February 2010: Tide Turning to Church of Walt Wilkins?

In this space, I’ve ranted about stuff I don’t like as much as I have raved about stuff I do like. So, I’m often asked why I like or prefer Texas and Americana music over the more slick commercial and mainstream country offerings. Or why I don’t like a particular band or album. I usually answer it’s because of the relatability and realism of the lyrics and the rawness of the music.
I mean, I’ve never picked a girl up in a green tractor or enjoyed bragging about my hillbilly bone. I much prefer hearing a singer/songwriter deliver some soulful slice of life.

Ten years ago that might’ve been Pat Green talking about a dancehall or Jack Ingram referencing tearing down the road in a beat up Ford pick-up. Nowadays it might include Wade Bowen conveying the mindset of soldiers overseas or Brandon Rhyder singing about a backroad.

But recently, when someone asked me about why I liked a certain person’s songwriting it got me to pondering. Why do I dig this or that?

The stuff I dig is what I like to call authentic and original. I don’t mind if it’s influenced by someone else, but I cannot stand a blatant carbon copy. I also like seeing artistic growth…but too often in this scene bands become stagnated and make the same record over and over. Or, (even worse) they try to go so far in the opposite experimental direction that they fail.

Look around at the Texas music scene. Things are supposed to get better, right?

I mean, humans have evolved. Television has arrived at everything-HD. Light bulbs last longer and take up less energy. Sneakers are more advanced than the Chuck Taylors were upon their introduction. You can get your vision corrected through laser treatment, rather than be confined to coke bottle-thick glasses.

Everything around us improves in quality, use, and adaptability.

So why, in our precious little music scene, has the overall level of craftsmanship when it comes to songwriting, declined?

Does the next generation of music fan even know what a good song is, or do they just think something is good because they hear it on the radio?

Where is the taste? Where is the education? Where is the exploration?

If there ever comes a time when there are no Josh Griders left down here, no Eadys or no Chris Knight’s being welcome…. then I think there is only the music fan to blame.

Texans have had a long love affair with their rightful heritage as the state that has produced some of the finest songwriters in the world. If we lose the increasingly small number of true songwriters we have left, aren’t we losing a part of our heritage?

Everything has to go, but for a state that sticks to its historical background with the fever of 10,000 banshees, wouldn’t you think there’d be a higher standard here?

That’s what I’ve been wondering for the past couple years as bands I did not “get” or personally enjoy staked a claim in the musical heritage I hold so dear.

However, as Dylan said, the times they are a changin’. And for the good.

There is a strong undercurrent of strong talent beginning to gain traction. Not only are they remaining critic’s darlings…but the public at large is starting to get turned on to them.

Slowly, but surely.

It seems to me that music fans will no longer hold the blame I alluded to earlier. They are starting to figure out which artists have legs for a lifetime of enjoyment and which one’s will expire past this particular hell-raising Saturday night.

This pendulum shift is being forced by Ryan Bingham’s national success, Band of Heathens global touring and notoriety, Jason Eady’s steady climb to the top, Sean McConnell’s acceptance, Randy Rogers Band’s uncompromising major label charge and the continual evolution of Wade Bowen.

In other words, people are beginning to realize the church of Walt Wilkins is much more righteous than the church of Hell Yeah in the long run. There’s nothing wrong with being in the latter when you’re 18-24, but if you hang around that church solely after that age then you come off looking like Wooderson in Dazed and Confused.

Plus, the church of Walt Wilkins knows how to have a good time too…it’s just classier.


-This entry marks the 6th anniversary of this column…as my first one back in 2004 dealt with the Grammy’s that year. What a long, strange trip it’s been. Thanks to all the folks who’ve ever told me they dug my writing, sent an encouraging e-mail and even those who’ve left nasty comments. I deeply appreciate your responses.

-Speaking of Walt…will the jackass that stole his guitar please return it?

-Someone asked me on Twitter the other day why I was hating on Taylor Swift so much after I compared her singing voice to this crappy weather we’re having (dull, off-putting and relentless). My answer was that she’s just an easy scapegoat for a failing industry and business model at large. The old star-making major label machine is fading faster each year as listeners get more mobile, picky and sophisticated. Then, after her dreadful performance on the Grammy’s cemented the fact that she cannot sing and the Internet fallout began, I just sat back silently lack a cat that had caught the canary. The mainstream that was unaware of her prior to the Kanye incident now realized what we’ve been saying for three years…the girl can’t sing…she may be able to write some lyrics that teenage girls connect with…but she can’t sing. Add in the laughable defense of her by Scott Borchetta, the Kelly Clarkson blog in response to his defense, a growing buzz of “hey, this girl really can’t sing”, Pink singing live while doing a Cirque de Soleil show…and the backlash has begun.

-Going to see Miranda Lambert perform this week…if I see Blake Shelton tweeting, I will break his phone. Y’all can thank me later.

-There is a movement afoot to convince the NFL to move the Super Bowl to Saturday. Makes complete sense to me…that means they probably won’t do it.

-I’m very much ready for pitchers and catchers to report, spring festival season to kick off, spring weather to arrive,

-If you’re interested in contributing to our new “What I’m Diggin’ ” feature, let us know. And, no I’m not looking for essays from archaeologists, geologists or excavators.

-Version 4.0 of Galleywinter is closer than ever. We’ve got some tricks up our sleeve for it. Stay tuned. We think it will be much improved.

-Who has two thumbs and still hasn’t seen Avatar and has no plans to? This guy right here.

-Someone get Shayne Hollinger back on the air.

-Next month’s column may just be about how I see so many talented musicians lacking motivation…why is that? Some of the most talented people I’ve ever seen have no ambition to get out of their small-town fame or off their couch for that matter.

-I hear something super important is going on tomorrow in Miami. I think Will Smith is riding a colt and trying to act like a saint…bienvenido a miami.

-This month’s recommended film: The Hurt Locker As someone who has had family members and friends battling in the Middle East far too often these past few years…this movie hit home.

-This month’s recommended album: Ray Wylie Hubbard-A: Enlightenment B. Endarkment. Perhaps the Wylie Lama’s most solid effort during his creative renaissance. A bluesy, growler of an album that showcases some of the finest wit and songwriting you’ll find anywhere.

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

Brad Beheler

Raised in Waco, refined in the Hill Country, escaped from DFW. I've worked in just about every facet of the music business for 20 years. I like to write about it all. e-mail Brad Editor-in-Chief

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