Conventional wisdom says the two frontmen of a band shouldn’t live on opposite sides of the United States, but that's never seemed to deter Avi Vinocur and Patrick Dyer Wolf. Goodnight, Texas is a band whose strength lies in unexpected sweet spots. Drawing their name from Pat and Avi’s onetime geographic midpoint (the real town of Goodnight in the State of Texas, a tiny hamlet east of Amarillo), the four-piece also exists at the center of its songwriters’ contrasting styles — via a 1913 Gibson A mandolin and a 2015 Danelectro, at the crossroads of folk and blues and rock ‘n’ roll, in a place where dry wit and dark truths meet hope and utmost sincerity.
Conductor is GNTX’s third full-length. It’s ambitious, dynamic, and more electrically inclined than 2012’s A Long Life of Living or 2014’s Uncle John Farquhar, carrying the listener from barn-burner to soul-searcher to banjo ballad and back again, all built on a powerful foundation from bassist Scott Griffin Padden and drummers Alex Nash and Kyle Caprista. It’s a record colored by grief, confusion, joy, the weight of the world: in the four years since the band’s last release, they lost Pat’s dad, Avi’s grandfather, and Scott’s mom. Pat and his wife had a baby boy. Alex became a professional baseball umpire. Britain left the EU and Donald Trump is the president of the United States.
But Conductor is, more accurately, a record about turning points — personal, political, musical, global — and their possibilities. A Long Life of Living drew inspiration from the Civil War and Appalachia; Uncle John Farquhar, from family lore, in the midwest in the late 1800s. Conductor wanders through the American Southwest in the early decades of the 20th century. It’s a moment when the United States has claimed the land from sea to shining sea, poised to become the world power, a great furnace of both progress and destruction. Electricity is coming into its own. The world’s population is about to explode. Against a backdrop of desert sunsets from a century ago, these songs exist on a precipice — as do their creators, as does the listener, as do we all.