Originally published October 2013 on ShortSleeveButtonDown.com*
Ear to the Ground – EP Review: Wounded Healer
by Sons of Santos
As younglings growing up in Beaumont, Texas, brothers Luis and Nick Soberon learned their musical trade by (as Luis says) “sitting front row for the Santos-show.” So when they named their guitar/cello act, it only made sense that they pay homage to their father, Santos Soberon, who plays the guitar and piano by ear, and taught his sons their first guitar chords.
After officially playing together for a year, Sons of Santos have whittled down their writing efforts to produce Wounded Healer, their first, five-track EP. Wounded Healer drops on October 23rd, and it’s a damn good translation and expansion of their live performance. The EP was recorded at Sewell Studios over the course of the summer of 2013 with input from a whole range of musicians on upright bass, drums, grand piano, fiddle, and saxophone, to name a few. Fortunately, even with such a large amount of collaboration, Luis and Nick retain their sound with ease. Let’s call it “alternative folk Americana”… it’s as close to the Sons-of-Santos-grab-bag style as anything. Wounded Healer’s complex sound supports the heart of each song. We hear the classical Spanish that Santos Soberon favors, combined with the vast and diverse taste in jazz, folk, rock, and beyond that Luis and Nick share and translate into their musicianship. The result is an EP with a deep focus and a lot to say.
Wounded Healer’s eponymous first track opens with a full two-minute showcase of strings–but don’t let this deter you from the rest. It’s a brilliant set-up for a layered progression into a song that is both deeply percussive and melodic, ringing and rhythmic, with vocals that are as strong as, though more sparse than, the instrumentation. “Nobody’s Watching” takes a turn from the expressive to the introspective, questioning the choices you make when nobody’s watching: “Two half truths are still a lie, but you keep your head held high like you kept your pride.” A love for lyricism manifests in “Strong Enough,” with a hint of Austin thrown in : “I opened my heart / under the stars / down by Barton Springs.” “How ‘Bout It” is an upbeat radio-friendly jam that verges on folk-pop, while “Take Me By Surprise” is a seductive, swaying growl about love in the language of war. Spanish influence runs heavily through the composition as Luis sings, “She was smart and did not strike until she saw, until she saw the whites of my eyes.” Overall, the EP rises and falls respectably, culminating in an exhibition of styles and a strong voice.
But just who are the sons of Santos? Older brother Luis is in year three out of four on his way to a law degree and a masters in global policy studies at UT. At the time of this article’s completion he had to email in to contribute, being as he was in freaking Argentina working with people in its northernmost province, Jujuy, on behalf of the UT Human Rights Clinic. No big deal. Though he can rock a mandolin, the drums, and a saxophone, he primarily plays (and prefers) two guitars: a six-string named Sophia and a twelve-string named Maria. Younger brother Nick is at UT Austin studying biomedical engineering. (When I met up with him, he had the whiteboard full of intimidating equations in his kitchen to prove it.) He permanently graced Austin with his presence last August. Nick and his current cello, Luna, have been going strong for about two and a half years now, but he can also play the guitar, mandolin, keys, and the glockenspiel. Renaissance men, the Soberon sons are.
So what’s next for Sons of Santos? In addition to promoting the EP and kicking academic ass, Sons of Santos are hoping to sit down and hash out some new material soon. Meanwhile, the Sons of Santos EP release party is at the Spiderhouse Ballroom on October 23. Doors at 9, Sons at 12. (They play after Chris Strand and The Parish Festival.) Cover is $3; $5 for under-21.
To listen to them on the regular, catch the Sons of Santos on Sundays at the Firehouse Lounge, and stay tuned to Bandcamp, SoundCloud, and iTunes for the eventual appearance of Wounded Healer for your digital listening pleasure.
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