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{Brad's Corner} December 2018: Caretakers of the Bond

{Brad�s Corner}

The modern world unleashes a torrent of content at us each day.  At times it can feel like a fire hose of madness raining down on you.  It’s overwhelming.  We are in the midst of a rebuild here at Galleywinter headquarters and content has been light for that reason. Why shout into the void when you have nothing special to shout about yet?  A wise man named The Rock once said grind in the darkness, shine in the light.  That’s what we’re doing.  Treading water, observing the world (musical and otherwise) around us and getting ready to dive back in.  In this post-Koe world, there hasn’t been much to shout about yet.  But, 2019 is shaping up to be a banner year.  The long-awaited RRB Dave Cobb effort should drop, there is tale of a new HMBWT record, the aforementioned Koe is back in the studio, Sturgill may be dropping something, Tyler Childers is cooking…there is sauce on the stove.  Everyone is just waiting for it to be ready.

I hope 2019 continues some trends we saw in 2018. The continued leveling of the playing field at country radio and in country music at large.  We’re not where we need to be, but we’re trending upward.  Kacey Musgraves big win at the CMA was an acknowledgement and affirmation that traditional avenues aren’t the only way to reach critical mass.  In fact, non-traditional avenues are the preferred route these days.  They have legs and longevity.  They’re the winning gameplan.  Streaming and podcasts are going to dominate terrestrial and traditional avenues.  All have a place, but their weight is shifting.

Most of all, I hope 2019 solidifies the bonds that are built in this scene.  I can go months, sometimes years, without seeing a band or crew, or listening to their records.  But, each time I put it on I’m transported to a particular place, time and feeling.  That doesn’t happen with most music.  For most music, it’s just a soundtrack to life.  A complement to things happening around it.  Music from this scene and music that is within its family isn’t a mere soundtrack…it is life.   The best friends, the crazy uncles, the distant cousins and the ones you love the most all rolled into one big dysfunctional ball of emotion, melody, state pride and love.  It’s crazy to me that what started out so many decades ago as a roughshod collection of highway vagabonds, vagrants, miscreants, troubadours, power drinkers and linesteppers has blossomed into a thriving industry.  It hasn’t been easy and we keep losing too many good people along the way (RIP Super Frank).

It’s been a big bang of awesomeness all for the sake of the song, that ended up being for so much more.  It’s life.  It’s passion.  It’s real.  That’s why it’s so important for those of us that have  been around for a while to keep it beholden to the standards we hold so dear.  We are hardheaded, critical, cynical while alternately being creative, forward, dreamers.  Kind of like the spirit of the state we all call home.  Complex.  One boot in the past, one microchip in the 22nd century. We’re all just caretakers of the bond.  The bond of Texas Music.  The bond of the song.  The bond of music being the most important piece of your life.  It just means more to some of us.  And sometimes it means too much.  But, we will continue to hold on so that we can turn it over to the next generations in as cool of shape as we all found it.

Much like hip-hop, the roots of this scene can still be touched.  Not completely, but to such a degree that history walks among us.  Guys like Ray Wylie, Michael Murphey, Gary P., Willie, Bob Livingston are still here, still gigging.  They kicked in doors on blind luck, pure talent, fierce determination powered by the stale fumes of Lone Star, Falstaff and poet’s souls.  The variables change, but the vibe never does.  Some years the music cranked out is better than the others, but the important thing is that it doesn’t stop.  The bonds of Texas Music continue to cycle. Some kids saw REK and thought I can do that.  Randy Rogers saw Pat Green and thought I want to do that.  Josh Abbott took what Randy was doing and put his own spin on it.  Koe Wetzel picked up a guitar and threw us all a refreshing shot of Texas attitude.  And today, there is a kid in a bedroom or garage or truck tailgate somewhere piecing together chords and trying to speak his truth.  It’s not great yet, and much like John Baumann’s 200 bad songs, that kid isn’t ready yet.  But he will be one day. And we’ll be here for it.  All of us.  We’ll bring him into the club and start the next chapter.

MINOR CHORDS:

-The next chapter of Galleywinter shall be unleashed soon.  A complete, and long overdue, site overall is in the midst.  Perhaps a forum return?  Shh.

-re: Super Frank.  Depression is a beast.  Robin Williams is the most classic example.  The most joyful spirit to ever grace this planet was deeply troubled internally his entire life.  It’s easy to say reach out, but sometimes reaching out is harder than the other choices. Please be vigilant for one another.  Call that friend. Text that relative.  Make that drive.  Much love.

-That LSU/A&M game may be the most insane sports ending of my lifetime.

-You blink and football season is almost over.

-Several of my buddies are in Ireland at the moment, spreading Texas music to the masses over there.  Texans and Irishmen drinking together and screaming along to fiddle songs.  What could go wrong (or right)?

-It is almost MILE 0 and Steamboat time!

-River Jam 2019 is almost already completely locked in.

-It will soon be time for our year-end Favorites list.  What were yours?

-This month’s recommended album:  Jamie Lin Wilson – Jumping Over Rocks.  The Queen of the scene continues her excellent output.  This record suffers, at times, from muted production.  It would be interesting to see what JLW would produce if in the studio with someone who introduced punchier production.  But, with songs as pure and emotive as “Death and Life” all that falls by the wayside. Production be damned when songs like “The Being Gone” come across your ears.  Lori McKenna has become a national name off the backs of songs this good.  JLW is just one Tim McGraw cut away from being a household name.  We’ve all known how good she is for a long time.  It’s cool to see her continuing to expand her musical lordship.

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

{Brad's Corner} November 2018: Reinventing the Needle

{Brad�s Corner}

What do you say when it’s over?  Don’t know if I should say anything at all.

So goes the plaintive statement at the heart of Clint Black’s classic “Better Man”.  And it kind of sums up the headspace I find myself in lately with this music scene.  It’s not the first time either.  Nothing has moved my needle in months.  At least not within the confines of “the scene”.  When a hardcore music fan can’t find much to get excited about, it’s time for some examination.  And that examination has proven that there isn’t much happening.  It’s like death by quicksand, being stuck on an escalator to nowhere.  Everything changes, yet stays the same.

The charge is being led by Koe, Parker and Read.  A youth movement that is super cool,  but comes off like a movie I’ve already seen.  Turnpike is in the Enquirer. PG is selling art.  Sure, the RRBs and WBs and JABs of the world plug along and are fantastic.  But, what’s new?  Not much.  CoJo and Ward are making national waves by releasing music that has more in common with Tracy Lawrence and Tracy Byrd than Willie and Jerry Jeff.  And, there’s nothing wrong with that.  It just doesn’t move me anymore.  I’m super proud and happy for those guys and everyone having success at the moment.

All that well-deserved success aside, most things that are exciting at the moment are happening beyond our scene.  Sturgill, Isbell, Tyler, Prine’s resurgence feel good and they’re a cousin to us…but they don’t live with us.  As Lefsetz has pontificated about countless times, true innovation is happening in tech, not music.  Music, in general, is rudderless and hasn’t seen innovation in 15 years or more.  It’s not just a Texas Country/Red Dirt problem either.  Every genre and every scene seems to be treading water waiting to find out what’s going to happen next.

There’s comfort in the curves and when there’s so much money at stake, it’s hard to take chances.  Even punk rock went corporate.  Maroon 5 is playing the Super Bowl and the biggest rock star on the planet at the moment is a former folk singer from Grapevine turned hip hop maven that provides monster commercial hooks amid the slurring. Vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor, but down in Texas we dig us some Blue Bell Rocky Road.

When was the last time you heard something original?  Something that made you say wow.  Something that made you hit repeat.  Rewind.  Replay.

The lead guitarist of a major alternative rock band one time told me, “There’s only so many notes, we’re all just reinventing the wheel.”  However it is reinvention that we are all seeking the most.  We look back to move ahead.  The most buzzworthy band of the moment (for better or worse) is Greta Van Fleet.  A Led Zeppelin ripoff that is finding success simply because the world is craving something fresh yet familiar.  Willie begat Jerry Jeff begat REK begat PG begat RRB begat JAB begat the present.  Someone, somewhere is creating that reinvention for our scene.  They will arrive when the time is right, and I will be waiting alongside all of you to bask in it. Whether they sound like Jerry Jeff 4.0 or something different, we’re in desperate need.  Artforms of all kinds suffer when stagnant.

Phil Pritchett once sang of country music, “it’s gone the way of Big Band as far as I can tell.”  If things don’t change course in the next few years, we’ll be saying the same thing about Texas Music as a whole.  It will be a relic, a super niche.  The splinters of it will live on forever.  Americana, folk, singer-songwriters.  Those things will never go away.  The question is how fresh will they sound?  And what will the audience look like?  In 5 years? 10? 20?

Time will tell and the needle awaits.

MINOR CHORDS

-I never want these columns to come off too ranty.  I’m not upset, just trying to pontificate, motivate and ruminate.  I don’t have any answers, but I have lots of questions.

-We’re undergoing some housecleaning around the site and updating things.  The Spambots invaded and we’re fighting them off.  A simple redesign and some upgrades are coming your way soon.

-I can’t remember a wetter fall.

-I’m headed to Vegas and Key West in successive months.  I was built to rage.

-Jason Garrett will stay on as head coach until Jerry draft’s his grandson.  I think it’s in the contract.

-My candidate loves America, Jesus and bbq.  Your candidate hates puppies, freedom and tacos.  You can flip it for whichever side you’re on.  Ready for the election to be over and the ads to be off my screens.  Please vote.  Please research it beyond the silly ads every candidate uses.

-I’ve found that taking old school yellow cabs, while not as convenient, is cheaper and more fun than Uber.

-This month’s recommended album:  Adam Hood – Somewhere In Between.  The Alabama troubadour has delivered another top to bottom banger.  You want groove, he’s got it.  You want soul, he’s got it.  You want country, he’s got it.  You want blues, he’s got it.  Most importantly, you want real…he’s got it.

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

Will Time Erase Our Heroes?

A few weeks back I had a conversation that rabbit-holed into food for thought that didn’t go down well. While music has always existed throughout human history, recorded music has been around for just over a century. It’s a blip on the celestial timeline, yet we’ve seen so many fabulous artists come and go, songs […]

Charlie Robison Will Remain The Life of the Party

The mandolin burst out of the busted speaker  like a semi going  a little too fast and passing you on a two lane road.  Just as that truck shakes the windshield and vibrates the steering wheel, the voice of Charlie Robison singing about his buddy back in ’81 shook me.  It was unmistakably different, undeniably […]

Charlie Robison: Reaction

Damn Charlie Robison. Don’t even know what to say. Life of the Party will always be in my top 10. Thank you for all the great songs and great hangs. Sad day for sure man. Enjoy retirement and all the fishing trips you can handle! — WadeBowen (@WadeBowen) September 25, 2018 @CharlieRobison Hey buddy. Thinking […]