The South Austin Moonlighters


Sat, June 24, 2023
8:00 pm


The South Austin Moonlighters found themselves with plenty of new music to record, but without a home to release it. Armed with a devoted fan base and a dozen or so tunes worth committing to tape, the legendary Austin-bred group set-up a Kickstarter and asked for the support of their legion of followers to help the album get made. If they came up short, they’d be left with nothing. $25,000 later, the group–which consists of Lonnie Trevino Jr., Chris Beall, Daniel James, and Hunter St. Marie–had the adequate budget to begin working on the follow-up to their 2019 opus, Travel Light. That album earned the group top billing on the Alt-Country Charts and a number of European festival appearances; things were breaking right for The South Austin Moonlighters, and then all momentum previously gathered shriveled up as the pandemic arrived. But the group–veterans of the DIY, rugged music scene in Austin–built themselves back up stronger than before, and the result is From Here To Home, the band’s most daring and accessible work to date.

Take “Make A Livin’,” the second cut on From Here To Home and one of many standouts on the record. Blues-inspired guitar and a shuffling drum groove steadied by a propulsive bass drum and tambourine combo lays the groundwork for Beall, whose smooth and confident voice gives the song an immediate punch. Written by Beall alongside Rodney Black, the song tells the story of how life can be cyclical from generation to generation, with father and daughter each experiencing the same relationship to work. “Down and out and overwhelmed/ Lying face down on the floor,” he sings, before adding, “Left alone to raise a family/ She’s trying to make a livin’ on her own.” It’s a story that feels both intimately related to The SAM because of the depth within their performances, but is also universal. It’s this balance that the group so effortlessly provides on From Here To Home.

“There’s the present tense, there’s the past tense, and then there’s the looking out at the future on ‘Make A Livin’,” singer and lead guitarist Chris Beall says. “I like to do that, I like for things to take on the frame of a timeline, because my storytelling tends to move narratively.” As such, the album takes on this quality, telling stories of working class folks and the various struggles that accompany this life.

While Beall and Trevino Jr. shaped the thematic direction of the album, they were assisted by Steve Berlin of Los Lobos on the production side. Berlin honed in on the pre-production aspects of recording, helping the band get to a sound that is a direct reflection of their rollicking live shows. After perfecting their on-stage presence thanks to countless shows at Austin institutions like the Saxon Pub, the band felt a need to capture that same energy in the studio. Berlin helped them achieve that goal, giving From Here To Home the immediacy it so clearly showcases from front to back.

“Steve’s so brilliant in the way he can navigate arrangements and production. He not only sees where the song is at, but can help us contextualize where it’s going.” This approach is reflected on other standout cuts like “Long Time Coming.” That track is anchored by a shimmering guitar groove, a melodic bass run, and arena-ready drums. Vocalist Trevino Jr., who also wrote the song, takes the lead on vocals here, but enlists the entire band to follow him closely in a call-and-response performance. It’s a story about life on the road, of the things that being a touring musician can provide and take away simultaneously. Trevino sings, “At 19 on my own, hit the road at 21, at 25 I realized/ A hotel would be my home.” The song’s brilliant breakdown was conceived by Beall and Trevino alongside Berlin, with the trio just chucking ideas at the wall to see what would stick.

At its core, From Here To Home is an album of rebirth and acknowledgement. It’s a recognition of where The South Austin Moonlighters have been, and a peek at all of the exciting places they are going and want to head towards in the future. Take the title track for instance, which is a song that Beall and Trevino Jr. wrote together. It’s a tale of finding oneself on the road, not necessarily lost, but unmoored. Despite this estrangement, the group finds power in the songs they write, carrying them through another day. “From Here To Home is a journey back to rediscovering why we started doing this in the first place,” Trevino Jr. says, before his co-conspirator helps him complete the thought in a way only the closest of collaborators can: “Because that’s the only thing we want to do–make joyous music.”