Hard work and lots of time on the road account for a quantum leap in artistry between the first and second albums by Stephenville quintet Six Market Blvd.
Founding member and lead vocalist Clayton Landau said it hasn’t hurt that experience has brought confidence to the up-and-coming Texas roots band. Confidence made Shake It Down sound more seasoned than on the band’s 2010 debut, Running on Seven.
“That’s just a solid two years of being on the road between those two releases,” Landau said. “That’s what you’re hearing there. Being out there and working matters. We were playing a lot, meeting new people and playing with different folks. We knew we had a better head on our shoulders when we went into the studio to get Shake It Down done.”
The band plays Denton at 11 p.m. on Friday, the opening night of the North Texas Fair and Rodeo.
Denton keyboard player Red Shahan, who joined the band earlier this year, performs with them.
To hear Landau talk, Stephenville has a few things in common with Denton. Home to Tarleton State University, one of what feels like a thousand shoots that sprang from Texas A&M University, Stephenville has a busy music scene.
Stephenville played a big part in the formation of Six Market Blvd., as it happens.
“There are all sorts of artists who are working, all sorts of bands,” Landau said. “People meet each other at open mic nights and start playing together. Pretty much, a few of us were going to Tarleton, and met at open mics or parties. Some of us met in classes there.”
Stephenville is probably most comfortable with the Texas country music piped in through FM stations, and best known, musically, for the Texas music that starving artists are making there. Landau said the scene is diverse, but roots and country music is probably the main musical draw.
Running on Seven tips its hand, showing a talented band of musicians favoring the familiar. Shake It Down wears more influences — Stevie Ray Vaughan’s squealing Southwest blues on “Say It,” and streaks of bluegrass reminiscent of Abigail Washburn’s Sparrow Quartet in “Medina.” Six Market Blvd. isn’t bashful about pop-rock huff-and-puff, either, turning out credible licks and attitude on “Mailbox.”
Landau delivers chorus and verse with an unvarnished Texas twang. The honest drawl puts the pearl snaps on other tracks (“In the Name of Us” and “14 Miles From Home”) that could easily be remade in the image of John Mayer’s trusty adult contemporary fare.
And in “Mr. Indian Man,” the band sneaks the unforgettable riff from “Smoke on the Water” into the second verse.
Landau said the songs that made Shake It Down were road-tested before they made the album.
“The songs, we’ll write them and then we’ll put them in the set list and see how they do,” he said. “If a song makes it through the run, it’ll go on the record. We’ve been lucky. People have been catching on as we go along. Sometimes, we’ll play a place that’s almost empty, but then we’ll go play another show, and it’s like people will have found out about us.”
The band produced its debut independently, and followed suit with Shake It Down. Six Market Blvd. was taken under the wing of Vision Entertainment and Thirty Tigers, which then re-released Shake It Down last November, just five months after the band had put it out.
Landau said the band has also grown thanks to the tight-knit community surrounding the Red Dirt and Texas music scene. The band breaks bread with Oklahoma powerhouses the Damn Quails and the Turnpike Troubadours.
“The Turnpike Troubadours are just tearing it up right now,” Landau said. “They’re on fire, and they’re great guys.”
Landau said singer-songwriter William Clark Green has showed Six Market more than a thing or two about songwriting and expert showmanship.
“We’ve got a great camaraderie with those guys,” Landau said. “One time, we did a show down in San Marcos and we didn’t have any place to crash. William Clark Green had this trailer he let us crash in. There’s a lot of support there. Great guys, all of them.”
Six Market Blvd. plays its first North Texas Fair gig on Friday night.
Landau said the band will do its best to induct new fans into the fold.
“Before the show, we’ll be passing out the black bandannas,” he said. “The goal is to get as many Six Market Blvd. bandannas out there as possible.”