By Bliss Bowen
Pasadena Weekly Contributing Writer
San Francisco-based Americana quintet Goodnight, Texas was slated to open for Portland folk-rockers Fruition at the Lodge Room in Highland Park this weekend, a double bill that promised spirited music and camaraderie.
But Jan. 6, fans were hit with COVID-19-era reality when Fruition announced on social media that, during a short run of concert dates, it learned the hard way that “even thoughtful precaution and guidelines just… didn’t work. We have a few confirmed positives in the touring party at this time. We won’t be able to clear isolation in time to perform our normal shows for you.” Goodnight, Texas likewise said it was “in everyone’s best interest to postpone” its tour dates, a wise but obviously disappointing choice.
“Yes, we are bummed as well, but (it’s) definitely for the best,” Goodnight, Texas co-frontman Avi Vinocur confirmed in a follow-up exchange. “We’ll be back ASAP.”
While the latest COVID-19 surge rolls on and fans await news about rescheduled show dates, they may take comfort from Goodnight, Texas’ fourth album, “How Long Will It Take Them to Die,” due Friday, Jan. 21, from Burning House Records.
Two of its strongest tracks, “Borrowed Time” and the hopeful “Dead Middle,” have already been released. Set to a lighthearted country melody with a frisky backbeat, “Borrowed Time” imagines corner store runs and the fish-out-of-water awkwardness of a galactic traveler visiting when “land was burning, the smoke all up in the sky:”
“Made it down to Earth a couple hours ago
Man, I don’t know what they’ve done with the place
Yeah, they got gravity but I like it better in space”
The cathartic “Dead Middle,” whose opening mandolin lick evokes Buddy & Julie Miller’s searing “Chalk,” is awash in soulful uplift, Adam Nash’s pedal steel, and turns of phrase (“If I’m gonna catch hell for speaking my mind/ Then I might as well make it count”) likely to invite singalongs in future concerts.
“Well, the battle is almost over
And there’s no sign of a truce
We can fuss around in a stuck old engine
Maybe knock something loose
But even then how do we fix it
It’s an intricate machine
We can leave the car and give up and walk
Maybe someday reconvene”
Fronted by North Carolina multi-instrumentalist Patrick Dyer Wolf
(patrickdyerwolf.bandcamp.com) and prolific LA-raised singer-songwriter and producer Vinocur (avivinocurmusic.com), an ex-Stone Foxes guitarist/mandolinist, sometime Metallica collaborator and frequent Pasadena visitor, Goodnight, Texas’ self-described “garage roots Appalachian collaboration” is grounded in rustic early 20th-century blues and folk traditions. Their instrumentation — guitar, mandolin, banjo, violin over an electric rhythm section — handily suggests threads connecting past and present eras of poverty, inequality and struggle.
The taut rhythm of slow-burn rocker “Hypothermic” counterbalances the irreverent old-time stomper “Gotta Get Goin’” and its references to Harpers Ferry, the Old West and Civil War infantry. Loping to a rubbery groove and harmonies, “Elegy” offers collegial counsel (“Don’t let ’em get you”), while fingerpicked ballad “Jane Come Down From Your Room” frames a father’s humbled confession to his daughter (“It’s nothing you did that made me mad/ It’s the fact that I have been a terrible dad”) and the spare “I’d Rather Not” voices a weary sentiment familiar to many (“I’ve been dealt a hand that’s missing cards/ But it’s what I’ve got/ I could try to deal with all the pain/ But I’d rather not”).
Where the band’s accurately titled 2020 release “Live in Seattle, Just Before the Global Pandemic” captured its lively onstage dynamic and audience response, the songs and focused arrangements of “How Long Will It Take Them to Die” hit more quietly in the solar plexus with the recognition of shared experience. It may lack the immediacy of live performance, but it feeds a persistent need.
For more information about “How Long Will It Take Them to Die” and Goodnight, Texas, visit hiwearegoodnighttexashowareyou.com and goodnighttexas.bandcamp.com.