Brian Pounds has spent the past six years as Austin’s best-kept musical secret. On Sept. 2, 2014, the singer-songwriter takes a bold step into the national spotlight with the release of his new EP, Strikes and Gutters.
The five-song album is a roots-rock tour de force, featuring well-written, catchy originals and a soulful cover of Shane Bartell’s fantastic “Sunday Dress.” Strikes and Gutters is the follow-up to Pounds’ debut full-length album, After You’re Gone. Reviews of that record, which came out in 2010, drew comparisons between Pounds and James Taylor; on his new release, the comparisons are even more apt, as Pounds’ deeply personal songwriting and warm delivery is reminiscent of the music found on Sweet Baby James.
A storyteller at heart, Pounds writes lyrics that are mature beyond his years. The closing track on Strikes and Gutters, “Jesus, Don’t Let Me Die (On My Feet),” is his strongest work to date. Written in the middle of a disastrous two-week gig at a rundown casino in Nevada, the song is a starkly realistic portrait of the music industry’s less glamorous aspects. “We drove 27 hours straight to get there, and after three days of being in a hotel room with four guys, I woke up one morning and saw seven empty whiskey bottles on the TV stand,” Pounds remembers.
Having left college with only two semesters until graduation and quit his job to pursue music as a fulltime career, he knows all too well the struggles of living from a tip jar, something that becomes readily apparent as he sings, “My faith has been worn down by all these worn out hotel rooms / Tonight I’m in L.A. just hoping that the sympathy of strangers will be enough to pay my way back home to you” over crying pedal steel.
“Keep My Hands to Myself” is that song’s polar opposite, as Pounds, who plays both guitar and keyboards on this song, impishly narrates the thoughts of a road weary man who is trying to get back home to a woman who’s spent far too many nights alone.
The EP’s opening track is already its most popular: “Someday Maybe Carolina,” written with fellow “The Voice” Season 5 competitor Austin Jenckes, currently has more than 14,000 views on YouTube, and “Hold My Head High,” a song that Pounds’ producer, Brian Douglas Phillips (Josh Halverson, The Reliques), insisted they record, showcases Pounds’ talent as a self-taught piano player, who learned on an old Wurlitzer he found on Craiglist.
Reality television is ephemeral, but with the five songs of Strikes and Gutters, Pounds proves that he is a talented singer-songwriter with staying power.