When it comes to his music, Chris Flemmons is relentless. The Denton, TX native formed his band the Baptist Generals in the late ’90s with drummer Steve Hill. The pair would often play for tips on Denton’s cracked sidewalks, attracting a following for their unhinged performances. The venerable indie imprint Sub Pop soon took a liking and signed the Generals to a multi-album deal, and in 2003, they released their debut. No Silver/No Gold perfectly captured their intensity. The record is full of wide-eyed strumming, drunken drumming, and Flemmons’ raw voice.
But a follow-up to that promising debut was much harder to come by. Several versions were recorded and ultimately scrapped. Flemmons recently confided to Texas Music Matters that he didn’t want the Generals to turn into your typical indie rock band, and the sound he heard in his head became an obsession. So he kept chipping away at a collection of songs, snaring help from a number of Denton and Dallas area musicians, as well as producer Stuart Sikes (the White Stripes, Cat Power, the Walkmen). After nearly a decade of work, he was able to let go and press send on an email to Sub Pop that read, “New Baptist Generals Album.”
That retreat from the spotlight, that single-minded vision has ultimately paid off. Out May 21, Jackleg Devotional To The Heart is well worth the wait for the Baptist Generals’ cult fanbase. There’s a full electrified band accompanying Flemmons now, and he admits he’s still wary about all the corners that were smoothed out in his sound. Yet the record is a natural next step. The melodies are larger, the rhythms are crisper, and the Generals more that live up to their commander’s vision. First single “Dog That Bit You” draws from fellow Texan Roky Erickson’s psych-pop blueprint, kicking off the album with a bang. The ten years of pressure and self-doubt have created something that perhaps even Flemmons couldn’t have predicted: an absolute gem.
You can also hear a feature story on the Baptist Generals on this week’s episode of Texas Music Matters.