For an album that’s equal parts compelling eclectic rock and Texas dancehall-filling roots, Peace & Cornbread seems like a natural title and a flaming image of soul food bathed in bright red seems the perfect image. Occasionally it’s entirely appropriate to judge an album by its cover.
In fact, the greatest strength of Peace & Cornbread is the band’s significantly improved ability to convey a mood in each song. Much like the title and cover art of the album matches up with the group’s overall sound, each set of well-crafted lyrics seems to have the perfect score and performances to match. That’s no insignificant feat for an album that also delivers the fun, catchy refrains expected of the best Texas music and the sing-along soulfulness of a gospel church that prefers an electric guitar alongside its organ.
That commitment to mood pays off most in lead single “Hills and Valleys,” where the attitude of a determined, caution to the wind romantic is paired with uplifting chords and keyboard riffs that capture persistence in the face of a struggle. Lead singer Jason Lovell’s vocals are confident yet somewhat understated, almost as if he means to say “I got this, and you do too” to anyone daunted by one of life’s hills.
Though neither Lovell nor lead guitarist Brad Haefner is a native Texan, they certainly benefit from having a lot in common with the Texas music scene.
“Fortunately, we have kept just enough of the Texas sound that appeals to the Texas music fans,” Haefner said during a recent appearance on Country Pocket, “But we still allow ourselves plenty of space just to experiment and to be creative musicians.”
Almost every track on Peace & Cornbread is written to play well live, something at which The Buffalo Ruckus is known for excelling. The group took home the top prize at the Texas Music Showdown and was named the Shiner Rising Star, both in 2014.
“They basically helped us get the attention of one of the local radio stations and we were able to get going,” Haefner said of the competitions. “Honestly I think we were all pretty surprised by our first real gig, which got really good reactions. It kind of ignited the whole project.”
Peace & Cornbread builds on that recognition with some of the band’s best vibes to date. “High In The Garden” is a master class in roots/funk guitar playing and “Carolina Calls” mixes an Appalachian breakdown with gospel-driven rock in a way that will make most any audience in Texas or on the East Coast “rattle and shake.”
But it’s tracks like “Troubled Southern Sky” and “Born To Die” that show the band’s evolution — Lovell’s in particular — most. It’s easy to imagine a more forceful delivery blunting the impact of either, but instead, Lovell cuts a bit of edge off his voice to go for a more triumphant and chill sound, respectively. As “High in the Garden” points out, there’s a party growing down in Texas. Also growing: this young band’s credibility.
Click play below to hear Jason Lovell talk about the cornbread portion of Peace & Cornbread, as well as some other Texas eating. Image courtesy The Buffalo Ruckus.