The Coffee Sergeants have, to put it bluntly, been through some shit since their last album, 2006’s career high water mark Coffee Sergeants. Keyboardist Mike Barnett wrestled with skin cancer (and won), while bassist Spencer Berry passed away suddenly. But the Austin psych rock outfit has persevered, adding new members Jimi Teasdale (guitar), Terri Uvietta-Teasdale (harmonium) and post-recording bassist Jeff Faris and carried on with Purple Martin Sanctuary.
The band’s sixth album (eighth if you count their cassette-only releases from the early 90s) finds it exploring the usual facets of psychedelia of which it’s a master: shimmering pop (“Allandale,” “Virginia Creeper”), burly rock (“Sirens,” “Heaven 17”), wistful folk rock (“Start All Over,” “Eastern Roads”), acid pop mini-epics (the title track). The group takes some new detours on its travels, too, exploring country rock on “Too Many Yesterdays,” snarling blues rock on the harp-led “Sally White” and an ambling shuffle on “Shoeless,” Berry’s final contribution to the repertoire. Singer/guitarist Carey Bowman is in excellent form throughout, laying out tasteful yet fiery solos and keeping the memorable melodies flowing, while drummer Doug Spinks lays down rhythms and fills perfectly suited to the song at hand.
Interestingly, the record seems modest at first listen, even understated. (Not that bombast is the band’s usual m.o.) But it takes only a few spins for the songs’ many virtues to reveal themselves and lodge in your brain like welcome earworms. Purple Martin Sanctuary stands proudly as one of the Coffee Sergeants’ best records.