I've had James Hyland's Celestial Navigation on my iPhone since before it was released earlier this week but finally found time to give it a listen. I will say that I am glad I didn't let it go any longer and that I love this fucking album. I just started my third listen all the way through.
Hyland, formerly of the South Austin Jug Band, spent a good, long time crafting this record, honing the songs and the sound at places like Momo's, the Saxon Pub and the Mean Eyed Cat over the last two years in front of dozens of people (literally). The resulting record is nothing short of incredible. Cohorts Warren Hood, Willie Pipkin, Kim Deschamps, Robb Kidd, Chris Maresh and Dennis Ludiker lend their tremendous talents to Hyland's vision-brought-to-life very skillfully by producer Steven Doster.
Having seen Hyland live year after year in the various forms of the South Austin Jug Band and solo, I've seen these songs evolve and evolve (Come To Me, 2008.04.01) and I can say with some modicum of authority that the result is nothing short of perfection. The ten tracks on this record flow seamlessly from one to another and yet each is able to stand firmly on its own. There is not a low point on the record. IMO, that speaks to the strength of Hyland's songwriting and collective vision and execution between him and Doster and the players, known here as the Joint Chiefs.
"American Son", "21 Days 21 Towns", "Paint A Girl" and "Girls From Lake Ponchartrain" are my early favorites after three listens.
Please, please, please, do yourself a favor and go download this record from bandcamp:
Hyland is employing the name your-own-price pricing tier which includes FREE. Whatever you can afford, it will be worth your hard earned greenbacks or silver to pick up this record. What the hell are you waiting for? Go. Buy. Download. Listen.
If you're interested, you can find some recent Hyland live performances over at the LMA:
http://www.archive.org/details/jameshyland2010-08-27.fm.flac [solo, radio show]
http://www.archive.org/details/jameshyland2010-07-10.matrix.flac [Joint Chiefs (band) show]