Milton Mapes (from Austin, Texas) formed in 1999, naming the
band after singer/guitarist Greg Vanderpool's grandfather. Vanderpool
and bandmate Roberto Sánchez, both veterans of Dallas’
Deep Ellum music scene, subsequently spent a year in Nashville
compiling songs that would make up the group's dusty debut release
The State Line (2001). The 7-song CD was well-received
by regional press and radio, drawing comparisons to Neil Young
(Harvest) and Bruce Springsteen (Nebraska).
Milton Mapes eventually evolved into a complete band (with
the addition of Britton Beisenherz and Jim Fredley), honing
in closer on an atmospheric revival of Young's Crazy Horse or
Bob Dylan's electric conversion. The group released the cinematic
Westernaire (Aspyr Media) in 2003, reflecting this
migration with a heavy dose of layered guitars and textures. The Only Sound That Matters, one of the record's standout tracks, was covered by Robert Plant on his 2010 Buddy-Miller-produced Band Of Joy album.
In 2005, the band emerged with a darker, more intense album,
The Blacklight Trap, released by St. Louis indie label
Undertow. Later that year, Shady Valleys, a small collection
of b-side tracks, was made available as a downloadable EP.
Appearing both as a duo and with a full band, Milton Mapes has shared stages with an assortment
of its respected Texas contemporaries and touring acts such
as Chris Whitley, Willie Nelson, Magnolia Electric Co., and
Cowboy Junkies. Following three albums and contributions for numerous
compilation CDs and soundtracks, the group embarked on a new project under the name Monahans in 2007 while keeping an open door for future appearances or releases as Milton Mapes...
Dallas Observer - August 2006
Critics Pick - Alejandro Escovedo with Milton Mapes
Not to denigrate the artists' own distinctiveness, but imagine Ian Hunter and Neil Young sharing a bill or a battle of the bands between the Velvet Underground and Crazy Horse and you get an idea of how fine and vital this piquant pairing is. Suffice to say that the stunning music of Escovedo becomes grander and more fiery and revelatory live ("must see" isn't an advisory but an insistence here). Mapes--a band that's single-minded enough to be named like a man--arose from Deep Ellum, shifted to Austin, traveled through the Nashville underground and then brought it all back home to Texas in search of and finding the incendiary flash point of tears that cooks sorrow into a flaming, crackling joy alongside their purgatorial meditations. As Escovedo now gets his just due after a near-death brush, Milton Mapes are primed to follow acts such as Calexico and My Morning Jacket into buzz-band-of-honor stature. Hence this is a Lone Star State of the art night indeed.
Adult Contemporary Essentials UK - April 2006
Milton Mapes' shaggy rock/ Americana mix is hugely engaging,
drawing at turns Uncle Tupelo, Nashville Skyline Dylan or inevitable
Neil Young Harvest comparisons. The band is named after the
singer/ guitarist's grandfather, and their happiness to play
unadulterated musical rock would surely make the old fella smile.
Like Richmond Fontaine's 2005 album The Fitzgerald, The Blacklight
Trap explores a range of characters intensely and cinematically
- characters searching for something they're not finding. The
band tip heavily onto the rock side of the Americana ridge from
country, but it retains enough of the tang to be emotionally
compelling. Lyrically, the songs are astonishing in their storytelling,
providing the perfect counterpoint to the dark and elemental
guitars. If you loved Iron and Wine's collaboration with Calexico,
this has to be on your shopping list. ACE Rating 8/10
Americana-UK.com - February 2006
“Crazy Horse reinvented for the new millenium”
Sometimes clichés are clichés because they’re
true. Practically everyone who’s ever heard or reviewed
Milton Mapes has said Crazy Horse, for the sound, and Neil Young
for the lyrics, and they’re right. Greg Vanderpool’s
band (named after his grandfather) create an intense sonic landscape,
with thundering reverb and industrial-strength guitar chords.
Vanderpool’s voice has some of the high ache of Neil Young,
but is generally a pressure cooker of barely contained intensity,
one that’s as close to exploding as makes no difference.
The damaged characters that inhabit “The Blacklight Trap”
are equally intense, but even more desperate, and if they have
souls they’re way past redemption. From Jimmy the alcoholic
in the title track to the nihilist desperado of “In The
Corner Where It All Began” they’re all at the bottom
after a long and painful fall. And pain is the albums motif,
the pain of despair, the pain of separation, the pain of lost
hope. And the pain of the words is built upon the pain of the
music, the thundering crescendos of guitars and the walls of
noise that recall the listenable bits of Young’s “Weld”.
The one gleam of hope comes in the last song, “Craters
of the Moon”, whose narrator begs his lover to “Sign
my name in your skin/I’ll keep you deep in mine”
and whose last line runs “Hold on my love, I’ll
be there…” Maybe Vanderpool just needed a change
of pace after the unremitting doom of the rest of the album,
or maybe, despite all musical appearances to the contrary, he’s
actually an optimist and romantic at heart. Hopefully the latter.
MagnaPhone Magazine - December 2005
Milton Mapes is one of the most fascinating bands making music
today. Combining the intensity of Joy Division, the new gritty
Americana of Woven Hand and Drive-By Truckers and the painterly
lyrical quality of Neil Young and Tim Buckley. Their latest
release The Blacklight Trap out now on Undertow Music is a revelation.
A harrowing, yet beautiful trip through the long dark night
of the soul.
Paste Magazine Online - November 2005
Milton Mapes - The Blacklight Trap (Undertow)
The nine songs on The Blacklight Trap are steeped in the smoldering,
winding guitar anthems of mid-’70s Crazy Horse, and lead
singer/songwriter Greg Vanderpool pulls off a very credible
Neil Young/Jay Farrar impersonation. What sets this music apart,
though, is the distilled poetic despair of Vanderpool’s
songwriting. Whether chronicling the perils of the bottle (the
title track), the tragic fate of the Cherokee Nation (“Underneath
the River Runs”), or the wistful longing of separated
lovers (“Craters of the Moon”) Vanderpool evokes
a landscape of the heart that is stark, desolate and uncommonly
UNCUT Magazine (UK) - December 2005
Milton Mapes - The Blacklight Trap (Decor/Undertow)
Coming from the same stable as Richmond Fontaine, Milton Mapes
are rooted in Austin, Texas but inhabit the same scorched landscapes
as early Son Volt or Magnolia Electric Co. Named after the grandfather
of frontman/songwriter Greg Vanderpool, the quintet's third
album (their first in the UK) charts lost souls and wounded
lives via storm-cloud guitars, beats like far-off thunderclaps
and the kind of distanced reverb usually found on My Morning
Jacket records. Typical of its slyly epic intent are "When
The Earth's Last Picture Is Painted" and the incredible
Dallas Observer 10/13/05
The Blacklight Trap
Approaching country in the same way as Neil Young (warily),
singer/guitarist Greg Vanderpool and longtime collaborator Roberto
Sanchez construct rustic takes on urban concerns. Layers and
textures almost disguise the potency of the songs, but the band
knows just when to turn the volume back up, just when to reengage.
Songs like "When the Earth's Last Picture is Painted"
and "Bowie AZ" are remarkable mixtures of attack and
withdraw, the satisfaction of a drink and its assured repercussions.
The music of Milton Mapes requires attention between beers,
but it's worth it.
Jambase - September 2005
Our New Favorite Band
The secrets to Milton Mapes' (Austin, TX) sweeping landscapes
of music are hidden in the spacing, the reverb, the feedback.
With their third release, The Blacklight Trap, the band has
created a fully-realized album that stretches our imagination,
yet connects with our soul. In the vein of Neil Young's Crazy
Horse work and My Morning Jacket's earthier compositions, Milton
Mapes combine our favorite elements of the past in a contemporary
manner that JamBase can't resist. We live in difficult times;
lonely days where we seek shelter from the storm, Milton Mapes
may be just what you're looking for.
Harp Magazine - May 2005
The Blacklight Trap (Undertow)
"Lately you've just been sinkin' / and that's better than
nothing at all," Greg Vanderpool sings in the title track
of The Blacklight Trap, the third album from Austin's Milton
Mapes. It's a stately, 3/4-time meditation that, like much of
Blacklight, recalls Tonight's the Night/On the Beach-era Neil
Young. Vanderpool who named the band after his grandfather,
is full of bittersweet empathy for characters on the verge of
falling apart, whether it be the self-fulfilling prophet who's
"Waiting for Love to Fail," the separated lovers in
"Craters of the Moon" or the wounded victim in "Thunderbird."
It's always dark and raining in these songs, and Blacklight
itself, with its surfeit of slow electric ballads, is a bit
monochromatic. But that only serves to throw into high relief
the album's centerpiece, the slide-guitar-fueled swamp blues
"Tornado Weather." "Is some one there to ease
my worries?" Vanderpool moans, although deep down he must
find the worried blues inspiring.
Boston Globe - June 14, 2005
Milton Mapes is a band, not a man. The man who leads the band
is singer-guitarist Greg Vanderpool. The band hails from Austin,
Texas, and its sound reflects the Southwest -- or maybe that's
just what we hear after we read what Vanderpool said about it.
But on its latest CD, ''The Blacklight Trap," there is
a certain bittersweet desolation and palpable tension, cut with
beautiful (slightly fuzzed out) guitar lines. Wide open spaces.
We're thinking Neil Young on a good day.
This is Texas Music - April 2005
Milton Mapes' Westernaire was an album I liked, and it continued
to grow on me with each listening. The band's new album, The
Blacklight Trap, is an album I loved immediately, and yet it
still continues to grow on me. It's just that good...there likely
are few bands out there who can put together something as solid
as Westernaire and then up the ante with a masterpiece like
The Blacklight Trap.
Austin Chronicle 3/17/05
The Blacklight Trap (Undertow)
Milton Mapes' songs are a little like archaeological excavations:
elemental enough to have existed for centuries until these five
bearded local bards came along to uncover them. Third album
The Blacklight Trap is heavy with portent, haunted by a mythic
America of vast landscapes and endless promise that lingers
like a shadow over the decidedly smaller-scale present, where
"ghosts lay scarred and rugged as the land." Chief
songwriter Greg Vanderpool's frequent references to windswept
deserts, lonesome sunsets, and blood-stained river rocks only
emphasize the cosmic insignificance of mankind's endeavors –
except for the price they exact on the soul. His characters
drift aimlessly through the songs, looking for a way out of
their dead-end lives but finding only empty rooms and emptier
bottles. Musically, the scenery gradually shifts between the
Nebraska-like austerity of "Bowie AZ" to the early
Crazy Horse stagger of "When the Earth's Last Picture Is
Painted," as the subtle variations in mood and tone match
the forlorn tenor of the lyrics. Buzzing, ominous "Tornado
Weather" pleads for escape before it's too late, while
gently hymnlike "Waiting for Love to Fail" reveals
that even fatalism comes with its own peculiar peace of mind.
Vanderpool's wounded heroes on "Thunderbird" and "Craters
of the Moon" have no choice but to press on and face another
day. Everybody knows this is nowhere, yes, but it's all we've
NOW Toronto 6/11/05
While it's clear that Iron & Wine, Magnolia Electric Co
and My Morning Jacket like to dwell on the darker end of the
alternative twang spectrum, Milton Mapes can make them all sound
like cheery sunshine pop groups. Stone chillers like Waiting
For Love To Fail and the Rudyard Kipling- copped When The Earth's
Last Picture Is Painted from the Austin doomsayers emotionally
charged epic The Blacklight Trap (Undertow) had me reaching
for Neil Young's Tonight's The Night to lighten up the mood.
"The darker side of things has always been more interesting
to me as a songwriter," allows Mapes' main man Greg Vanderpool
from Austin. "I guess you could say that our recent stuff
leans toward the blues, even though we're not playing traditional
blues music. "You know, like Townes Van Zandt said there
are only two kinds of music – the blues and zippity doo-dah.
We prefer to err on the blues side."
Resonance Magazine - Spring '04
This is the record that feathered-mop anti-wonder Pete Yorn
will never have the soul to write, or better still, the record
that Neil Young would pen given a steady diet of Pedro the Lion.
Anyway the hybrid is cut, Milton Mapes have made an album of
furrowed brows, hard won bruises, and heavy drinking fables
built on guitars layered like thunderheads and drums that snap-crack
through the haze. Lead singer and songsmith Greg Vanderpool
sounds perpetually on an emotional verge, never quite breaking
free from his demons and the thick weight of the band’s
top-down density. Lyrically, Westernaire is a black diary of
tamped-down frustrations, abandoned road trips, and treading
water with gritted teeth. If that constricted misery was their
sum total, the album would go down like a dry wishbone, but
songs like “The Only Sound That Matters,” with a
naked guitar strum and Vanderpool’s wounded sneer, offer
redemption in the painful beauty of a fall from grace that’s
achingly well put.
Miles of Music 12/19/03
Milton Mapes - a band not a man - drive a raw, visceral roots-rock
behemoth that engages innocently enough, then rolls right over
you. With aggressive guitars and lazy vocal delivery, Westernaire
finds an even flow between the indie rock ethos and brash force
of Crazy Horse-like power.
No Depression - March-April 2004
Perhaps this is too topical of a comparison, but while listening
to Westernaire, I couldn't help but think of Sofia Coppola's
acclaimed film Lost In Translation. Both works do an expert
job of capturing mood and setting. For Milton Mapes, that setting
is not Tokyo, but the rugged and lonesome landscape of the American
Southwest...."The Only Sound That Matters", the raggedly
right "This Kind Of Danger", and "A thousand
Songs About California", an introspective ode to watching
too many friends get the hell out of town, are standouts on
this debut from a band full of promise.
Pop Matters 7/1/2003
Milton Mapes are a crew of alt-country rockers who share the
same taste in epic balladry as artists like My Morning Jacket
and Neko Case. Greg Vanderpool, their lead singer, has a sorrowful
vice grip of a voice, every syllable wrestled with and let go
with an almost exhaustive weight. Pared down to a duo, the boys
sat on the steps of the stage and proceeded to belt out one
of the most introspective and haunted performances I've heard
since my first Beth Orton show. Like a twang-skewed Pedro the
Lion, Milton Mapes build slow burning songs from the scaffolding
of carefully drawn images, slow escalations of mood, and an
inner intensity that almost has to be turned away from to be
absorbed. "Lubbock" stood out for me, with an almost
missionary seriousness, sketching out a transfixing narrative
as down-to-earth and engrossing as a campfire yarn. I have yet
to see the full band perform, but if the unplugged set is any
indication, these guys must put on a jarringly gorgeous live
set with everyone in tow. Vanderpool makes Jeff Tweedy seem
like a superficial emotional skimmer, and I can't wait for their
next full length to drop.
Texas Monthly - January 2004
Deep Ellum transplants Milton Mapes might call Austin home these
days, but their full-length debut, Westernaire (Aspyr), roams
the rugged Charles Starkweather High Plains. Think Neil Young
and Crazy Horse in their heyday or the kind of reverent alt-country
your favorite bands are way too self-conscious to play anymore.
Songwriter Greg Vanderpool (who named the group after his grandfather)
dredges raw emotion from a whisper, which the band builds to
a roar with cinematic flair.
Dallas Morning News - 1/16/04
Westernaire, Milton Mapes’ latest CD, hums with a spacious,
eerie twang that suggests Neil Young strumming along to U2’s
The Unforgettable Fire.
Austin Chronicle 10/10/03
By Raoul Hernandez
Milton Mapes. Westernaire (Aspyr)
Milton Mapes. The State Line (Aspyr)
A horse pulls up on a ridge and its rider looks out on Westernaire.
"I'm a brave young gun; got the world sittin' on my thumb.
I feel air fill my lungs; there's a race I've gotta run."
An electric guitar burns like the red clay beneath their feet,
bridge and chorus outlawed by this jagged fragment. The harp-driven,
Crazy Horse squall of "Maybe You're Here, Maybe You're
Not" follows like the first reel of a John Ford film, after
which Milton Mapes' grandson -- Greg Vanderpool -- knocks 'em
down one by one. Pulling together 30 years of hard-bitten Americana
while coalescing around Vanderpool's rugged ache, Westernaire
is frontier fierce. Varnaline-gray, Milton Mapes' skillet rock
was smithed by Uncle Tupelo's roots-fueled lust of Eighties
post-punks like Hüsker Dü. The swampy, Robbie Robertson/
Daniel Lanois drone of "The Only Sound That Matters"
and "Everyone Around," faintly echoing U2's "Where
the Streets Have No Name," are broken up by new Austin
anthem "A Thousand Songs About California," sounding
like it just fell off the Drive-by Truckers. The gritty "Palo
Duro" would fit Jon Dee Graham like a hat, while a graceful
Southwestern strum on "Silverbell" is all Vanderpool.
The fire doesn't burn quite as bright on Milton Mapes' debut,
2001's The State Line, newly reissued by Aspyr, but Westernaire's
bold statement compels its discovery. Buttressed by a pair of
bonus tracks that flesh out its run time to 35 minutes, The
State Line is stripped back from the distorted plea of "Down
by You" to the spry rumble of "Lubbock" and old-time
tumble of "The Elusive Goldmine." Previously unreleased
"World Sees Through You" is a ghostly gem. Saddle
up Milton Mapes, and roam Westernaire.
(plus, this music
feature article in 10/30/03 edition of the Austin Chronicle)
Four States Living Magazine 9/01/03
Milton Mapes is an Austin band that may have issued one of the
best recordings of the year. While there have been some strong
releases in 2003, none have mixed innovation and tradition as
well as this group's Westernaire. It is full of rich textures
and overlapping sounds that easily remind the listener of Neil
Young's greatest work. The band has moved towards a full rock
sound with driving guitars, thundering base lines, and great
drum work. Westernaire is American music at its best: open-ended,
expansive, and textured with the complexities of the modern
Austin Chronicle 3/21/2003
Best SXSW Showcase: Milton Mapes
Nashville Rage 2/13/2003
MILTON MAPES. This Austin outfit (named after singer Greg Vanderpool's
grandfather) plays outstanding, moody, hypnotic Americana rock.
With intellectual but alive drones and morose melodies a la
Jay Farrar suddenly swooping into a Crazy Horse-style rocking
lift, their songs are surprising and fresh and fit into the
Texas and Americana genres without falling prey to their cliches.
Austin Chronicle 1/04/2002
By Greg Beets
TOP 10 TEXAS ALBUMS OF 2001: Milton Mapes The State Line (My
Aunt Jane's Recordings)
Consisting of seven songs recorded in Tennessee and Texas, the
group's debut is a subtle yet touching journey down the two-lane
blacktops of bypassed dreams. Vanderpool's tunes and vocal style
bear a distinct West Texas campfire element, but his arrangements
often come from the Nashville-tinged pop-rock avatar axiom of
Wilco. ..In spite of its sample-package length, The State Line
offers a wealth of musical promise for the wandering wounded.