If you take out a map and measure the midway point between San Francisco and Chapel Hill, North Carolina — the homes of songwriters Avi Vinocur and Patrick Dyer Wolf, respectively — you’ll find an unincorporated town called Goodnight, Texas (population at last count: 28). That’s what the duo discovered when they went looking for the center of their long-distance collaboration, a musical project that sounds, appropriately enough, like a cross-country drive on Interstate 40: Expansive, full of possibility, American in every sense of the word — the perfect place for missing someone but regretting nothing, for losing yourself in the crackle of guitar through speakers and having a good long think.
The band’s contagiously entertaining dynamic at live shows, as well as the album’s energy, soul and range — from red-blooded, foot-stomping rock ’n’ roll to wistful front porch ballads to haunting tales of doomed romance — has made devotees out of both music critics and a growing legion of fans spread out across the country.
Americana is arguably an overused term at the moment — but what sets Goodnight, Texas apart from the pack is its richly imagined, full-color stories. Uncle John Farquhar, the bands sophomore record, showcases this talent perhaps better than ever, with the two songwriters’ styles playing off each other to great effect, balancing a wry sense of humor with an obvious respect for the ghosts of this country’s past.
Whether in Vinocur’s realm of epic sagas of loss and animated hit-the-road tunes or Wolf’s natural gift for deceptively sparse, emotion-driven songwriting, we can feel the sun-baked earth, taste the sweat of a day’s labor, hear the hound dog howling in the yard. Our protagonists are lonely travelers and scorned lovers ad sympathetically conjured bank robbers, and for the duration of a song, we are rooting for them with all we’ve got.