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{Brad's Corner} January 2017: Where Do We Take It From Here?

{Brad�s Corner}

The great 90’s rock philosophers Semisonic once wisely and sagely sang every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.  A clever way of describing life.  Life, relationships, work, sports, the music biz.  Ah, the music biz.  That vain temptress that clings to our emotions, wrings hope from darkness and if the mood is right can sour sunshine with the blues.  Much like the music at its core, the business side of things is multi-faceted and layered.  It’s fast and slow.  Happy and sad.  Innovative and reflective.  This entry marks 15 years of me blabbing on the internet about the music I love.  Nearly half of my life has been spent spreading the gospel.  I used to have a hard edge to my writing where I called out posers and injustices.  Yet, much like Rita Ballou I’ve mellowed in my seniority.  I truly just dig the music.  My axes have all been ground.  That’s partially due to age and greatly due to lack of inspiration.  There hasn’t been anything truly groundbreaking in our scene since Turnpike and Bingham.  The true innovators are found just on the fringe of our stuff.  Acts like Sturgill, Isbell, Cauthen, Musgraves.  The rest of us seem to be on some sort of NASCAR track.  Making the same circuit of festivals and bars…using the same producers and following blueprints long ago created and discarded by Pat Green back in the late 90’s.

Everything seems staid and stuck in the mud.  That’s one of the reasons the founder of this website and community, JonPaul “Hogleg” Long has stepped into a completely honorary emeritus non-contributing role.  He hasn’t been jazzed about the tunes in a long, long time.  And it’s hard to blame him.  When you were on the ground floor of something new it’s hard to get just as excited about version 9.0.  Chasing that dragon just to find out the berry isn’t as sweet.  Many  of the scene headliners have confided much the same to me.  They feel unmotivated and uninspired.  As if they’re just going through the motions for the sake of it.  Start the year in Steamboat, hit LJT in April, play the fairs in the fall and squeeze in the Wild West Neon Rodeos in the between. There’s a reason Willie constantly experimented with his sounds (and it’s not marijuana); there’s a reason Ray Wylie Hubbard dug into roots music and blues; Jerry Jeff chased jazz; Merle Haggard added horns; Mike McClure toyed with arena rock aesthetics.  At a certain point, singing songs about Texas with three chords in the same place you were at 3 months ago loses it’s luster.  Especially when you know you’ll be back in 3 months. It’s still fun to an extent, but it’s missing that fulfilling and joyful quality that makes you want to rip your femur out just to bang on the snare if you have to.  That part that makes you want to hop in a broken down Econoline and drive 400 miles to play for $40.  Success causes complacency and laziness in most.

So, how does one revive that desire?  How do you not only chase that dragon but catch it, ride it, write it, sing it and live it again? You must get out of your comfort zone.  This is a strange place to reference Steve Harvey, but he had a viral video a while back related to this topic.  When asked what separates successful people from average folks, his response was they’re jumpers.  When successful people come upon a cliff, they don’t stand there and evaluate for a lengthy period of time.  They assess and see their dreams and goals across the canyon and say I’m jumping over there.  Whereas the average folks look around and say, you know what…it’s not so bad here. We need some jumpers in 2017.

There’s continually a new generation discovering George’s Bar, The Road Goes on Forever, Beer Bait and Ammo, Tonight’s Not the Night, 17, Somewhere Down in Texas etc…and to them it’s new.  The key to reviving and refreshing this scene that all too often feels like a bunch of dinosaurs making tracks in a triangle between Lubbock, DFW and Austin/NB is fresh blood.  It’s there in the fan sense and occasionally flames up in the artist sense.  For long term growth one of these new acts is going to have to be truly transformational. Not just good at what’s come before, but innovative.

Where do we take it from here?  Pat Green’s George’s Bar record came out 20 years ago this year.  RRB’s Rollercoaster is now a teenager.  REK has done a sequel to No. 2 Live Dinner.  I first saw Ragweed 17 years ago.  The flagship band of this movement is Turnpike Troubadours and they’ve been able to meld the smart lyrics with melodic music better than just about anyone.  They innovated.  Who’s next?  I can’t wait to see.  We’ve often gotten credit for being way ahead of the curve on breaking new acts.  The last few we’ve really dug and promoted haven’t reached commercial heights…but that may change.  In 2016 they may have been too lyrical, too eclectic or too soon.  Timing is everything and here’s to hoping in 2017 we take it to the future.  Will it be Red Shahan?  Flatland Cavalry? Dalton Domino? Koe Wetzel?  Who’s going to be the dynamic leader this scene is thirsty for?

Who/what do you think is going to lead OKOM into the future?

MINOR CHORDS:

-Hogleg has retired, but his spirit pumps out of this place hourly.

-Year 15 of ranting, rambling, praising, critiquing.  Been blogging and social networking since before that was cool.  Blows my mind sometimes.

-Still working on the Best of All Time addendum list.

-I still jam that Cauthen record an unhealthy amount.  A DJ friend of mine called it “so layered I have to concentrate…like the Beatles”.  That’s fair.

-Greenfest 17 planning is underway.  Hope to have some announcements soon.

-I was trying to avoid that coming off like a Lefsetz rant…but it did anyway.

-Pitchers and catchers report next month.

-How ’bout dem Cowboys?  Don’t have to leave Texas to win the Super Bowl.  Dak’s destiny.

-Despite this year’s success, I’ve maintained that Tony Romo remains one of my favorite athletes of all time. Related to the above blog, it may have a lot to do with us being the same age and we’re both old now. Lolz

-Give me 100 over 20 any day.  Degrees that is.

-You kids don’t break anything up in the ‘Boat.  This may be the first time we’ve never had an official GW rep there.  That may happen at LJT this year too.

-This year’s recommended album:  Aaron Lee Tasjan – Silver Tears.  If this is what the future sounds like, we may be on the right track.  Elements of Corb Lund crossed with Lincoln Durham.  It’s an interesting sound not for everyone all the time, but everyone should check it out once.

-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” -Mark Twain

Favorites of 2016

It’s been another great year for music all around.  Here’s our version of a year end, best of list.  These are the records, songs, acts and scenes (presented in no particular order) that shaped our 2016.

Favorite Albums

paul-cauthen-my-gospel
Paul Cauthen – My Gospel
Cauthen breaks free from his duo laden past to front a solo project so broad, sweeping and grand that it’s hard to believe one voice is responsible for this record.  It’s got the scale of a Broadway play about Sam Houston, the grit of a Ray Wylie Hubbard b-side and the soul of Muscle Shoals.  A genre hopping tour de force.

jack-ingram-midnight-motelJack IngramMidnight Motel
Ingram has been cultivating this collection for over a decade.  He saw the mountain top and came back down relatively unscathed.  Before he was a chart topping radio favorite, his Lone Star songwriting chops were bonafide.  Jack rediscovers them here and surrounds them with the vibe of Kent Finaly’s songwriter workshop.


sturgillSturgill Simpson – Sailor’s Guide to Earth

First record was a throwback country shot across the bow.  Second record broke down walls and made him a household name.  Third record gets personal, explorative and weird in the best ways possible.  Written and produced, at times, just to see what he could get away with.  Part cautionary tale, part memoir, part love letter to his son.  It’s captivating and odd…but always cool. Plus, it never hurts to have the Dap Kings adding horns to anything.


flatland-cavalry-humble-folksFlatland Cavalry –
Humble Folks
Lubbock’s latest band of the moment, FC made national waves when this indepdent release spent some time at the top of the iTunes chart seemingly out of nowhere.  They employed a tried and true formula of personal songs backed with bouncy fiddle, melodic acoustic guitars and just the right mix of sincerity to create one of the best albums of the year.


brandy-clark-big-day-in-a-small-townBrandy Clark – Big Day in a Small Town

Perhaps no album this year houses a collection of songs this strong.  A songwriters record that has major label appeal.  Clark may just be the best songwriter putting out records at the moment.

 

cody-jinks-im-not-the-devilCody Jinks – I’m Not the Devil
Former headbanger has been beating down the doors of country dancehalls and dive bars for some time.  His previous album set the table and he pushed himself over the top with this collection.

 

randy-rogers-band-nothing-shines-like-neonRandy Rogers Band – Nothing Shines Like Neon
At this point, the RRB are a machine.  They crank out solid albums and songs, seemingly effortlessly.  Their genius lies in the fact that quite a bit of work goes into making it sound so easy.

 

homepage_large-54e51b00Margo Price – Midwestern Farmer’s Daughter
Released on Jack White’s retro indie label, Price announces her presences on the scene with a wistful, nostalgic, free style that recalls the best of Loretta and Tammy with the attitude of a Miranda and the nuance of Patty G.

 

beaverRyan Beaver – Rx
Texas expat in Nashville engrosses himself in the east Nashville and songwriter scene up there and refines a new style that supplements his smooth singing voice and unique songwriting world view.

 

qcnhQuaker City Nighthawks – El Astronauta
Once described as ZZ Top on an acid trip, these Fort Worth rockers returned with an expansive, trippy album that has guitar hooks for day.

 

bj-barham-rockinghamBJ Barham – Rockingham
The American Aquarium frontman releases his first solo work that listens as a road diary set to music.

 

cobbBrent Cobb – Shine On  Rainy Day
Cousin of Dave and songwriter to the stars releases a solo record that encompasses all that is good about both of their works.

 

 

Favorite Songs
Paul Cauthen – “I’ll Be the One”
Cauthen’s haunting ode to unrequited love features bombastic vocals which echo at various times Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison, Bono from U2 and Chris Isaak…all on the same song, by the same dude.  It’s a truly incredile and awe inspiring piece of work.

Jackie Darlene – “Diamond in the Rough”
This central Texas gem has music in the blood as the granddaughter of legendary songwriter Whitey Shafer, but it’s not just her pen that’s garnering buzz…it’s her engaging, raspy vocals that evoke Stevie Nicks.  On this track she puts a rough, female sheen on the musician on the road experience.

Randy Rogers Band – “San Antone”
Throughout their career, the RRB had yet to release a “Texas” song until this Keith Gattis penned instant classic.

Whiskey Myers – “Lightning Bugs and Rain”
Dave Cobb is the producer of the moment and he was able to coax somthing nearly funky, albeit swampy, out of these east Texas southern rock veterans.

Ryan Beaver – “Dark”
A song about quite literally waiting in the dark until you’re no longer scared to come out of the frightening shadows that life can put you in.  The fact that Beaver wrote this song after the death of his grandfather and a close friend drives the point home even more sharply.

Robert Ellis – “Drivin'”
Songs about the open road have been an American staple as long as the Ford Motor Co. has been producing automobiles.  Ellis provides a refreshing spin on this classic tale about outdriving your problems with the wind in your hair and the tunes blasting.

Hayes Carll – “Good While It Lasted”
Off the de facto concept divorce record Lovers and Leavers, this song finds the songwriting master Carll in a reflective mood comiserating over vices conquered, heartaches survived and the challenges ahead.

Margo Price – “Hurtin'”
The biggest honky-tonk hell-raising song of the year came from a Midwestern girl who enjoys knocking back domestic brew almost as much as she enjoys writing one hell of a hooky, cool song.

Flatland Cavalry – “One I Want”
Opening with a rolling fiddle melody, Cleto Cordero delivers a simple, straightforward sentiment about the one he wants (and loves). Some unique phrasing on the back end make this a truly special song that became one of the, if not the, most played songs on Texas Country radio this past calendar year.

Kylie Rae Harris – “Missouri”
KRH returned with a revealing song about yearning for a time in Missouri when things were better.  Being in Texas doesn’t make the Missouri of her memory any easier to leave behind.

Austin Meade – “Born With a Broken Heart”
Meade’s tune reminds of vintage Ragweed.  Big guitars, emotive lyrics and a sing along chorus that will last.

Favorite Discoveries

(our version of Best New Artist)

Flatland Calvary
Rose from west Texas darlings to regional headliners on the back of good songs and doing things the right way…one fan at a time.

Koe Wetzel
Another artist from the 806 who is becoming the most buzzed about of the moment.  2016 got his name on the map, 2017 should be the year more folks get familiar with him.

Jackie Darlene
Natural talent in spades, a drive to outwork other artists and that inexplicable “it” quality.

Kensie Coppin
Another young talent that is putting things together and is poised to keep it going for a while.

Grady Spencer and the Work
Not new by any stretch, but 2016 seemed to be the year they put it all together.  Big things in the rearview, bigger things ahead.

 

Favorite Live Acts

American Aquarium
Have you ever felt something spiritual and downright tribal and primitively evocative at a live show?  You most definitely have if you’ve attended an AA gig.  These North Carolina cats are conquering Texas heroes for good reason.  Intense, real and rowdy.

William Clark Green
WCG’s live record from Gruene Hall was the year’s best live album.  The engineers get credit for making it sound so good, but it was the blood, sweat and tears from the stage that make a WCG live show the barroom equivalent of a Stones arena show.

Dalton Domino
A ballsy swagger, a rock n’ roll attitude and a poet’s heart combine to make DD shows special.

Roger Creager
What makes moments of his albums and songs cheesy contribute to what makes his live show brilliant.  It’s a honky-tonk piano bar.  Turn it up, tune out from the world and sing along in two languages for the night.

Wade Bowen
Drummer turnover didn’t slow this juggernaut down.  Bowen’s twin guitar attack with Will Knaak and Todd Laningham is formidable and awesome.

Jamie Lin Wilson
Listening room or full band (or even front porch), Wilson has the ability to own the stage with an effervescent grace, humilty and talent that is undeniably cool.

Austin Gilliam
Guitarist, songwriter, vocalist…and he’s great (and powerful) at all 3.

Whitey Morgan and the 78s
A honky-tonk outfit criss-crossing the entire lower 48.  They have a rabid following for a reason…that reason is a hard charging live show that sounds like Waylon in ’75…or ’78.

Favorite Musicians

Justin Cogneato, drums
Drummer for Brandon Rhyder that branches out and plays for as many folks as he can.  Trained by music college and refined in the bars.

Josh Barnard, guitar
Smoothest tele player around.  His playing stature reminds of Don Rich with Buck Owens…but Easy B is more vesatile than that.

Geoffrey Hill, guitar
RRB’s lead guitar player continues to evolve and grow.  His pure singing voice has been shown throughout the year on several videos of him jamming out in his living room.  All are worth your time for this underrated Texas/Red Dirt hero.

Laura Jane, fiddle
Chances are if you attend a Flatland Cavalry show, Jane is the one you notice first and most.

Josh Serrato, guitar
Known for his work with 6MB and WCG, Serrato pushed himself into new creative spaces by taking on production projects and guitar parts that challenged him.

Ben Hussey, bassist
Hussey opened up a recording studio in Stephenville with the aforementioned Serrato and provided his solid low end grooves to all that asked him.

Favorite Venues

Live Oak – Fort Worth
Perhaps the best listening room environment in the state at the moment.  Apologies to Bugle Boy, Mucky Duck and others.

Magnolia Motor Lounge – Fort Worth
Continuing to feature the best booked line-up in the state.  Eclectic isn’t just what you find on the calendar.  As likely to catch Leon Bridges in the crowd as on the stage.

Blue Light – Lubbock
Lubbock mainstay has been the launching pad for so many and continues to provide a place for songwriters to learn, grow and share.

Cheatham Street – San Marcos
CSW is in a period of transition following the death of Kent Finlay, but it’s coming out the other side just fine thanks to the foundations laid by its owner and a committment to the song.

The Backyard – Waco
The owners include a musician who has traveled the state for 20 years.  They took what they liked about their favorite venues across the state and built their own.  It’s still a work in progress in the shadow of Chip and JoJo’s Silos, but the Backyard is evolving into the coolest place in the state.

Favorite Artists

(our version of Entertainer of the Year)

Jack Ingram
Jack is a legend.  If he had never put out another record he’d go down in history as one of this scene’s modern founding fathers and one of the greatest to ever do it.  He knocked down walls of red tape and BS when most of the current scene headliners were still in grade school.  The fact that he returned with his best album in 17 years combined with the fact that he’s still as engaging in a live setting as ever, makes him an easy choice for one of our favorite artists of the year.

Paul Cauthen
Possessing a thunderous, multi-faceted voice allowed Cauthen the freedom to create the album he heard his head.  We should all be thankful that he did.  A bold, unforgiving artistic force like this doesn’t come along very often.

Randy Rogers Band
The scene’s top dogs keep chugging along.

Hayes Carll
Carll added more elments to his art this year.  While retaining the snarky, wise, humorous, insightfulness he’s always had, Carll added a depth, maturity and reflection that can only come with time, heartache and recovery.

Cody Jinks
Another indpendent success story rising to the top of the heap on the strength of burgeoning radio play and a relentless touring grind, 2016 was the year Jinks hit headliner status.

Lori McKenna
She wrote the biggest mainstream country song of the year and released her own record…all while still co-writing and touring with folks like Drew Kennedy.  Humble and kind indeed.

Cody Johnson
CoJo became a national phenomenon as the rest of the nation found out why we’ve been calling him Chris LeDoux 2.0 for five years.

Flatland Cavalry
Cleto Cordero and the gang had a year for the ages.  They released one of the year’s biggest records, biggest songs and went from relatively unknown to widely known in the span of months.

William Clark Green
Of the generation that has come post RRB/Wade, WCG seems to possess lead dog status.  He’s open, affable and supportive to new acts all while selling out venues across the region.

Sturgill Simpson
The greatest champion of independent music and f-you attitude regardless of genre.  Sturgill made 2016 about establishing himself as a true artist that does things his own way, industry wishes be damned.  He speaks his mind and creates music for an audience of one:  himself.

 

Glossing the Grammys

In the field of more crowded each year musical award shows, the industry’s most coveted remains the Grammys.  A chance to promote music to the mainstream via a tv production featuring poor sound mixes and cheesy emcee jokes.  Earmarked for being traditionally unhip, old and white, in recent years the RIAA has attempted to get more urban and diverse.  … Read the rest

Thanks For You

Each year around Thanksgiving, we survey a wide swath of our music scene to find out who/what they are thankful for regarding a particular topic.  In the past, this has focused solely on music.  Such as what song is Randy Rogers most thankful for or what album is Evan Felker most thankful for.  … Read the rest

{Brad's Corner} November 2016: Pals

{Brad�s Corner}

Pick up your loose ends, take ’em to your friends…they’ll put ’em back together again…if you let them. – Rusty Wier

Many things have healing power.  Yet, I’ve never found something as therapeutic as good tunes and better friends.  Rusty Wier was a sage man.  … Read the rest