Texas Renegade with Bobby Duncan
9 p.m. Friday
Wormy Dog Saloon
311 E. Sheridan
The name Texas Renegade may suggest rebellion, but its spirit is something wholesome, hearty and blue-collar. The five country boys from San Marcos just go out and do their job, entertaining folks with a lighthearted stage show and songs the blend country, rock and pop sensibilities, carving out a corner of the Texas red-dirt scene all their own.
Despite a recent lineup change, the band's been going strong for eight years, and is currently touring to support its third album, "Bad Dreams and Other Things."
Texas Renegade is anchored by front man Andy Bertelsen and twins Eli and Tyson Carver on bass and guitar, respectively. The three have lived and raised hell together for almost seven years, many of them while attending Texas State University and performing nearly 200 times a year.
"If you're in school, you're working and playing, there has to be a line where you say, 'Here's responsibility and I have to stop on that side of it every now and then.' We were pretty good at knowing the line and walking right on the edge of it," Tyson Carver said with a laugh.
Walking the line is something the group's sound does, too, balancing rustic twang, rock swagger and folksy pop. It's not an approach they happened on in their attempts to ape Reckless Kelly. Although Renegade's 2004 debut, "3 a.m.," recalls Reckless Kelly and similar acts from the early 2000s red-dirt music scene, the next two albums forged their own pop-inflected sound.
"Once we got around to 'After Everything' and 'Bad Dreams and Other Things,' a little more of Andy's writing style comes through, stuff with more of the pop vibe that was going on in the late 90s " Shawn Mullins, Wallflowers, Counting Crows " that we grew up on personally," Carver said. "We are very happy that we did that. It's a defining thing and, in some respects, it's been a little more difficult to gain movement in the scene, because it is a little bit different. But for us personally, it's more of a goal for us to keep moving in our direction than to do whatever's popular for this six-month period. We do what we do, and we don't really know how to do anything different."
There's plenty to love about songs like the ambling country-rock ballad "Pay the Devil," which recalls the Eli Young Band with its sticky hook, and the organ-fueled ballad "Lipstick." It's one of several tracks utilizing guests to help fill out the sound.
"We're not set up to play every song the way we feel like the songs should be played. On the record, we want it to be that way," Carver said. "That's kind of our approach to doing records: whatever's best for the songs. We'll put it on there whether we can play it live or not."
Of course, playing live has never been a problem for Texas Renegade, which has been named Live Band of the Year at the Texas Music Awards twice, in 2006 and 2008. It wins fans with both an energetic performance and easygoing manner.
"We've done it enough that we have confidence in what we're doing, and I think people see that. They see us interacting onstage. We're more than just musicians playing together " we're all great friends," Carver said.
Although longtime harmonica player Kasey Klepfer moved on after a New Year's Eve show, the band has yet to miss a beat. The open slot was filled by guitarist Hunter St. Marie, whose sizzling licks and tight slide playing bring a new element.
"Kasey had been with us for six years and was a big defining part of what we do. We were all a little concerned about what we were going to do, so we decided to pick up Hunter St. Marie, and everything has worked out beautifully," Carver said. "After this transition period, we're looking to write a new book, not just a new chapter. I think the next record is going to be fairly different than either one of the previous two, but still us."