Crammed onto the tiny stage inside Adair's Saloon in Deep Ellum, country star and SMU grad Jack Ingram was tearing through a revved up version of Guy Clark's "Desperados Waiting for a Train" when he seemed to get lost in the song as the band behind him picked up the already feverish pace. After the song was over, Ingram looked behind him in awe and gushed, "Man, this band is badass!"
That band was a local all-star outfit the Texas Gentlemen, the most exciting and promising country act to emerge from Dallas in recent years. This collective of skilled players has impressed artists and crowds alike. Led by local producer Beau Patrick Bedford, who runs Modern Electric Sound Recorders in Dallas, the Texas Gentlemen have backed legendary artists such as Kris Kristofferson, Joe Ely and Terry Allen at the venerable Newport Folk Festival.
Adding to the enigmatic nature of the group, the core of which consists of Bedford, Ryan Ake, Daniel Creamer, Scott Lee, Aaron Haynes, Nik Lee and Matt McDonald, is a revolving door of heavy hitter vocalists who have become "honorary Gentlemen." Jonathan Tyler, Paul Cauthen and even the locally beloved, Grammy-nominated Saturday Night Live performer Leon Bridges have taken turns fronting the band at the Belmont Hotel, the Rustic, Double Wide and Three Links, among other beloved spots.
In late 2014, inspired by iconic studio groups such as the Wrecking Crew, Bedford realized the musicians he had been working with were more than individual parts of artists' larger visions.
"We were touring with Larry Gee as his backing band," Bedford recalls between recent studio sessions. "We were on our way to Nashville in a van and we came up with the name after talking about groups like the Swampers and the Wrecking Crew, which we all love so much. We felt like we were a part of a greater community and beginning to create a sort of fraternal order."
While intriguing elements such as big-name singers, matching retro T-shirts and a colorful backstory are serious parts of the Texas Gentlemen tale, none of it would mean a thing if the tunes weren't killer.
The band's primary language is pure country-soul music.
The Gentlemen will soon release their first full-length album, TX Jelly. The band spent four days in August 2016 recording 28 new songs at the iconic FAME Studios, where legendary albums from Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett were laid down. The Alabama studio is a sort of non-Texan spiritual home for the band, as Bedford has produced records for other North Texas acts such as the Roomsounds there before.
With a few high-profile gigs coming up, including a spot on the Old 97's County Fair bill in April, there's little doubt the Gentlemen are in for a huge year. But for the band's de facto leader, this uniquely formed group isn't about the buzz, the groove or the kitsch.
"For us, it's all about relationships," Bedford says, "not just with each other in the band, but with local culture and creating a community that works together."