Heart of the City is a collaboration between Austin-based Brandon Callies (Black Tie Vendetta/Brandon Callies & the American Revival) and Dallas-based Paco Estrada (South FM/Paco Estrada & One Love). The two Texas music veterans have joined forces under their new name to bring the world even more great tunes.
The self-titled album contains 12 tracks with a bluesy sound carrying throughout, though the horns section gives several of the songs a more retro R&B or noir feel – think Sade. Heart of the City’s music sounds like something that would bring people together and get them on the dance floor at a bar. For those who prefer to sit back and sip their beer, you can’t go wrong doing that either while listening to this album.
In terms of chosen instruments – or lack thereof – the album varies from track to track. “The Lover,” the album’s second track, opens with very little instrumentation and some vocal effects that make it stand out. The song following that one, “Stash,” has an amazing breakdown featuring a number of solos and multi-instrumental jams, including bass, guitar, keyboards and horns. One of the more ballad-esque songs, “Waiting,” has an opening piano riff that is beautiful and haunting.
Lyrically, there are a few different themes covered on “Heart of the City.” There are the requisite love songs (and songs about love lost), but there are some deeper notes covered as well. At first listen, “The River” is a morbid song in which the singer hopes to be drowned; keep listening, though, and you realize that it’s more likely a song about baptism and rebirth than it is about death. On the other hand, there is a song titled “Depression,” and it’s exactly what you’d expect. Lyrics include “depression’s got me down” and “my world can get so heavy.” That track, fittingly, is followed by one called “The Silver Line” – a perfect note of optimism to bring listeners back in.
Among the strong points of the album are the tracks “Stash,” “Cruel,” and the final two songs, “Call Me” and “Don’t Go.” The latter features vocals from both men in the duo, and the result is delightful. If you’re a fan of bluesy Texas rock music, you won’t want to miss this album from Heart of the City. If you’re in Austin, Dallas or Houston catch one of their album release shows below!
To learn more about Heart of the City, visit the Hand Drawn Records website.
Featured image credit: Larissa Shouga 2018