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Favorites of 2017

The albums, songs, people and places (in no particular order) that were our favorites in 2017.

ALBUMS

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Baumann – Proving Grounds
Baumann had already established himself as perhaps the finest writer of his class, and this album catapulted him to one of the finest writers period. “Old Stone Church” is as real and honest as it gets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zephaniah OHara – This Highway
Throwback, old-school honky-tonk can be kitschy and poorly done…this is neither.  This record sounds as if it was unearthed from a time capsule circa 1968 in all the best ways.

 

 

 

 

 

Drew Kennedy – At Home in the Big Lonesome
Kennedy has long been a emotive, verbose writer of song with the skills to present them in a manner unmatched by peers.  He’s never put out a bad album, and this is the best of those good albums.  The production of Dave Brainard brought an expansion of thought and sound that push this record into uncharted waters for Kennedy and folk singer/songwriters (and fans) everywhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mike Ethan Messick – How Close We Came
Story songs, clever songs, Springsteen crossed with Keen.  Messick has been one of our state’s most underappreciated songwriters for some time and this is his triumph.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jason Isbell – Nashville Sound
The master of the moment delivers another standout record.  Isbell continues to impress and make it look easy…when it’s far from it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Margo Price – All American Made
Making good on the promise of her debut, Price excels at music that echoes of Petty, Springsteen and Mellencamp without the imitations that falter folks of the other gender who tread the same waters.  She is direct, honest and forthright…all characteristics of good music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tyler Childers – Purgatory
Produced by Sturgill Simpson this record sounds like Chris Knight merged with a garage band…and yes, that’s as rad as you think it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kody West – Green
Apt title for a record that evokes it but showcases gobs of promise for when West becomes a grizzled veteran.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Turnpike Troubadours – A Long Way From Your Heart
If our list had a numerical bent, you’d find this at number 1.  It was the only unanimous choice among our staff.  Felker and Edwards took the songs to new places while staying true to old friends like Lorrie. It’s one hell of a ride and the music perfectly compliments each syllable.  You won’t find a better record this year in any genre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deryl Dodd – Long Hard Ride
One of the year’s biggest surprises was this duets record from Double D.  Revisiting his hits with the help of the biggest scene stars of the day gave them all a fresh spin and new meaning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jason Eady – self-titled
Eady veers back toward his greasy swamp-stomp roots a tad, but keeps the flavor of his country throwback to meet somewhere in the middle and deliver another stone cold authentic collection of life set to music.

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Moreland – Big Bad Luv
Heartache, heartland, punch and verve.  This is the record where the music finally caught up to Moreland’s lyrics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Natalie Hemby – Puxico
Hemby finally saved some of her best songs for herself and delivered one of the year’s best.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shinyribs – I Got Your Medicine
Shinyribs is an experience where the recorded output never quite matches up to the live show.  But, this record gets as close to it as anything Mr. Russell has put out.  Eclectic, funky and good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dalton Domino – Corners
Domino takes another artistic step forward with an album of songs that contains perhaps the best lyric of the year “People like me have to live in hell to see if heaven is worth it…”

 

SONGS

John Baumann – “Old Stone Church”
A gut punch of reality that his Baumann’s story to tell, but hits ever so close to home for anyone that’s lost someone they love.

 

Koe Wetzel – “February 28, 2016”
This tune technically was released in 2016, but it reached critical mass in 2017.  It’s been a long time since a song and artist took over the scene like these cats.  Energy, youth, good times, poor choices, memories all soaked in booze…it’s all here.  There’s a reason it connected because you’re either living this song or once did.

Josh Grider – “Good People”
Written in response to the toxic climate we find ourselves in here in 2017, Grider’s uplifting anthem is a reminder that yes, there are still good people (and good songs) in the world.

Jason Isbell – “Vampires”
A completely unique and breathaking take on the love song tropes that paints “forever” in a macabre and melancholy light.

Josh Abbott Band – “Until My Voice Goes Out”
Everlasting love, strings, nostalgia and life crash into each other.

Colter Wall – “Motorcycle”
Using the two wheel method of transportation as an analogy for life, Wall talks of wrapping it around a telephone pole and other frightening, very real possibilities.

John Baumann – “Here I Come”
A mission statement of every working musician trolling the Texas/Oklahoma highways.

Turnpike Troubadours – “Housefire”
One could easily pick any song off this album, but this one in particular features Felker’s eye for detail and melody to an impressively awesome degree.

Drew Kennedy – “24 Hours in New York City”
Co-written with Sean McConnell, Kennedy relives a teenage dalliance to the Big Apple in a “Walking in Memphis” type ode.

Shinyribs – “I Don’t Give a Shit”
Shades of Hayes Carll’s “Another Like You”…just seedier (and more joyful).

Jason Eady – “Barrabas”
It’s hard to recall another song that’s used the Gospel in such an imaginative way.

Tyler Childers – “Whitehouse Road”
Anthemic, boisterous and meant to be cranked.  You feel like you’re riding shotgun in a 1982 F150 careening through the backroads of West Virginia.

 

SONGWRITERS

Drew Kennedy

John Baumann

Margo Price

Evan Felker

Mike Ethan Messick

Dalton Domino

John Moreland

Slaid Cleaves

Colter Wall

Natalie Hemby

 

LIVE ACTS

Koe Wetzel
A true phenomenon.  The energy of a rock show with the attitude of hip-hop topped with the independent spirit of a Texan doing his own damn thing.

Josh Weathers
The most talented cat to be found anywhere. Multi-instrumentalist, vocalist performed at Trump’s inauguration and that wasn’t even his best gig of the year.

Sean McConnell
Acoustic or full band, it doesn’t matter. This guy is spell-bindingly good.

American Aquarium
Backed by a new set of musicians, BJ Barham’s outfit roared back into the scene’s consciousness as a show to not be missed when it hits your town.

Shane Smith & the Saints
Harmony. Harmony. Harmony.  And they rock when needed too.

Shinyribs
The most fun live experience around.  Part dance party, part religious experience, part Parrot-head escapism.

Uncle Lucius
Jam band veterans hanging it up and went out on top…of the rock.

Jamie Lin Wilson
Nobody worked harder in 2017 than Jamie Wilson.  Touring, guesting, driving, flying…chances are if you went to a show anywhere in the lower 48 this year you found Jamie Wilson doing her thing.

 

DISOVERIES

Mike Stanley

Charley Crockett

Tyler Childers

Kensie Coppin

Read Southall

Kody West

 

MUSICIANS

Ben Hussey

Tony Calhoun

Andres Rocha

Todd Lanningham

Johnny Chops

Preston Wait

 

SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOW

Dalton Domino
Domino caused some storms with his words, but you never stopped reading them.

Charlie Stout
Everyone’s cranky uncle.  He could be defined as a hipster if he didn’t hate them and that description so much.  Stout does his own thing and will mute you in a second.  His wit is only exceeded by his photography.

Parker McCollum
A pure volume tweeter. Tons of content, nuggets of gold.

Red Shahan
This posts aren’t often, and are sometimes indecipherable…but they’re usually spot on.

Wade Bowen
Vodka, memes, dad jokes…all the best stuff.

Jamie Wilson
Wilson takes you into her home, hotel rooms, car, porch and gigs with a good-natured charm.

Kaitlinn Butts
Endearing, entertaining and insightful posts give you a glimpse at two for one…see Butts and Cleto Cordero here.

 

VENUES

House of FiFi Dubois – San Angelo, TX

Kessler – Dallas, TX

Redneck Country Club – Stafford, TX

Blue Light – Lubbock, TX

Magnolia Motor Lounge – Fort Worth, TX

Backyard – Waco, TX

Visiting the yellow DOG

by: Cody Starr

The studio is a place where art and tech cross paths. Taking a song birthed from raw creativity and figuring out how to best capture its essence and onto a medium, whether it be vinyl or digital bits to be streamed over the ether, is an art form in and of itself.

To most of us looking from the outside, our minds equate the recording process to a band jam session in a padded room with somebody hitting the record button to catch it all. And while that does happen on occasion, it’s only of one of many ways the sausage is made. In reality, it’s indeed sausage, a confluence of meaty bits – instruments, vocals, effects, ambient noises all processed and combined; and if done well, it tastes pretty damn good. It’s also organic and messy, we usually never know which parts made it in one take or were meticulous combined from ten different takes. Happy accidents are mistaken for conscious brilliance and sometimes the person you think is playing on the record isn’t playing at all.

I was pretty excited to get an unsolicited invite to yellow DOG Studios to sit in with Tahlequah, Oklahoma’s own DocFell & Co. as they began production on their latest project, “Heaven, Hell or Oklahoma”. I’ll get to the band and their album in a minute, but let’s first set the scene.

You may have heard of yellow DOG, owned by the longtime producer, engineer, and musician Dave Percefull. Dave, who started his studio in Tulsa in 1996, was right in the middle of the Texas/Red Dirt explosion. Back then he was no stranger to The Farm or The Yellow House, working with legends like Tom Skinner, Bob Childers, and even some bar recordings with Garth. In 2007 he journeyed south to Austin where he could attract a wider variety of artists and projects. And while Austin did help amass some impressive clientele, it got prohibitively expensive not only for yellow DOG, (who occupied a building in downtown on Congress) but also for the artists. Bands were devouring 30%-40% of their recording budget on food and lodging, not to mention the distractions that accompany a town like Austin that can derail projects in a hurry.

So in 2014 Percefull got out of the rat race and simplified. He and fellow resident producer Adam Odor (BadTruth podcast anyone?) found 30+ acres with Blanco River frontage just 45 minutes south in the artsy small town of Wimberley. The 100-year-old farmhouse sitting on the property was converted to a working studio with views of the river. There are complimentary bunkhouses on premises and even full-sized cabins at a neighboring guest ranch. It’s a musician’s retreat, allowing bands to save some coin and disconnect so they can put their energy towards creating the best record possible.

Percefull and Odor were successful, pulling up to the yellow DOG house feels very unassuming in that weekend Texas lakehouse kind of way. Lucy Jean, the unofficial mascot, was quick to welcome me. It was late and everyone was on the back porch around the firepit, decompressing from the day, wine flowing and philosophy commencing. Through the front door, a piano sits in the middle of what used to be the living room, now a gathering place with all sorts of vintage instruments. Your eyes scan the room, trying to take inventory of it all but eventually failing to organize it. Off the living room are the control room and one of two studio spaces; one is set up for recording drums and the other pretty much everything else.

That leads us to the purpose of my trip, to see DocFell & Co. at work on “Heaven, Hell, or Oklahoma”. Percefull is producing and engineering the project. By the time I got there, the band had already been at work for a couple of days laying down drum, vocal, and rhythm guitar tracks. My day was spent largely with Adam Miller composing and putting down bass lines. It’s a meticulous and at times mechanical process, taking what’s created by the right brain and converting it into a left brain activity. But in the end, it really doesn’t matter how it’s done if the music feeds your soul.

Obviously, it’s all still coming together but the album dabbles in the existential themes of life, death and beyond the grave. Talking with John Fell, several of the tracks were written just after attending funerals, which sounds morbid but it’s those types of events that often get us thinking about the big picture. There are other songs inspired by family members, like “Mean Marie”, loosely based on tales about his grandmother-in-law and “Radio is Dead”, inspired by his son. Fell also pays tribute to Willie Nelson with his song “Three Chords”, but my favorite track thus far is “Beulah Land”. It’s inspired by an old pilgrim hymnal about heaven and marches along as if you are approaching the Pearly Gates. As with their previous albums, Scissor Tail and Dust Bowl Heart, Fell and the band intend to stay true to their established folk-country sound. However, I expect Percefull will likely add a touch of 70’s Waylon Jennings to give the project a voice of its own.

Overall, it was really cool to watch it all happen and I even got in a little jam session with Adam, Kyle Brown (guitar), and Phillip Tijerina (yellow DOG Studios, 2nd engineer).

Expect “Heaven, Hell, or Oklahoma” to hit during the first half of 2018. For more on DocFell & Co. check the usual outlets:

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/docfellmusic/

Twitter – @drfeljo

Website: www.docfellmusic.com

yellow DOG Studios website: www.yellowdogstudios.com

Domino Theory

by: Heather Copeland

 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard about the recent controversy between up-and-comer Dalton Domino and a patron of his recent show at Hoot’s Pub in Amarillo. Much ado about smoking was made by the patron and the controversy sparked a trending hashtag on Twitter #LETDALTONSMOKE.… Read the rest

{Review} Drew Kennedy – At Home in the Big Lonesome

Songwriting is a wide and varied art form that takes on many different personalities depending upon the writer and the subject matter.  Drew Kennedy is one of the best songwriters on the planet and has been for some time.  He’s good because he’s honest, even when making the story up about something from the ether of his imagination, a high school anecdote or a gig routing trip through the vastness of west Texas.… Read the rest

On Top of the Red Dirt Mountain (By Era)

Ric Flair famously proclaimed “To be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man.”  A farcical taunt in the world of pro wrestling about who was the biggest, baddest and best at any given time.  Someone who puts butts in seats and causes a reaction. … Read the rest