By Nick Kidd

At the Coralee & The Townies album release party at Cosmic Charlies on March 19th, my buddy Jeff leaned over to me and asked, “Do you realize there’s about 80 years worth of playing experience onstage right now?” I thought he was being hyperbolic, so I did a little math: lead singer Corey Wilson’s only been performing 2 years…keyboardist Jon Grossman’s only 25 years old…so that means almost all of that experience lies in the band’s other 4 members?

If that quartet was anyone other than Smith Donaldson, Fred Sexton, David White, and Scott Wilmoth—guys who have played in more bands than I can afford to list here (including The Swells, Tallboys, Big Maracas, and Yonders)—I might have responded, “Bullshit.” But Jeff’s assessment wasn’t mere hyperbole: Coralee & The Townies have experience out the wazoo. Hearing them live, however, transcends linear calculations of time. One can hardly tell the difference between originals and cover songs; they all sound like classics.

That’s what makes their debut EP so timely. The self-titled EP, a five-song collection of original material, gives the band’s creative disposition a more discrete environment. Here, Wilson’s undeniable vocal talents make quick work of stealing the show (11 seconds, to be exact) on album opener “Wings on the Borrow.” It’s a song of courage and compromise, of fearing love but discarding inhibitions. The remainder of the album runs through a variety of traditional roots-rock/country modes to reveal Wilson as an excellent songwriter and a woman with little use for pining or regret. Her narratives are proud visions of femininity and uncompromising tales of love. She’s assertive, confident, aware, and liberated, lending the band a distinctive guiding voice.

I sensed that Wilson’s aware she’s got a good thing going when she, unprompted, expressed frustration of all the NPR coverage emanating from Austin’s annual South By Southwest (SXSW) festival the other day. It wasn’t just that she felt bombarded by the bevy of artists featured on All Songs Considered. Rather, I think she felt left out, that her band belonged at SXSW too. And I happen to think she’s right. Take from that what you will, but Wilson’s drive is hard to question after you’ve looked inside her lyrics. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she’d already picked up a 2011 calendar just to highlight the dates of March 11-15, next year’s SXSW.

With so much talent in their stable, the future looks bright for Coralee & The Townies. But with the chops and the right frontwoman to take them far, it’s hard to put things in perspective. They are, after all, still a new band and this is their first recorded material (seriously: there weren’t even songs on their Myspace until now). So, there’s still room to grow. And Wilson, who’s already stealing the show, has barely scratched the surface according to keyboardist Grossman. “If she were a basketball player, you’d say she has tremendous upside.” With all the brilliance on display with this debut EP, in keeping with the basketball vernacular, that’s a downright scary thought.

Coralee & The Townies will be performing at Lynagh’s on Saturday April 3rd.

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