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The Monahans play Johnny B's

After three successful albums, performances with artists such as Willie Nelson, Cowboy Junkies, Magnolia Electric Co., Alejandro Escovedo and Chris Whitley — along with a record deal with the St. Louis-based Undertow label — country rock band Milton Mapes switched gears and began recording and performing under the name Monahans.

The new project, featuring Milton Mapes founders Greg Vanderpool and Roberto Sanchez, along with Britton Beisenherz and Jim Fredley, will perform at 9:30 p.m. Monday, May 5, at Johnny B's, 35 S. Bartlett St., Medford.

Eric Von Radics will open the show with his solo act, Buzzard Song Redux.

"This is the kind of music that occasionally comes to Britt, but most of the time would require a drive to Portland or the Bay Area," Von Radics says. "I've heard the Monahans on JPR's World Cafe. I'd be at the show even if I wasn't playing."

For many groups, the Rogue Valley is a welcome stop on tours. This affords local folks chances to see some of their favorites in more intimate and affordable venues than the bigger markets, Von Radics says.

"They sound a bit like Band of Horses, Iron and Wine and have even been compared to the Shins," says Von Radics. "Fans of Cowboy Junkies and to a lesser extent Lyle Lovett, who are Britt faves, along with Tom Waits and U2 will love them."

The Monahans formed in early 2006. The newer music is an expansion on Milton Mapes' signature rock 'n' roll.

"We got to a place where we felt like the initial inspiration for Milton Mapes had run its course," Vanderpool says in a press release. "Rob (Sanchez) and I saw the band evolve over the course of several lineup changes. So we decided to let that magical little time period be what it was and move on with a renewed vision and a clean slate."

Monahans, name after the sandhills of west Texas, is the title of an instrumental track on one of Milton Mapes' albums and represented a point of departure from the group's earlier approach, Vanderpool says.

Milton Mapes formed in 1999 in Austin, Texas, named after Vanderpool's grandfather. Vanderpool and Sánchez, veterans of Dallas' downtown Deep Ellum music scene, subsequently spent a year in Nashville compiling songs that would become the band's 2001 debut release "The State Line." The CD drew comparisons to Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen. Eventually honing in on a revival of Young's "Crazy Horse" and Bob Dylan's electric conversion, the group released a heavy dose of layered guitars on its 2003 "Westernaire." A darker album, "The Blacklight Trap," was released in 2005.

Monahans' first album, "Low Pining," grew from instrumental soundtracks that are in the spirit of early U2, R.E.M., The Police and the band's hero, Neil Young. Monahans were joined by multi-instrumentalist Chris Dye, pedal steel player Todd Pertll and Cowboy Junkies' singer Margo Timmins on the record.

"Low Pining" has found its way to various favorites lists. Magnet Magazine called it one of the "10 Hidden Treasures of 2007" and Harp Magazine called it an "under-the-radar gem."

Cover for the show at Johnny B's is $5. Call 773-1900.

Left to right: Chris Dye, Greg Vanderpool, Roberto Sanchez, Todd Pertll, Britton Beisenherz and Jim Fredley. - monahans.net