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{Brad's Corner} May 2010: Balancing Act

{Brad�s Corner}

Lone Star beer in my cereal and big city stripper’s helped usher in my affinity for this music. But, I also loved songs about the lights on the stage and the two sad daughters of Ruby. It was a balance. You came for the party and ended up having your mind blown that the guys encouraging the chugging of cold beer could also make you think and re-evaluate something in your life.
As I entered this new realm, I was accosted by the new sensations and realizations that the guys who were singing these songs actually wrote and lived them. It made it real and tangible.

After growing up listening to the radio, it was startling to come to grips with the fact that George Strait really didn’t know Demples in Temple or that Metallica really hadn’t been placed in a sanitarium…or that Vanilla Ice hadn’t actually been a gangsta in Miami.

Lately, there have been some grenades thrown at me and this website that we are music snobs who only clamor for listening room environments. Nothing can be further from the truth.

When I think of music snobs I picture some old fart aging hippie with busted birkenstocks, a ponytail, glasses on the end of his nose, sipping wine from a glass pontificating about which Clash record was best. Couldn’t be talking about me…I don’t own birkenstocks and I think the Clash are overrated.

You see, art and music specifically cannot be beholden to one ideal. We enjoy screaming along and shaking our rumps to Bingham’s “Sunrise” just as much as we do a silent room for an acoustic rendering of “Cry Pretty”.

As a fan of all genres of music, it would be boring and redundant to only sit around and listen to the same artists or go to the same concerts over and over again. That doesn’t mean you won’t still see your favorites more often than other things, but branching out is healthy.

Texas Music is a vast land of open ears and places willing to try out original music. In other words, there’s not a lot of clamoring for “Freebird” at shows (just some drunk dudes yelling for “Carney Man”). In that vast land there are different avenues to check out music…sometimes in the same place.

For instance, Cheatham Street Warehouse. Kent Finlay fosters an environment that is beholden to the craft of songwriting. If you are caught talking during an acoustic songswap featuring a Slaid Cleaves type, you will be kindly asked to leave the premises. However, the next night at his songwriting haven, Kent might host someone like The Tejas Brothers and everyone will be encouraged to get up dance, whoop and holler. Is Kent a music snob for clamping down during the acoustic night? Or is he an ignorant fool who only cares about the beer and the party on the Tejas night? The answer is neither. He’s both, and that’s something we should all aspire to be.

Texas Music is all encompassing.

The problem arises when there is too much of one or the other. Some thing, some place or someone who only caters to the listening room vibe definitely has their right to do so…but it comes off like a place owned by Abe Froman and meant for aristocrats. Eventually, and far too often, that person hangs out alone. The artists that are of this ilk end up playing to their guitar cases more often than they’d like and they wear the struggling artist tag proudly while secretly envying the crowds of the partying artists.

On the flip side, some thing, some place or someone that only caters to the party is teetering off the brink of believability. If your life is only about getting drunk, stoned and laid while floating down rivers and hanging out in the Stockyards or at pasture party keggers…I envy you.

Just joking, the less glib answer would be I feel sorry for you. Even at the heights of my debauchery, I realized that there was more to life than the party. And, that even the coolest parties must end. Sometimes they end before you realize it, your buddies are passed out on the couch and you’re sitting there with a cowboy cool beer, an empty pizza box and the sun is cutting through the mini-blinds onto the throngs of passed out folks in your bachelor pad.

That’s how I see the rowdy go-for broke party bands. Before they know it, their crowd will have hit up iTunes for something else and they’ll be left to pick up the beer cans and talk to the cops.

That’s why I enjoy and feel it is essential that music balance the thoughtful with the rowdy. The mundane with the adventurous. The routine with the escapism. The romantic with the screw you-go to hell.

Those that excel at Texas Music over the long haul learn how to do both. Either you adapt or the crowd will eventually find somebody who will. It isn’t because fans are fickle…it’s because their lives are constantly evolving as are their entertainment options.

As Tank, myself and others have alluded to with a couple recent articles…few people have the time to check out new music. You may be able to contain them for a couple years, but it is all about the long haul. So, it’s important to put out good products. Stay fresh or go home.

Wade Bowen is making a national run due to determination, hard work and perhaps the best balancing act out there. His albums are full of songs that resonate and invade your brain and make you think. But, he counteracts that with songs like “Resurrection” and belting about his whiskey on “Handle”. If his albums were 12 tracks of “Handle”, people would tune out in droves. Just as they would if he produced 12 “Walking Along the Fencelines”.

Even Kevin Fowler delivers songs like “Hard Man To Love” to counterbalance his redneck anthems. Jason Boland may sing about his baby loving his stoned state, but one listen to “Bottle By My Bed” says all you need to know about finding the balance I’m referring to. Even the much maligned Josh Abbott is able to keep one foot in both camps by evening out the carnal nature of “Taste” with love songs that speak to his truth.

And, there are countless other examples.

Sadly, there are also far too many examples of people who don’t “get it” and will fizzle out in a few years because they have no tricks up their sleeve other than the fact that they know how to lead the party. That should serve them well in the future as a bartender.

When you serve too much of one or the other, it causes the songs to lose their punch and vitality. You want to stop people in their tracks, make them hit rewind and demand that they listen again. If all your songs are the same, nothing will stand out and sooner or later you’ll be skipped altogether.

That’s not specific to the Texas/Red Dirt genre either. History has proven that to be true in all genres…that’s why artists are always trying to constantly evolve with their audience.

I once heard a songwriter from Nashville describe the thoughtful songs as “crossword puzzle” songs because they make you think. I really like that analogy. He went on to describe that people come to him when they are putting together their albums and ask him to pitch them a few crossword puzzle songs and a few party songs because radio likes some of both. Country radio finally has something right with that idea.

We’ve never set out to be “music snobs” around here. We just like turning people onto new music and passionately supporting the stuff we dig. We don’t put the stuff we don’t dig on blast…we just don’t spotlight it. So, if being a music snob involves supporting music you love then I guess you can call us that. But, I prefer music lover. I think painting people, sites and artists with the brush of music snob is ignorant and unfair.

It’s all about the balance.

MINOR CHORDS:

-GreenFest 2010 is planned as a 2-day event on July 31/Aug 1 in New Braunfels. We will be announcing the locations and line-ups soon. For now, mark your calendars and plan to come have a musical family reunion in the Hill Country.

-There has been one helluva string of bad luck around the music scene lately. My heart aches for the families of Anthony Eby and Kelly Danaher. In addition, the Ragweed and RRB families had some issues to sort out as well. Here’s to hoping that Poodie Locke’s slogan rings true for the next good while…”there are no bad days.”

-I’m working on a cool article that addresses the whole “Nashville sucks” mantra. I’ll just say this…my take on it is that is completely ignorant. The article might ruffle some feathers, but it needs to be said.

-Glad that we’ve had so much rain lately…it should set the table for a fantastic summer of tubing.

-LJTs was another banner year. One thing I left out of my recap was the story about how we were camped next to a rookie female from New York who was easily offended by all that was going on around her. She was on sensory overload…and let’s just say the sight of a distinguished gentleman statue sent her into hysterics. Good times.

-Stoney LaRue seems to finally be rounding back into musical shape. Excited to see what he finally has in store.

-Isn’t Whitewater one of the coolest venue vibes around? Who do you think has the best vibe?

-Glad Friday Night Lights has finally returned to regular TV. Who is the hotter TV mom…Claire Dunphy or Tami Taylor? Hmmm.

-We’ve got a lot of cool features rolling out…and the complete transition to Galley 4.0 is happening soon. Give us some feedback so we know what’s working and what’s not.

-I’m thrilled about Betty White’s comeback…now if we could just get Thelma Harper involved.

-I think Justin Beiber is actually a 37 year old lesbian with good skin.

-Can’t decide if I’m more surprised that Tiger Woods missed a cut or that he had sex with a Perkins waitress. The golf underworld has turned out to be more sordid than the NBA’s…who’dve thunk?

-M is for the mudflaps ya give me for my pick-up truck…O is for the oil I put on my hairrr…T is for T-bird…H is for Haggard…E is for eggs and R is for REDNECK! Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

-This month’s recommended film: Kick-Ass. What I thought for sure was a further step toward the movie Idiocracy coming true (and the title still is that one step)…actually turned out to be subversive dark adventure comedy that had more in common with Dark Knight than Blankman.

-This month’s recommended album: Rodney Hayden-Tavern of Poets. One of the most traditional honky-tonk singers in Texas who spent nearly a decade as Robert Earl Keen’s protege, has slowly been transitioning into more of a singer/songwriter type…all while dropping amazingly good albums. This latest effort finds him being produced by Drew Kennedy and lending his voice to the strongest set of songs he’s ever written. The entire album is in the GW Music Player for you to check out.

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

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