BIO: In a time when the great singer/songwriter bands seem to be all but fading away, there emerge a few beacons shining through the fog of the often soulless, formulaic offerings of the modern pop music culture. Our Religion is such a beacon. Their music reflects a multitude of deep-cut influences from many of the master songcrafters of the last half-century....Dylan, Petty, Henley, Hiatt, Mellencamp, Clark, Earle, Ely, Stills, Taylor, Lovett. They're all there...but there's more. A fresh, crisp, yet somehow familiar vibe that settles in warmly, comfortably.... like a newly washed pair of old jeans. Our Religion's songs are filled with real life. A slice of the good, the bad and the ugly. Honest and true. Their vibrant stories are delivered to us through a dynamic, rich, multi-instrumental sound that's tightly tied to their deep Texas music roots. Music that stands firmly somewhere near the elusive crossroads of Rock, Country, Folk, Bluegrass and The Blues. Austin, Texas based Our Religion is Ric Swanson, Chris Watkins, Jeff Doyle and Jerry Doyle. Their debut effort 'Our Religion,' co-produced by Grammy winning producer/engineer Marius Perron (Flaco Jimenez - 'Said and Done,' 1999) was released in Jan 2001 on their home-grown label, Right Track Records. The release immediately garnered much critical acclaim and in May 2001, Ric Swanson was chosen to perform at the KERRVILLE FOLK FESTIVAL in the highly prestigious 'New Folk' emerging songwriter's concerts. Past participants of this elite concert series include Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Ray Wylie Hubbard, James McMurtry and Steve Earle. HISTORY: Ric Swanson and Chris Watkins were producing their own records before producing your own records was considered cool. Since their 1982 release of 'Winterkat,' the two have put out 7 independent releases covering several genres and representing their continuous evolution as producers. Ric Swanson and twin brothers Jeff & Jerry Doyle, who grew up as fast friends in 70's San Antonio, Texas first appeared on stage together in 1979, as 'Spectres' and have continued to work together, on and off, since then. Most notably, Ric, Jeff and Chris played in the pop-rock band 'Nightwork'....releasing one album in 1986 which sold well in Texas. The band played around the South throughout the 1980's, sharing the stage with such acts as Kansas, Foghat, Cheap Trick, UFO, Tommy Tutone, and others. During this period, Jerry Doyle was drumming for the popular rock band 'Emerald,' also appearing with many notable acts of the day such as The Pretenders and Eddie Money. Discovering a new-found passion for the folk-roots-rock Americana style storytelling of John Mellencamp and Steve Earle, Swanson ultimately tired of the 'pop-rock' scene and made his last appearance in this genre in 1990. Chris and Jeff, now joined by drummer Jerry, continued to play the club circuit around Texas for the next decade. Ric took an almost ten-year hiatus from performing with a band. During this period, he began to hone his maturing style as a singer/songwriter and sharpen his skills as a producer and recording artist, all the while continuing to absorb the works of legendary Texas songwriters like Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Shake Russell, James McMurtry, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett and others. Our Religion's debut effort also features Charlie Cunningham on keyboards, Bobby Flores on classical guitar and fiddle, Ron Rose on Banjo and Wayne Wilson on finger-style guitar. REVIEWS: 'HAILING from Austin, Texas, and sporting the songwriting talents of veteran Ric Swanson (vocals, guitar), Our Religion is a refreshing take on crossover roots music. This outfit, influenced by heartland, folk and country composers like Tom Petty, John Hiatt, Bob Dylan, Lyle Lovett, Don Henley and John Mellencamp, has it's priorities spot-on - crafting soulful melodies on an acoustically rich platform of pop sensibilities. This eponymous debut album came out almost a year ago and almost immediately got the band recognized for the rustic, rich texture of homegrown country themes. And from the very opening moments, as the vibrantly upbeat Wish lunges out at the listener, resplendent in leather and spurs, you know there're going to be more than a few uplifting moments on Our Religion. The mood is anchored to typical Western territory - Hero, The Ballad Of Travis Morgan, Skins & Shirts, Settle You Down and 264 Mount Vernon Drive recall the sweeping, panoramic prairie landscapes, supplemented with refrains of banjos, the fiddle and slide guitar over solid rhythmic roots. There's a mix of rock, country, bluegrass and folk, and occasionally, you hear something that's almost familiar. It does get a tad low on mood towards the end of the album, but given that at least three songs pump it up nicely, Our Religion ends up pretty much a sizzling, steroid-laced country album on the fringes of the mainstream. If this makes your goosebumps emerge, then surf on and get the album. A commendable debut outing indeed.' Sujesh Pavithran - THE STAR (Asia) 'Steeped in the Texas roots-rock, singer-songwriter tradition, this seasoned quartet have put together a pristine and self-assured CD. Spearhead Ric Swanson has just the right vocal tone for his original material. 'Wish' evokes a Stephen Stills vibe. 'Hero' is a bittersweet ballad with heartfelt violin strains. 'The Ballad of Travis Morgan' is a countrified shuffle with good guitar pickin' throughout.' Music Connection, Vol. XXV, No. 23 'Stand up and cheer. And do me a favor, ok? Cheer loudly. Austin / San Antonio based Our Religion has officially released the first single from their forthcoming second album and it's a hit. Kerrville Folk Festival finalist Ric Swanson and the boys have turned in a tour de force performance with Kenneth Nixon's 'Messenger of Hope.' Backed by one of the tightest bands in the Americana genre online or off today, Ric takes Nixon's song straight to the heart of the listener. Once again produced beautifully, Our Religion's music amplifies the core of the Texas Americana experience, bringing forth the sound of a band that has more than paid it's dues playing in roadhouses and honkytonks throughout the Lone Star state. 'Messenger of Hope' is a song that is sorely needed today. It's message is simple, the delivery sublime. It rolls along in the same way that great country rock songs by the Eagles or Poco did in the early 1970's. It flows along, the sound of the rock solid drumming driving us to put the pedal down, a warm Texas wind blowing in our face, brushing aside the tears of pain and joy we often face in our lives. The opening drum and lead guitar riff instantaneously forces the hand to turn up the volume and drop the top. Props out to Kenneth Nixon for writing one of the most pleasurable Americana songs I've had the pleasure of hearing in some time. This is a song that is as comfortable playing next to Steve Earle as it is the Eagles or more modern adult rock acts like Tonic, BNL, or Matchbox Twenty. The melody holds true throughout. Lyrics like 'there's a cross on every shoulder,' help to convey the idea that 'both of us are pulling the same load.' Once again, the production of Our Religion's music is second to none. This is masterfully produced music. It simply sounds good. Actually, it's better than good, it's excellent. This is the kind of recording and production work that we expect to hear ... and should expect to hear from any band looking to secure an artistic legacy in the music business. Props out to the engineer and producers. Yes, I'm a fan of Our Religion and have been for some time now. Their first CD is one of the five most played in the jukebox at the club I am the talent buyer for. Rockers and country folk alike play the CD. And every time someone unfamiliar with the band hears it, they inevitably ask who it is they are listening to. This band is one of the truly great undiscovered Americana acts around today. They don't tour much. But, if you're lucky enough to see them perform live, you'll not soon forget the experience. Bottom Line: Messenger of Hope is a timely and deliciously performed bit of Texas Americana rock from one of America's best undiscovered Americana bands.' Chris K., Pro Critic Radio/Gods of Music.
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