Will Hoge is a name we’ve been championing on this website for over 5 years. He’s incrementally ingrained himself in this scene over that time, reaching a Chevrolet-backed crescendo this year. Hoge is a native of Nashville, but is more rocker than honky-tonker…although he can ably pull off just about any style under the sun. During his full-band set at MusicFest this week in Steamboat, he took time to recognize his ultra-cool carpet bagger status within the Texas/Red Dirt scene by proclaiming onstage “One of the things I love most about this scene of y’alls that you’ve invited us into is that you guys don’t care about labels…you just wanna hear good music.”
He boiled the essence of this scene down into one statement. We all ended up here, be we artists or fans because we wanted good music…better music than we were experiencing. While at first you may think that good music can only come within our region’s borders, you soon begin to realize that good music, just like bad music, can come from anywhere.
While it is certainly true that our scene has just as much of the bad stuff as any other scene, the cream of our crop certainly seems to exceed other genres with regard to quality and versatility. For instance, Hoge in his Steamboat set, ranged from country to rock to soul to folk…sometimes within the same song. There were no songs about trucks, (“Strong” Chevy jokes aside), and nothing about state pride. Just raw emotion filled lyrics fueled with ferociously authentic musicianship.
That’s what we as fans want. Give us the real stuff. Don’t pander to us. Chances are if you write from your heart, we’re going to connect with it. Take the most personal story you can think of and put lyrics to it. There’s a high probability that many people in many places will find themselves in it somehow and in ways that you never would’ve imagined.
Exhibit A: Whiskey Myers – “Broken Window Serenade”. Very few of us know a girl that died of a meth overdose, yet the song connects anyhow. Exhibit B: Uncle Lucius – “Keep the Wolves Away”. While we’ve all watched our parents and loved ones struggle to provide for our families at one time or another. That’s an extremely personal and detailed story. It’s not our story, it’s Kevin Galloway’s. He shared it with us and we responded to its integrity.
Honesty always conquers pretension.
Labels, genres and locations be damned. We’re just seeking quality. A great analogy is that of food. There is no question that Taco Bell sells immensely more food than Herbert’s Taco Hut…but which one is better? Luke Bryan may sell more records than Wade Bowen…but which one is better? I think the choice is clear.
Masses crave conformity and silly songs that are easily digestible. Just like those who dine at fast food establishments on a regular basis. They don’t want to think about it. They just want to gobble down a 99 cent heart attack and move down the line.
We’re not cut out that way. We want to explore the mom and pop restaurants. We want to know the stories behind the songs. We’d like to try out that local craft brew before downing a tallboy ‘Stone. We crave a deeper, more personal experience and connection. Not everyone does…and that’s okay. That’s what makes us unique.
Be real. Be genuine. Don’t sing about it…be about it. If being about it is riding through the mud in the woods on the way to the party in the pasture in your 4×4 as you blast T-Pain through your 6x9s and pound moonshine so be it. But, I’m going to call your bluff. I grew up in an egregiously redneck, rural area where we did some things that would’ve made those kids from that Buckwild show blush. And even at our most white trash hedonistic peak, we could never have related to that garbage. But, now Robert Earl Keen singing about not staying sober down on Corpus Christi Bay is something we could jive with. That sounded more realistic….because it is.
Much was made of that viral video from last month that poked fun at the year that was in 2013 mainstream country music. The homogeneous, sameness and simple-mindedness of it all. Trucks, girls, bad country rapping and booze. No depth. No originality. Much of it seemed as if SNL was performing a sketch about country music; or we were all being Punk’d by some elaborate Music City pranksters. So, while the big machine traipses down the road of ruined integrity, we will fly the flag of originality and authenticity.
Be real. Be genuine. Don’t sing about…be about it. Thankfully, we all know more than a few artists and bands willing to rise to the challenge and provide art that is uncompromising, personal, beautiful and thought-provoking. We’re craving it and they’re largest desire is to get it out of their soul and into our ears.
2014 is going to be a good year for our little scene that hasn’t been little for a decade. I’ve got good vibes and so should you. In this day and age we have the freedom, ability and technology to listen to what we want, when we want. Life’s too short to listen to bad music. If you’re reading this column for the first time or the 100th, congratulations…your musical tastes have already found the real. Continue to embrace it and support authenticity. Be real. Be genuine. Be about it.
What artists do you think are going to be about it in 2014? Let us know in the comments section.
-I love the Charlie Strong hire at the University of Texas. I’m a Longhorn fan and appreciate all Mack Brown has done to bring the program back to the top of the mountain, but it was time for a change.
-One interesting note Coach Strong mentioned in his introductory press conference was with regard to recruiting. When asked if he was going to concentrate solely on Texas, he answered that while yes Texas would be his focus, he was only concerned with finding football players. He didn’t care about star ratings or location. They could be a 1 star recruit from Timbuktu and if he thought he could mold the young man into an outstanding athlete, he’d go after him. The similarities to the music scene are boundless.
-So, Steamboat has kicked off another calendar year of Texas Music madness. To all those that made the trek, I’m glad to see you survived. MusicFest means we’re about to be real busy for the next few months. Autumn is always a slower time for us. But, February-July is pretty insane usually. LJT is on the horizon and Greenfest planning has begun once more! July 26-27 in New Braunfels. Book it. Plan it. Add it to your iPhone calendar now. It’s going down.
-Really bummed to see Six Market Blvd and Josh Weathers taking sabbaticals from music. But, the things Clayton Landau and Weathers are going to be up to outside of music and the reasons behind these moves shows what kind of true character they really have.
-I looked at the Texas Music Chart for the first time in a few years the other day. Songs that are on that chart were on The Drop about two years ago. That’s a long shelf life for those records. I guess that’s good work for those radio promoters. I guess.
-I can’t recall a winter with this many cold days. I’m over it. Give me 102 over 12 any day.
-By law here should be a Buc-ee’s every 100 miles on any main interstate in America.
-We’ve got some exciting things planned for 2014 and continued content from all our new writers. It’s going to be a good year.
–This month’s recommended album is: Jason Eady – Daylight and Dark. Picking up where AM Country Heaven left off, this record finds Eady plowing the same tried and true classic country feel of that record with warmer results. A stellar band of backing musicians and some very introspective lyrics combine to provide the most honest to goodness country record you’ll hear this year
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain