by Malcom Mayhew ( for the Dallas Star-Telegram

Unlike some band members, Curtis Heath will not promise you that you'll like his band. He'll be the first to admit that his group, the Fort Worth-based Theater Fire , is somewhat of an acquired taste. The seven-piece group makes beautifully organic music, but Heath realizes that it's so varied, some people will simply scratch their heads.

"Every time we play, we always get at least a coupla people who seem to get it," he says. "They're usually the other bands we're playing with. I think most people at bars drink and listen to music and have a good time but may not understand what we're doing. But I also think there's a lot of intelligent audiophiles in Fort Worth who do get it and appreciate what we're trying to do."

What they're trying to do, Heath says, is carry on a Fort Worth tradition of making challenging, interesting music. Heath name-drops area musical luminaries such as Bob Wills and the Light Crust Doughboys and Marlin-born Blind Willie Johnson , not necessarily as musical influences but as influences in the sense that they, too, were out to make left-of-center music.

On their self-titled debut CD, the band, which is rounded out by Aprell and Don Feagan, Nick Prendergast, Sean French, Mark Castaneda and Jessie Brakefield , doesn't renege on that commitment. Carved out of sounds from instruments that vary from the obvious (guitar, bass, drums) to the not so obvious (trumpet, mandolin, accordion, xylophone, banjo), the record touches on everything from folk and rock to mariachi and polka.

Just don't call it country.

"We've never done a straight country tune," Heath says. "It's more of a folk sort of sound, but even that's misleading. We cull from all sorts of influences: zydeco, klezmer, mariachi. It's really hard to say what exactly it is that we do."

Formed two years ago out of the ashes of Fort Worth's Vena Cava, the band is in the category-defying company of the Baptist Generals and centro-matic ; both of those bands eventually came to the Theater Fire's rescue.

"Early on, we were definitely having a hard time finding similar bands to share bills with," Heath says. "Baptist Generals and centro-matic, they've got their own scenes and they made us a part of them. We don't have any clout, but people like us and [they] stick their necks out for us."

Theater Fire performs at 10 p.m. Saturday at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios and 9 p.m. Thursday at the Wreck Room.