The Vulgar Boatmen: You And Your Sister (1989)

While my mid-80s college years were full of jangly guitar music, there were a few bands that started up a bit later and carried the banner on into the 90s.  One of the sweeter-sounding bands around, who never quite got the same level of attention as that earlier deluge of jangle pop, were the Vulgar Boatmen, who nonetheless had three really fine albums of gentle folk-rock-infused guitar pop, lots of nice mid-tempo Americana ideal for kicking back and relaxing.

Their debut is a great place to start, really entrancing from start to finish.  Nothing here to wake the neighbors, or even to get you up on your feet -- the Boatmen were more about quiet grooves than big hooks and sweeping choruses -- but if you dug the quieter side of R.E.M. and the Connells and Love Tractor and Winter Hours and just wanted to keep the vibe going, you're gonna be pretty happy with this.

Opener "Mary Jane" sets the pace, maybe a little more upbeat than the rest, but simple and repetitive (in a good way), an understated hook that sticks with you.  It's followed by the title track (not a cover of the song by Big Star's Chris Bell, BTW), a gorgeous, rootsy ballad that presaged a lot of the Americana bands to follow (most notably the Jayhawks, probably the closest comparison to the Boatmen sound).  Other highlights include the longer "Drive Somewhere," kind of a reprise of "Mary Jane" but with more breathing room; the peppy "Change The World All Around" (another Jayhawks-like groove); and the insistent and infetious "Fallen Down," which has some great harmonies in the chorus  But frankly, it's not so much an album of stand-out singles-ready tunes as it is a really nice, mellow vibe as a singular piece.

Here's a live take on "Drive Somewhere":
And a live "Mary Jane":


  1. So so so pleased to see this band get some virtual ink. Had the great pleasure of knowing some of the folks in the Gainesville incarnation of this band and even taught Margaret of Margaret Says. Kind of a brush with fame?!?
    I love this album so deeply it always gives me joy

    1. Always nice to encounter other fans. I was in law school at the time, really missing the jangly guitar bands that got me through college, and was excited to find these guys keeping the flame alive.

    2. I am addicted to this band! Would love to have seen them outdoors, in the sun with a baseball cap and an IPA!!


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