Time passes slowly and then one day you look back and realize what a truly strange (and long) trip it has been. Moments become memories and memories become moments. Tastes change from month to month, let alone year to year. And certainly every 10 years.
When we did this exercise for the years ranging from 2000-2009, the usual suspects that were the building blocks of this scene were found. Randy Rogers Band – Rollercoaster, Pat Green – Carry On, Reckless Kelly – Under the Table, Above the Sun, Ragweed – Purple, Waylon Payne – The Drifter. With the table set and ducks on the business pond, who would drive in the sales, songs and runs for the 2010’s?
Below you’ll find the albums, songs and artists that stood out to us the most over the past decade either due to us really digging them or them holding significant cultural impact on the music scene. While our accompanying Spotify playlists include over 400 tracks and 24 hours of music, we decided to whittle our contenders down. Our first pass had 50 albums, 75 songs and 40 artists. After much consternation and consideration, we have identified our top 20 albums, 30 songs and 10 artists respectively.
Some artists such as Turnpike, RRB, Whiskey Myers and Sean McConnell popped up multiple times in the album and song groupings, so we made the tough decision to refine it down to what we felt was their most essential. We also chose to exclude acts such as Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell and Tyler Childers because while they have made plenty of our year end favorites’ lists over the years, we wanted to zero in on those exclusively aligned with our music scene for this particular milestone. Enjoy!
Sean McConnell – Saints, Thieves & Liars (2010)
McConnell arrived at the dawn of the decade as the songwriting partner du jour of Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen. By the time he brought his white van down for a run through Texas he was the most buzzed about act around. If you caught one of those early shows, you’d have found him selling this soul-infused album at the merch table himself. This record expanded sonic horizons and lyrical themes beyond Lone Star borders and was a needed artistic jolt in the arm when it was most needed.
Turnpike Troubadours – Diamonds and Gasoline (2010)
A few select folks from Oklahoma posted in our old forums incessantly about this new group that they thought was going to be big. They sent us this Mike McClure-produced masterpiece before it dropped publicly. If memory serves, we even hosted an online listening party with RC Edwards or someone answering questions. This is one of those onion records…the layers keep coming. The more you listen, the more you notice…and ten years later we’re still listening and noticing this album. That will likely still be the case 50 years from now.
Whiskey Myers – Firewater (2011)
Crystallizing all their best elements into a modern southern rock masterpiece was no easy feat, but this was the record where Cody Cannon’s songwriting finally solidified its early promise. Firewater served as a launching pad to where WM would go, but it remains arguably their best top to bottom release.
Adam Hood – The Shape of Things (2011)
Hood had been beating around Texas for years by the time he released his second full-length studio effort. His first effort (Different Groove) had been produced by Pete Anderson of Dwight Yoakam guitar fame and Hood had felt a little restricted in the making of it. Not to say he didn’t like it, it just wasn’t completely him. This album, released on Carnival Records, solved that problem. Fellow songwriters Matthew Miller and Oran Thornton slid behind the controls alongside Hood himself and they served up a blues-based country collection that distills the best parts of Adam Hood’s sound.
Paul Cauthen – My Gospel (2016)
Recorded in Muscle Shoals and dripping with Texas Gentlemen, Cauthen projects his booming Waylon meets Elvis vibe all over this stirring album. The range of both his vocals and themes are all over the place and at times it can be a bit maddening, but it’s never not inviting. The coolest thing about this record is that this is the sound of an artist sounding like himself. There are no other Paul Cauthen’s on this planet. This is a unique, charming, distinct and diverse gospel that deserves to be spread far and wide.
K Phillips – American Girls (2012)
Launching from near obscurity, Kristopher “K” Phillips bound on the scene as a modern day Leon Russell. A piano based sideman steps to the forefront with sleazy rock n’ roll dripping with country and wanderlust. This record is a trip through styles and Phillips shifts his voice and melodies in a range of directions which travel through all the facets of American music. A contemporary record of original tunes that sounds authentically vintage in concept and quality. American Girls is definitely worth spending time with on a regular basis.
Randy Rogers Band – Burning the Day (2010)
By their 5th studio album, the boys in the Randy Rogers Band had solidified an easily identifiable sound and brand. They were riding high, but wanted to push themselves creatively. Enter Paul Worley (Dixie Chicks, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) as producer. Worley helped stretch the RRB sonically while honing in on what made them such a dynamic live act. A who’s who of co-writers including Dean Dillon and Sean McConnell teamed with Rogers, Geoffrey Hill and Jon Richardson to create the kind of hooky, honky-tonk, melodic fiddle stomp with rock guitars that had become the band’s calling card. 6-7 of the 11 tracks still routinely end up in the band’s setlist. For road warriors like the Randy Rogers Band, that’s a testament to the staying power of this record.
William Clark Green – Ringling Road (2015)
This album was released while Green’s previous effort, Rose Queen, was still moving solid units and he was transitioning from opening act to headliner status. The circumstances of Josh Serrato joining the band on guitar alongside Steven Marcus helped push Green’s songwriting to an even gritier, Stonesier place. The end result is producer Rachel Loy pushing all the right creative buttons and delivering banger after banger that culminates in the title track being one of the weirdest, yet most effective songs in the Texas Music canon.
The Trisha’s – High, Wide and Handsome (2012)
Supergroups often don’t work out. Not enough spotlight, creative friction, varying views on the direction the music should go. Music history is littered with stories like this. The Trisha’s were an exception. They were founded organically as a one-off for Steamboat in 2009 and were so well received they decided to keep the band together. After a buzzworthy EP dropped fans were clamoring for a full length effort from Jamie Lin Wilson, Kelley Mickwee, Savannah Welch and Liz Foster. Each of these women could write and sing in their own right and when they joined forces the results were nothing short of spectacular. They took the show on the road and were joined by Brandy Zdan and for a time were the best live act around. The songs here back all that up as you will find writing help from Bruce Robison, Jason Eady and Owen Temple among others. The harmonies and stark production values hit hard and leave you wanting more.
American Aquarium – Burn. Flicker. Die. (2012)
BJ Barham’s crew had hit the road like few others before or since. There was a trail of dust following them from North Carolina over the entire lower 48 constantly. That rapid pace led to some unhealthy lifestyles and the realization that they couldn’t keep that frenetic trail up. The band convened and decided that this might just be their last studio album. Jason Isbell was placed in the producer’s chair and Barham brought his best collection of songs to the table. The ensuing output is gritty, real, raw and fantastic. Slotting somewhere between Ryan Bingham and Lucero, this is the type of record that rips your heart out. You may not find yourself in these songs, but you can sympathize with Barham’s emotions. Eight years later, Barham is still going, albeit at a different pace and with a different outlook. The justified success of this record is the reason why.
Hayes Carll – KMAG YOYO (2011)
Carll’s fourth album picked up on the rock bits of Little Rock and Trouble In Mind and amplified them. Produced by Brad Jones and Scott Davis, Carll leans into the amplifiers and his quirky songwriting. The title track evokes Dylan at his rapid-fire best and songs like “Hard Out Here” encapsulates life on the road better than anything before or since. This album belongs on this list if only for the line “I used to have a heart, but the highway took it.”
Cody Jinks – Adobe Sessions (2015)
The first three releases from Cody Jinks gave no indication of his future world domination. They were pleasant enough records, but nothing special. Thus arrived Adobe Sessions. With this album, Jinks raised his songwriting game and while the production doesn’t always match it in quality it’s still undeniably good. “Loud and Heavy”, “Mamma Song” and “Cast No Stones” are a triple threat that any artist would be proud of. Jinks used this album to catapult himself into the upper echelon of touring acts and has shown no sign of slowing down.
Courtney Patton – So This Is Life (2015)
Patton is a songwriter that is fearless. No subject matter is off limits when she is writing and then she, in turn, has the ability to deliver it with a straightforward steadfastness that manages to capture the emotionality of what she was feeling when she wrote it each time out. Produced by Drew Kennedy, this album is a no nonsense approach that details the highs and lows of life without pulling any punches. The truth is here and even at its most gut-wrenching it has never sounded more beautiful.
Red Shahan – Men and Coyotes (2015)
This is a record full of lyrical punches and tumbling styles. Strains of Chris Knight ride alongside bits of Stoney LaRue’s vocal timbre and there are even guitar tones that echo Doyle Bramhall II’s unique phrasing patterns. This is an album that doesn’t sound like anything else. It’s country at its heart and eclectic country at its soul. The title track is a compelling philosophical troup that is mirrored by the murderous “Low Down Feeling”.
Jason Eady – AM Country Heaven (2014)
Eady first rose to prominence with his Delta infused roots music before releasing this old school country call to arms as his fourth studio project. Joined by producer Kevin Welch, Eady created a love letter to a bygone era of music that is sorely missed. Chock-full of unapologetic, authentic, throwback honky-tonk music of the late 70s and early 80s vintage. Despite the classic structures, the entire album has a progressive country vibe. This is not an album that sounds dated. It’s a fresh spin on a familiar genre.
Drew Kennedy – At Home in the Big Lonesome (2017)
Drew Kennedy is perhaps the greatest working songwriter in Texas. His work is intelligent, creative and honest. Kennedy is an observant philosopher on the human condition, ably detailing the lives of strangers, while also showcasing the ability to turn inward and examine himself through song. His words and melodies are beautiful creations that serve the song at all costs. In a career of fantastic releases, this one stands out as a complete fruition of Kennedy’s artistic vision from sound to scope to content.
Cody Canada and the Departed – This Is Indian Land (2011)
For his first post-Ragweed project, Canada turned toward his influences and paid tribute to the Red Dirt songwriters that paved the way for his success. Songs from Tom Skinner, Leon Russell and JJ Cale. Self produced and including the addition of Seth James on guitar/vocals and Steve Littleton on keys, Canada and Plato created new sonic highways to drive vintage words down.
The Damn Quails – Down the Hatch (2011)
When Bryon White and Gabe Marshall set out to make a record it was often left to chance. Mike McClure was brought in to guide the ship and the tracks were laid down as fast as they could be written. The Red Dirt sounds mingled with the free, easy aura of a Grateful Dead jam and the final result is a collection of tunes and stories that rival anyone’s debut effort.
Shinyribs – Gulf Coast Museum (2013)
Kevin Russell’s side project bloomed with a debut release in 2010, but blossomed with this album from 2013. Here, Russell expands his sound and repretorie to match what he heard in his head further than the debut effort, but not as far as later releases that at times seem a little too flashy and busy. This record is full of great songs and great performances. Russell’s voice both in pen and singing has never sounded finer. His guitar picking is even plum here too. These are the roots of the all-out party romps that would form the modern Shinyribs stage show. You come to jam to “Take Me Lake Charles” but stay for the Prince-esque slow jam of “Sweet Potato”. Throw in an album closing cover of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” where Russell duets with Brandy Zdan and you have the ultimate Texas swamp-funk-country-rock classic.
John Fullbright – From the Ground Up (2012)
Fullbright is something of a musical prodigy, and he bases a great deal of his songwriting off that head start by using masterful arrangements from a piano background he’s not beholden to the standard GCDC country songwriting. There are hints of McMurtry and his one time, short time bandmate Evan Felker throughout the songs, but they all remain completely Fullbright’s.
Randy Rogers Band – “Interstate” (2010)
Turnpike Troubadours – “7&7” (2010)
Whiskey Myers – “Broken Window Serenade” (2011)
The Damn Quail’s – “Fool’s Gold” (2011)
Kylie Rae Harris – “Waited” (2013)
Ray Wylie Hubbard/Hayes Carll – “Drunken Poet’s Dream” (2010)
Statesboro Revue – “Huck Finn” (2013)
The Trisha’s – “Mother of Invention” (2012)
Erick Willis – “She Already Knows” (2013)
Jason Eady – “AM Country Heaven” (2014)
Adam Hood/Brian Keane/Josh Abbott Band – “I’ll Sing About Mine” (2012)
William Clark Green – “She Likes the Beatles” (2013)
Flatland Cavalry/Kaitlin Butts – “A Life Where We Work Out” (2016)
Zane Williams/Pat Green – “While I Was Away” (2013)
Uncle Lucius – “Keep the Wolves Away” (2012)
Austin Gilliam – “Strawberry Lemonade” (2012)
Robyn Ludwick/Charlie Robison – “Out of These Blues (2010)
John Baumann – “Old Stone Church” (2016)
Wade Bowen – “Songs About Trucks” (2013)
Brison Bursey – “California Can” (2010)
Shane Smith & the Saints – “All I See Is You” (2015)
Josh Grider – “On Vinyl” (2014)
Parker McCollum – “Hell of a Year” (2017)
Dalton Domino – “Corners” (2017)
Jonny Burke – “Problems” (2013)
Kelley Mickwee – “River Girl” (2014)
Mike and the Moonpies – “Beaches of Biloxi” (2018)
Ryan Bingham – “Hallelujah” (2010)
Sunny Sweeney – “Bottle By My Bed” (2017)
Turnpike Troubadours – Emerging from Oklahoma at the dawn of the decade, this Tahlequah outfit proceeded to unleash the greatest burst of creativity this music scene has ever witnessed. They made hooky music and paired it with smart songwriting. Nobody has ever done it better.
Cody Jinks – Making the jump from bartending to open mics to putting a band together to conquer the world. Nobody’s rise has been more widespread than Jinks over the past ten years.
William Clark Green – Gravel voiced singer/songwriter not only writes songs that name check The Rolling Stones, he puts together a live band that pulls from their twin guitar riffing and finds massive success.
Jamie Lin Wilson – Wilson started this era of her career as part of the supergroup The Trisha’s and finishes it as the top female artist in a field dominated by her male counterparts. Wilson’s tenor has balanced the real life and the musical circus to dizzying degrees and heights over the past 10 years.
Randy Rogers Band – Establishing themselves as the post- Pat Green standard bearers in the 00’s, the RRB didn’t let up throughout the 10’s. They keep releasing critically acclaimed albums and packing venues all over the world. Their leadership, mentorship, craftsmanship and musicianship is unmatched.
Wade Bowen – Bowen has spent the past ten years cultivating a solid, growing career with the desires of a solid, growing songwriter. The business keeps changing around him and he keeps getting better. The band he’s assembled to bring his songs to life is one of the best of any genre anywhere. Through trials and triumphs, Bowen keeps delivering the goods.
Sean McConnell – McConnell has managed to maintain his odd position as a Texas Music stalwart despite not residing here or being from here due to the strength of his musicianship and songwriting. His knack for pairing melody with lyric is unrivaled. There’s also that amazing voice.
Koe Wetzel – A highly divisive figure, Wetzel’s success is undeniable. By tapping into a no effs given attitude and matching it with a smart marketing plan, Wetzel has gained massive traction. But make no mistake, there are songwriting chops under the swag persona.
Courtney Patton – Patton transitioned from part time songwriter to full time badass over the past ten years. Her emotive, gut punching lyricism enabled her to stand out in a crowded scene and make a name for herself.
Cody Johnson – CoJo went from guarding prisons to packing out the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. He is likely the biggest mover of tickets and streams of any name on this list.