Trevor Sensor got off to a good start with the title of his debut EP, Texas Girls and Jesus Christ. The two nouns conjuring in me TV-induced imagery; on the one hand, fit sun-soaked girls with forever smiles, on the other, a looming figure up in the skies, perhaps judging, perhaps not. What the Illinois-born singer-songwriter has to say is a little bit different. Armed with an acoustic guitar and raspy voice, the eponymous title track starts out as a simple song about love. The chorus is destined to be a concert rouser: “Blue eyes and purple jeans, I wanna know what love means, blue eyes and stars shine brilliant, your heart is mine.” The guitar, one of those beautiful battered oak or mahogany, sounds crisp with perfectly executed pull-offs and pull-ons.
Despite the obvious more liberal use of instrumentation by Sensor, the comparisons to The Tallest Man On Earth—based purely on their voices—will be made, though funnily enough the Swedish singer-songwriter had already forsaken the man-and-a-guitar trope on his last album. Moreover, Trevor Sensor brings to the game his Americanness, frequently alluding to religion. In this sense, Texas is an excellent choice for the songs’ backdrop. After all, Texas is both God country (being part of the Bible Belt) and not (Austin, home of SXSW, weirdness, and secularism). So, when Sensor belts in crescendo, “Ain’t that easy, I heard that Christ was hiding in a bar. Down in Texas, where he heard, bigger is better even from the heart!” to introduce electric guitars, drums, and bass in a more celebratory tempo, who knows if it’s in jest or seriousness. Either way, the reference to Perry Como’s ‘Deep In The Heart’ is at the very least worth a chuckle.
Sensor tackles dark themes throughout the EP. ‘Swallows Sing Their Song’ includes over drinking and death. On ‘Satan’s Man’ he sounds particularly tortured, almost growling in the troughs. Haunted by demons and existential crises—the type an American 22-year old man might have when he’s not sure what anything’s all about and is sure he wakes up in a cage—one ends up staying in bed, wasting life away. Things get especially heavier in the longest track on the EP, ‘Nothing Is Fair’, a song for and to Walter Scott, a man murdered by a North Charleston police officer in 2005. Even as Canadians, we’ve heard the story before, many times. However, so has Sensor, who sees his own country’s flag as stained by blood. The chorus is similarly incriminating “I was told to believe in our country that is free. But there ain’t nothing fair for you and me.”
So what makes everything alright? Where’s the hope? Well, no, there are no Texas girls and it’s very likely those same Texas girls are also, to borrow the title of the last song on the EP, ‘Pacing The Cage’. In ‘Satan’s Man’, Sensor sings “Jesus Christ kiss my insides, make me alright.” It’s not what I would sing but you have to admit, it’s god damn American.