|Another year has come and gone. At the close of 2007, I had predicted that 2008 would bring a changing of the guard. While progress was made, here’s to hoping that 2009 will break on through to the other side.|
This year we saw the continuing rejuvenation of Bleu Edmondson, Jason Boland, Cory Morrow and Roger Creager. The ongoing discovery of Ryan Bingham and Hayes Carll. Jason Eady and Josh Grider building the type of slow and consistent traction that will lead to a longlasting career. New artists like Band of Heathens, Modern Day Drifters, Liz & Lincoln, Emory Quinn, and Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward started making their own marks. Randy Rogers Band, Eli Young Band, and Jack Ingram continued their push in the national marketplace.
Yet, for all that progress there is one key ingredient that has been on the back of the milk carton for about three years now.
These words used to be synonymous with all aspects of this music scene, including this website. But as a friend recently pointed out to me, somewhere along the way we all got lazy. All of us…fans, bands, promoters, clubs, distributors etc. We used to be motivated to take this music to the masses, and now that some of us have made it to the mountaintop, those that are still climbing seem to have a sense of entitlement bigger than Ricky Schroeder on Silver Spoons.
As fans we’ve all become too complacent. It’s just too easy to sit on your hands and hope that people discover your new favorite band. Whereas back in the day, some of us felt so emboldened by the music that was crawling into our ears that we would crawl on our hands and knees to a gig or radio station or event if it meant helping our favorite band out.
How do we apply this dedication to today’s music climate?
If everybody here picked just their one favorite up and coming act, and spent just a little bit of time pimping them, posting songs in bulletins on MySpace, posting show reviews on Galleywinter, calling/e-mailing radio stations, it would make a huge difference. People are too damned complacent anymore. It’s too easy to sit your at home and turn on the iPod, and not have to bother being anybody’s cheerleader anymore.
We need more cheerleaders.
I remember the days when we supported this music like our life depended on it. As fans, I’d love to see it get back to that. Fans are just 50% of the equation though.
Bands must do their part too.
Recently, I’ve seen too many unproven and misguided bands rolling into venues like they are Zeppelin in ’74. Walky talky carrying roadies for a bar with capacities of 100; covering the same songs bands have been covering for almost ten years now; a bus daddy rented for them; a Pete Townshend level PA yet no album to sell at the merch stand.
Cart before horse much?
Where does this lazy sense of entitlement come from? Riding the coattails of those that came before isn’t cool. Where would guys like Wade Bowen, Jason Boland and Brandon Jenkins be if they had acted like that coming up? The answer is they’d be a joke that never made it out of their hometown.
Bands need to be more assertive and less ignorant.
People like Stephanie Briggs and Texas Renegade are always coming up with unique ways to push their music forward. Other young bands should take lessons.
Be a cheerleader….not a lazy hater.
-Top Ten Albums of the Year:
1. Wade Bowen-If We Ever Make It Home
-Bowen dug deep into himself for the soul bearing effort Lost Hotel. This album picks up where that one left off, yet manages to add some dimensions previously undiscovered. Bowen stretches his voice and songwriting to the limit and succeeds. He also refreshingly casts his ego aside and cuts some tunes not from his pen. The best album of the year from top to bottom. Consistent in message, tone and musicality.
Standout track: “If We Ever Make It Home”; the title track has endless meanings: lost souls, musicians strung out on the road, homeless people, addicts. Yet, after Wade performed it for an Army platoon soon to be departing to Iraq it took on a new meaning. A triumphant and inspirational song that does not overtly beat its chest. Fine work.
2. Randy Rogers Band-Randy Rogers Band
-This album is RRB’s second major label product. Ignorant people still claim to hear strains of selling out and conformity. But, they are tremendously mistaken. This is without a doubt the same band that producedRollercoaster, albeit a more mature outfit. This time around the band went to a secluded Louisiana mansion to record the album. The new setting for recording combined with Rogers branching out to new co-writers produced some of the best melodies and lyrics of his career. There are several surefire hits on the record…it’s up to Mercury Records to make it happen!
Standout track: “Didn’t Know You Could”; this Micky Braun-Randy Rogers co-write is one of the most hauntingly beautiful songs to ever find a home on a country record. I have compared this song to Queen or U2 doing country, and I feel that is apt.
3. Reckless Kelly-Bulletproof
-I once read a review of Reckless Kelly that said they are brilliant yet boring. I knew what the guy meant, even if I disagreed. What he was getting at is that too many times RK’s songs sound alike. Indistinguishable from one another over the course of listening to the album as a whole. This latest effort breaks out of that mold. It was the most controversial and ambitious album they’ve released.
Standout track: “A Guy Like Me”; the thumping bass intro informs the listener right off the bat that RK is stretching their wings from the status quo. Other tunes on this set get more attention, but this is my favorite.
4. Jason Boland-Comal County Blue
-Jason Boland has been through hell. A divorce, a lost voice, battles with the bottle, you name it. This record documents all of it. It has a simplistic, direct nature that is missing from the bulk of overproduced crap we are inundated with these days.
Standout track: “Comal County Blue”; this title track is a poet’s tour through the Hill Country. Boland has always had a way of saying more with less, and on this track he paints vivid photos in a Shaver-esque way whereas others would be trying to turn it into a Dylan song.
5. Brandon Jenkins-Faster Than a Stone
-Jenkins has always been an underappreciated wordsmith and artist in the Texas/Red Dirt scene. He’s always seemed to have a problem matching his laidback personality with his booming voice and songwriting. This album is a perfect match.
Standout track: “Help Me Jesus”; with strains of Mississippi Delta soul and gospel music sprinkled with the Red Dirt from which he comes, Jenkins produces a powerful redemption via song.
6. Todd Snider-Peace Queer
-Many people call Todd Snider the greatest contemporary songwriter working today, and I would have to agree. At times he can be so odd that it may seem that Hunter S. Thompson has come back from the grave to make music. However, by the end of the journey through a Todd Snider album you are entirely grateful that you bought the ticket and took the ride.
Standout track: “Fortunate Son”; Snider’s take on the CCR classic is a somber rendering that allows the lyrics to strike your heart and head in a different manner than the rocking original does.
7. Hayes Carll-Trouble In Mind
-Hayes Carll has been one of the great hopes of Texas Music since his debut, as Nashville has noticed him from day one. With each album, Carll has proven adept at challenging his artistic being to deliver a stronger effort than those previous. With his latest album, the audience finds some punchier production meeting some of the best songs Carll has written.
Standout track: “I Got a Gig”; a humorous take on Carll’s earliest adventures in the music business down on the Bolivar Peninsula came complete with a humorous online cartoon video. Carll also manages to slyly pull no punches on the posers who haven’t played six nights a week for their supper. Much like Reckless Kelly, there are other songs on this record that got more attention due to perceived controversy, but this is my favorite of the collection.
8. Modern Day Drifters-Highway is Our Home
-Texas/Red Dirt music hasn’t had a whole lot of diversity or flavor in any of the new artists to come along in the past couple years. MDD proved to be a band that wanted to mix things up completely. Not just a duo…but more a complete band in the Fleetwood Mac concept where each member writes, sings and performs. With a slide blues playing lead guitar player from Portland, Oregon whose dad was in a southern rock band mixed with a south Texas rancher’s son and a feisty female lead vocalist who has co-written with some of the biggest names in the scene, this band was primed for big things. This effort is an admirable debut album. It was essentially recorded in a trailer with no budget, produced by the band and rushed to the marketplace to meet demand. It is what it is…but it displays a ton of promise. When the records catch up to the live show, watch out.
Standout track: “Gone”; a moody duet about a break-up with the two lovers in the narrative literally driving from away from one another while they symbolically can’t get the other out of their rear view mirror.
9. Eli Young Band-Jet Black and Jealous
-This album represents EYB’s first big foray into the national scene. It features a rehashing of “When It Rains” as the lead single. But, it is all the new stuff that EYB pulls out on this album that make it stand out. There are several highlights such as Mike Eli’s best vocal on a studio album; some great harmony work, and some terrific songwriting that came from collaborations with some of Nashville’s brightest.
Standout track: “Famous”; Keith Gattis is one of those songwriters that always has a knack of conveying the most complex human emotions in the most simple way. EYB’s musical backing and Eli’s emotive vocals backed by some good harmony express the despair of not getting the one you love to love you back despite how great your current circumstance is. You might be the most famous person in the world, and the person you want most will still ignore you. A tragic reality experienced by every one a time or two in their lives, albeit on a much smaller scale than the name-checked Steve McQueen.
10. Roger Creager-Here It Is
-Admittedly, I had low expectations for this record. I didn’t really know what to expect after such a long layoff from Creager, and my preferences and his style migrated away from one another several years ago. However, this album was a pleasant surprise. This album is exuberant and very finely crafted. The long process to produce Here It Is is evident on each track. Co-produced by the Texas Music dream team of Radney Foster and Lloyd Maines, the album is layered and rootsy.
Standout track: “I Love Being Lonesome”; It kicks the album off with a subdued yet confident bang. The rhythm and melody have strains of Waylon’s “Lonesome, Ornery and Mean”, while the lyrics are straight out of the Haggard playbook. A successful return to the honky tonk for Creager without being as hokey as a couple of the tracks on this collection are.
Honorable mentions: Cory Morrow-Vagrants and Kings; Rodney Hayden-12 Ounce World; Brandon Rhyder-Every Night; Micky and the Motorcars-Naïve; Bart Crow-Desperate Hearts
Please check out all of these albums if you haven’t. They can all be found on MySpace so at least do yourself a favor and sample the standout tracks I mentioned!
Top 7 Shows of the Year
1. Rusty Wier @ LJTs. Simply the most moving musical experience I’ve ever been a part of. Rusty powered through the weakness beset him by chemo and cancer. He fed off the energy of the crowd and basked in the glow like only he can. I detailed the set here in my LJT review.
2. Adam Hood @ Woody’s. With what amounted to a supergroup, Adam and Patrick were joined by Matt Powell on bass, Geoff Queen on lead guitar, and Bonnie Bishop on backing vocals. How freakin’ cool is that? The answer is that it was as cool as you imagine it to be.
3. Josh Grider @ LJTs. Another LJTs performance, yes. But, I put it on this list for entirely different reasons. After years of telling everyone I know about Josh, this felt like a coming out party. It was the first time I’d seen that many people get into his stuff at one time. People were singing along and by the end of his set where he’d been joined by Drew Kennedy on backing vocals he sold out of merch. An incredible afternoon.
4. Wade Bowen/Modern Day Drifters @ Wild West-Waco in August. Two bands absolutely tearing it up in their hometown. This was one of the first times I’d seen MDD in a big room and they rose to the challenge. Wade and his boys always turn it up when Wade’s in Waco and this night was no different. They played an incredibly long set, had more fun than should be allowed on a stage, and previewed many of the songs from the new record for the first time.
5. Big O’ Benefit 2008 @ George’s in October. Great people. Great cause. The second time around was more successful than the ’05 version. Lots of interesting mash-ups of artists. Lost Immigrants and Brison Bursey stand out as having had killer sets.
6. Ramblin’ Revival Tour feat Jason Eady, Owen Temple, and Adam Carroll @ Clubhouse Concerts in August. Three of the most talented singer/songwriters working our scene today. Each of them bring something unique to the table. With Eady it’s his incredible voice and powerful songwriting. Owen provides a wise worldview that is uncommon in this scene or country music in general. And, Adam Carroll is the wittiest songwriter this side of Tom T. Hall. Put it all together in a listening room and it’s about as good as it gets.
7. For Sake of the Song Festival 2008 @Whitewater in June. RRB had a nice headlining set , but it was Bingham who stole the show. After a long rain-filled day of tubing…watching Bingham tear it up while smoke wafted over the crowd like we were at a European metal festival as the sun set was pretty amazing. A weekend I’ll never forget.
-Take to the comments section to add your own top 10’s!
-I dig the heck out of the CMT Pure channel. I catch all kinds of cool stuff on there. VH1 Classic also rocks too. We switched dish providers when we moved in August and there are many things I don’t like about our new one…but those two channels are at the top of my list of cool things!
-Is anyone else on Beyonce overload? I’ve upgraded to her single lady status so many times over the past few weeks that I think I am now officially bootylicious. Seriously though, Direct TV and Beyonce’s choreographer…we’ve had enough.
-Josh Grider would’ve been in that top 10 if his newest record was full length instead of an EP. He’s still the most original cat kicking in this scene.
-GWE voting is now ongoing…make sure you vote each day.
-The most underrated guy in building this scene to what it is today is Drew Womack. Lots of guys bite his vocal style and arrangements. Plus, he (Sons of the Desert) was in that initial wave with the Great Divide that helped kick down some doors. He’s a lot like Walt Wilkins…a true cornerstone that people pay lip service to but don’t support often enough.
-Some of the mainstream stuff I dug this year includes: Jamey Johnson, Ashton Shepherd, Lady Antebellum, David Cook, Lil’ Wayne, Coldplay, Sugarland, The Killers, Honeyhoney.
-Sidenote on Jamey Johnson. Jamey Johnson is the man. His new album is really freakin’ good – no qualifiers “good for Nashville” or “good for 2008” necessary, either. His work sounds like 1973. Whether you pick up the self-released version from 2007 or the Mercury re-release from August of this year. Check it out. You won’t be disappointed. It’s just real, good, country music from his pen, sung by a voice that’s a cross between Vern Gosdin and David Allan Coe. This album is good enough for me to forgive him for writing songs like “Ladies Love Country Boys” and “I Got My Game On” for Trace Adkins.
-Some of the mainstream stuff I hated this year includes: Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, the Jonas Brothers, 75% of what I heard on the radio, nearly everything recommended by Perez Hilton, and all of that emo crap like Red Jump Suit My Mom Didn’t Love Me Enough Out Boy Mascera Station Appartus.
-I remember first hearing Larry the Cable Guy doing a radio bit in 2001 and thinking he was the funniest thing I’d ever heard. Now, I cringe at the thought that I ever found his schtick amusing.
-Still waiting for Saturday Night Live to parody those UPS white board commercials. Too much potential there for them not to do so.
-I’m in the process of trying to develop two non-fiction book ideas I have. I’m sure publishers will be knocking down my door.
-Even though it has been out for several years, it still does the trick just right when called upon. Is there a better song for being in an aggressively foul mood than “Let’s Go” by Trick Daddy? I think not. John Mayer playing it with Trick Daddy at Tootsie’s on his VH1 show was hilarious and groundbreaking all at once.
-Having to wait until January for Friday Night Lights to return via my satellite provider stinks. But, seeing Jack Bauer kick some butt the other night in a two hour movie may tide me over.
-Off the Cuff is rolling along really well…I’d love to have some more contributors, so if you have something to say…holler at me!
-What’s up with the people that still line dance to “Copperhead Road”? I’ve often wondered what Steve Earle would say about it. And, does anyone else get offended when they yell “F&*# the Army!” during the interlude of “I volunteered for the Army on my birthday…” What is that about? This is something I noticed many years ago and had forgotten about until recently seeing it again. Sidenote…what’s up with people who line dance at all? It is only acceptable at weddings…and really only the Electric Slide, even then you are pushing it though!
-And the college football year gets crazier. Bill Snyder back to K-State…what? Joe Pa coaching from the pressbox with a headset that is probably not even on the same channel as the rest of the staff. He’s yelling into white noise. Lee Corso becoming a parody of himself. Brent Musberger calling Beyonce, Beyons. Mike Leach leveraging Tech into more money. The insanity that is the BCS. It never ends.
-Remember the reason for the season!
-Pacman Jones coming back to the Cowboys is like Roth going back to Van Halen…sounds good in theory until you realize it’s not mutually beneficial and both entities are past their prime. I’d like to kick he and Sean Avery out of DFW permanently.
-This month’s recommended film: Role Models. The continuing emergence of the comic genius within Paul Rudd combined with Stiffler returning to form. A funny movie, nothing more, nothing less.
-This month’s recommended album: Todd Snider-Peace Queer. As noted above, Snider is arguably the best songwriter alive and this might be the best album he’s ever produced. And
-Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.-Mark Twain
- Being Thankful
- Awkward Teenagers and the Cable Fairy