Recording information: The Lago Vista Farmhouse, Casa Whiskey, Austin, TX.
Taking its name from acclaimed Western novelist Louis L'Amour's memoir, Education of a Wandering Man finds Lone Star State troubadours Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance delivering another slick and soulful set of T-crossing and I-dotting Texas Americana. Bigger, brighter, and more musically adventurous than 2014's largely bucolic Utah, Education of a Wandering Man barrels out of the gate with two of its most infectious cuts, the punchy, blues-bent "Company Man" and the rousing, radio-ready single "Love Is a Burden." Echoes of past dalliances with breezy, Eagles-esque sunset-pop surface on the easy riding "Journeyman," and the slow-burn country-folk of "American Dream" and "Almost All the Time" support the duo's well-documented Everly Brothers obsession, but Clay and Chance seem to have made the jump from small-town bards to big-city players with great aplomb. Their forays into Motown ("Midnight Hour"), red dirt country ("Back to Austin"), and twangy, Mavericks-esque retro-pop ("Done Mr. Wrong") fall right in line, commercially speaking, with their more traditional offerings -- the sweet, straight up waltz "Always Been Wild" is a mid-album gem -- resulting in something that feels both shiny and new and unmistakably familiar. ~ James Christopher Monger