is gorgeous. Storytelling doesn't reach the heights of bands like Drive-By Truckers, but whether honoring the drunken girl who climbs onstage or a teen escaping to the city, LCT balances its emotional tales with simple lyrics that stick. Though the band's three lead singers lack the chops on occasion, they switch off to match the swagger or sadness of a given song, and when they harmonize, it sounds like the best bar sing-along in town. It's rare when a country album that delves into the world of booze and pain sounds wonderful without the aid of either, but Splendor is the kind of country album that warbles off the conservative path without the alt-country pitfalls that drive away purists.