Austin's Leatherbag makes sturdy, lived-in pop songs that evoke three-chord troubadours like Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed and Jonathan Richman, as well as such latter-day exemplars as Paul Westerberg of the
Replacements, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and Old 97's tunesmith Rhett Miller. Singer-songwriter-guitarist Randy Reynolds has a flair for planting thematic depth charges in seemingly simple rock tropes; he also has the confidence to wear his mainstream influences on his sleeve (even if the band's name comes from novelist James Joyce's obscurantist tome "Finnegan's Wake").
"Tom Petty Summer," for example, jumps into the shaggy, anthemic mode of its title much like the musician characters in this catchy-yet-haunting track leap into their tour van, "trying to set the world on fire." Yet the tag "Nothin's gonna happen tonight" manages to disguise a cry of despair as an arena-ready hook. No wonder that, in addition to opening for the likes of Robyn Hitchcock and playing their hometown South by Southwest festival, Reynolds and his bandmates have been lavished with praise not only by the notoriously picky Austin press but by NPR and an assortment of influential music blogs.
The band's newest EP, "Everything I Once Knew," features the alt-country-ish "Wagon Wheel" (the languid, melancholy verses of which give way to a cantering chorus); the bruising heartland pop ditty "Amy"; the swoony, Velvets-damaged "Stand Close"; and the bouncily romantic title track. Look for the Texas troupe on "Austin City Limits" in the fall.