The Austin-based honky tonk band is getting ready for the road.
Josh Mazour has a job in an Attorney General's office, but when I ask about it, he plays it off. As the singer and songwriter in the Austin-based honky tonk band Crooks, he's preparing to walk away from it to start touring seriously. So far, the band has largely played around the state, but it has a good new album, The Rain Will Come, a booking agent ready to put Crooks to work, and they're in the market for a van. Mazour thought he had found one, but a mechanic discovered numerous problems that Mazour hadn't seen, so that deal fell through. "We had hoped to break it in on the drive to New Orleans, but that's not going to happen," he says.
Crooks will play The Howlin' Wolf Friday night with My Graveyard Jaw. He's the only original member in the band, which began six years ago as a two-man band, just him and a drummer. They weren't called Crooks yet - the name wouldn't come until the current lineup came together - but in that first incarnation he started doing a bare-bones version of honky tonk. When he found multi-instrumentalist Sam Alberts, things changed. "He's my David Rawlings," Mazour says, and Alberts' trumpet gives Crooks' songs a mariachi flavor. The current lineup including Alberts has been together now for more than four years.
At first, it was "rough around the edges," Mazour admits. "It wasn't very good." He grew up with country music, but like anyone his age, he also listened to rock music. Seattle was still big, so he listened to the tail end of grunge and as a teen played rhythm guitar in punk bands. The OD and death of a bandmate brought that part of his musical life to a halt.
At the same time, Mazour found himself responding to the core honesty he heard in country. "As I grew older, I grew more interested in songs," he says. "As I grew more interested in songs, I grew more interested in songwriters." That led him to Hank Williams.
"I identify with him on a songwriting level," Mazour says. "I like lonely songs, kind of dark. Hank Williams could write a sad song but in a playful way so you want to keep listening to it."
Williams was more than just a songwriting inspiration, though. "I wanted to sing in a band for so long," Mazour says. "I was always just playing rhythm guitar. I'd listen to Hank Williams songs - this was years and years and years ago - and I started singing along and found my voice, literally."
He was born in a town outside of San Antonio, but he's hung around Austin long enough to let its cycles cycle until it worked for him. When the band started, Austin wasn't a great place to be a honky tonk band, despite its reputation. "We were doing it, but there wasn't a big scene for it outside of your older artists," Mazour says. "There weren't a lot of young kids doing it. In the five years since we've been doing it, now there's tons of bands."
Sounds like a good time to hit the road.