Paris Texas – Bird In Hand: Album Review

Sweet melodies, tight harmonies and lots of nifty picking – Antwerp Appalachians Paris Texas show what they can do.

Release Date:  Out now

Label: Trad Records

Formats: CD / Digital

I’d hazard a guess that it’s the influence of Ry Cooder, rather than a certain Los Angeles hip hop duo that inspired Antwerp-based quintet Paris Texas to adopt their name.  Formed in 2018, the band have developed a trademark sound that combines a fusion of Americana, country and bluegrass with the type of vocal harmonising that would do credit to Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Paris Texas are: Gerrit Hüppertz (vocals and guitar), Dave Crokaerts (vocals and guitar), Dirk Peeraer (vocals and dobro), Jan Michielsen (mandolin) and Maarten Michielsen (vocals and double bass) and, on Bird in Hand, the band’s follow-up to their 2019 debut album, When You’re Gone, they’re enhanced by the considerable additional talents of Tijl Piryns (drums), Bart Vervaeck (pedal steel) and Laura Cortese (fiddle).  And, be in no doubt… these guys can PLAY.  The instruments blend delightfully together and, whenever one band member steps forward for a solo – and every one of them has his/her time in the spotlight on Bird in Hand – the rest join tightly together to make sure that every crevice is filled.  Bird in Hand is a joy, from start to finish.

Paris Texas – pride of Antwerp

It’s the easy-going, optimistic, Songbird that gets us underway, from the outset, I was struck by the sheer presence of the band; guitars and mandolin take the lead whilst dobro and fiddle provide the foundation, and the vocal harmonies are stunning.  It’s a pattern that endures for the whole album, and it’s a winning formula, that’s for sure.  Drummer Tijl joins the fun for Sometimes It’s Harder Getting Up Than Falling Down, a light, enjoyable, shuffle with plenty of space given in the production to the precise melodic harmony vocals, before things get almost rocky for the chunky Golden Leaf.  There’s some wonderful interplay between the three lead instruments – guitar, dobro and mandolin – and the vocal harmonies wouldn’t disgrace a barbershop quartet.

Bart Vervaeck makes his first appearance with his pedal steel for the album’s title track, and things start to get REALLY interesting.  I’m always a sucker for a dose of well-played pedal steel and Bart is a master of his craft.  The song is a slow, gentle, country ballad and there’s some nice harmonica touches that provide the perfect dressing to Bart’s flavourings.

The atmospheric travel song, Train Train is, perhaps, my pick of the entire bunch – and that’s not an easy choice, because Bird in Hand is crammed with excellent songs.  The vocal harmonies are, just maybe, the album’s best and the interplay between Jan’s mandolin and Bart’s pedal steel is breathtaking, whilst Tijl provides the propulsion with a soft, shuffling drum rhythm. 

“My beard is turning grey, with each and every day” is a lyric with which I can truly empathise and, on Where Did The Years Go, it’s sung to the accompaniment of a deftly fingerpicked guitar.  It’s a pleasant country/folk number and the sound gets richer as the band come in – especially so as Bart’s pedal steel soars yet again.  And that folky vibe is continued with Sweet Goodbyes, an upbeat song despite the desolation expressed in the lyrics.  It’s a story of a bitter parting of ways, dressed as a lively country hop, complete with bluegrass fiddle.

This excellent – short – album is brought to a low-key close with Willow Tree, the closest thing on the album to a straight folk song.  But, low-key or not, it’s a song that provides one final opportunity for Texas Paris to display, for one final time, two of the qualities that make them so special – some more of that wonderful guitar picking, and a final blast of those stunning vocal harmonies.

Bird In Hand is a joy.  An absolute delight.   

Listen to Train Train – a track from the album – here:

Paris Texas: Website / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube / Spotify

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