Biography

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...



Reviews Archive

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 beautiful.

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 "Tornado Weather".

Dallas Observer 10/13/05
Milton Mapes
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
MILTON MAPES
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
Milton Mapes
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 got.

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 condition.

Austin Chronicle 3/21/2003
Best SXSW Showcase: Milton Mapes
--Christpher Gray

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.

 

 


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