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Dallas five-piece Eleven Hundred Springs keeps seeking new ways to make it through 'This Crazy Life'



Eleven Hundred Springs
8 p.m. Saturday
Wormy Dog Saloon
311 E. Sheridan

One of the best things about music is the way a three-minute song can connect us with our own humanity and to each other in a way simple words would struggle to do. Indeed, unvarnished perspective on everyday life is one of country music's best virtues.

Eleven Hundred Springs captures this spirit on the old-fashioned shuffle, "Get Through the Day," off its new album, "This Crazy Life."

Confronted by mounting bills and difficult times with no end in sight, singer/guitarist Matt Hillyer finds a little comfort the only way he knows:
"I step outside and smoke another bowl, step back inside and I drink a little more / And my mind starts moving just a little slower and everything seems OK. I know I'm not the only man that's looking for a better way / There's a lot of us hurting doing all we can, just to get through the day."

It's a poignantly plainspoken tune that acknowledges the need for a little play when work grows harder, but Hillyer doesn't take all the credit for it. The front man is quick to cite his plumber for giving him the idea.

"He's a buddy of mine " his dad's a songwriter " and he's always coming at me with these song ideas, and a lot of times, they're ridiculous. He'll leave these messages on my machine, where you take the phone away from your ear and you look at it, like 'What are you talking about?'" Hillyer said. "This was one of those situations. Then it kind of sat with me a while, and I start thinking about guys like him. I know a lot of guys who are hardworking dudes that play just as hard " just regular folks trying to get by and doing the best they can, and that's a real common story, especially these days."

Doing the best he can is a common musician's refrain, and Hillyer's been carrying that tune since he was in his early teens. His mom bullied doormen into letting her son enter nightclubs, so he could run on stage with Reverend Horton Heat and other Dallas fixtures. By the time he was 16, he met bassist Steve Berg, and they've been playing together ever since in bands like the rockabilly Lone Star Trio, and, since 1998, in Eleven Hundred Springs, a name borrowed from the Pearl Beer label.

The group's sixth studio album, "This Crazy Life," may be its best. The record ranges from jazzy swing on "Some Things Don't Go Together" to the affected, Bakersfield-style heartbreak of an outcast finding her way in "Honky Tonk Angels (Don't Happen Overnight)." The five-piece has crafted an eclectic, infectious disc whose pace unfurls with the leisurely grace of a long summer day.

The members produced the album themselves this time around and spent a lot more energy on pre-production, carefully considering how it should ultimately sound.

"We did a lot more talking about the songs and the way that they were supposed to go together," Hillyer said. "The results were good because we had enough of a rough skeleton to work with, so by the time we actually did record, we lent ourselves a little more room and time to be creative."

"The Crazy Life" has been on the shelves for little more than a month, but Hillyer already sees the effect it's had on audiences.

"There's been a resurgence of young people that are getting hip to what we're up to," he said. "With this record, we're seeing that again: much more younger folks coming out to the shows."

He's thankful for the response, but humble as to his part, quick to cite the influence of people like Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Hank Williams, Bob Wills, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard in shaping Eleven Hundred Springs' sound.

"We're not trying to reinvent the wheel," he said. "I try to stumble upon some poetry when I can, but if there's something poignant that needs to be said, there are guys that have said it with less words that have more impact." "Chris Parker

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