Album Review – Sentimental Family Band’s “Sweethearts Only”

What is country music? You know it when you hear it. And when you hear the Sentimental Family Band out of Austin, TX, you know you’re hearing country. You better make room on your record shelf or playlist where you keep your most adored country throwback albums, because Sweethearts Only is coming in hot, and will be demanding attention like a hyperactive dachshund with detachment anxiety for months to come.

This trio of singers, songwriters, and rhythm section players has a somewhat unique origin story, but one that has ultimately resulted in the ideal chemistry for making great country music in the classic style of the ’50s and ’60s. Camille Lewis, Kyle Albrecht and Matthew Shepherd are all mainstays in the Austin scene, just in projects that weren’t centered around country. Instead they played in various indie rock bands and other projects once removed from A-town’s honky tonkers.

But the three native Texans were born and bred on country, and after getting other experimental phases out of their blood, started gravitating to the simple and timeless beauty of classic country all at the same time. It didn’t hurt that Austin’s country scene was doing the same thing, especially after the pandemic, and soon the Sentimental Family Band was booking gigs at Austin’s legendary honky tonk The White Horse, south Austin’s newest haunt Sagebrush, as well as a residency at Sam’s Town Point.

It was through these two hour gigs that the band really tightened their chops, did deep explorations into the classic country catalog, and eventually, penned their own original songs to add to the repertoire. Since the primary charge playing these bars is to keep the two-steppers shuffling across the floor, this meant any original material needed to slip into the set list seamlessly with the standards.

That is why when you listen to Sweethearts Only, you’d swear these compositions have been around for 60 or 70 years, withstanding the test of time. The voice of Camille Lewis is perfectly textured and sublime, seemingly born to sing this kind of classic country stuff, and finding the little contours in the writing to really emphasize the emotion of a lyric. When bass player Kyle Albrecht pipes up either as the primary singer or in harmony, it’s not half bad either.

The ace in the hole for this troika when they stepped into the studio was throwback country extraordinaire Billy Horton, who among other resume points is the man behind many of those magical Charley Crockett records. Just like he’s done with Crockett, Horton knows how to call upon the perfect tones, textures, and instrumentation to make a song feel authentic to the time period the Sentimental Family Band looks to evoke. By the end, you could be fooled into believing they’re vintage recordings.

Swethearts Only is ten great tracks of classic country goodness, with no slackers in the bunch. This is one of those album you press play on and leave running. They have those Floyd Cramer/Hargus “Pig” Robbins piano parts down pat, along with perfect steel guitar accompaniments.

And despite the vintage sound, it’s kind of cool that the Sentimental Family Band doesn’t overdo it trying to look the part like some of these throwback bands do. They’re not out there in found thrift store duds. They look like a shoegaze band if anything. But that doesn’t mean they don’t take the business of making country music seriously.

Austin’s country scene continues to be on the way up, and it’s due to country outfits like the Sentimental Family Band making classic country songs cool again. Released on Tomika Records out of France—which is also the label home of France’s Theo Lawrence who’s also relocated to Austin—The Sentimental Family Band are helping to revive Austin’s country scene while making music that will appeal coast to coast and across the pond.


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Sweethearts Only also features J.J. Swinn on Piano, Thibault Ripault on Guitar, Jack Montesinos on Guitar, and Simon Page on Pedal Steel Guitar.

Purchase on Bandcamp

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