I once made a Spotify playlist that featured a few of my favorite songs from each of my favorite Texas/Red Dirt/Americana/OKOM artists. I was programming my own station so to speak. Soon though, laziness took hold and upon album release day for a favorite artist I found myself just dragging the entire new record into the collection. While refining that playlist and attempting to clean it back up recently, a thought ocurred. An ambitious thought. I should determine (using no exact science whatsoever) what is as actually close to a signature song from each act as exists and list them for others to share, debate, argue, cheer. This list of artists is not wholly inclusive, but damn near it. Anyone overlooked was purely accidental and will be added in an addendum at the conclusion of the entire series. The criteria is generally most popular, but could also be indicative of their sound as a whole. Or it could just be completely random. Hopefully, this turns you on to some new acts you were unaware of or never knew existed. Plus, all the big names are here too.
So, here we are.
Texas Best Americana Red’s Part 1 (A-F). Yes, it’s listed by first name alpha…blame my iTunes and Spotify. If I missed an artist or song, just wait for the remix. (Studio links provided when available)
Aaron Einhouse – “Blue Collar Troubadour” (2014)
Einhouse has been knocking around for several years. A solid body of work that has this tune as his most well-known song to date. He released a new project in 2016 that may soon replace this song.
Aaron Stephens – “Yesterday’s Favorite (Old News)” (2014)
This New Braunfels soul flashback artist hit the scene before Leon Bridges and trolls the same Otis Redding-esque waters.
Aaron Watson- “3rd Gear and 17” (2006)
Before Watson stormed the gates of Nashville with his Underdog release, he forged a strong following on the back of his neo-traditional honky-tonk sound. He was always smart and careful enough to keep enough edge to the music to complement his sometimes cheesy and saccharine lyrics. The steel guitar riff on this track embodies Watson’s style to a Texas T.
Adam Carroll- “Ol’ Milwaukee’s Best” (2000)
One of the wittiest songwriters to grace our scene, Carroll’s more heady work is oft-overlooked for this humorous ode to cheap beer.
Adam Hood – “Different Groove” (2007)
An Alabama soul music lover with a country heart, Hood hit the scene in the early 2000’s and has been a consistent force. This track distills everything great about his style: bluesy guitar riffs with full throttle southern vocals.
Ali Dee- “Just a Broken Heart” (2014)
She can currently be found courtside at Mavs games or behind the chutes of the PBR doing tv work, but Ali Dee can produce country music too.
Allan Goodman – “Last Summer” (2010)
We lost AG to cancer way too soon. He was an incredible musican and even more incredible person. He played sideman for other acts, but his own music was good too. This song off his lone full length LP displays his Texas by way of California sound and Neil Diamond-esque vocals.
American Aquarium- “I Hope He Breaks Your Heart” (2009)
Some girl in North Carolina wrecked BJ Barham’s life up pretty bad, and we should all thank her.
Asleep at the Wheel – “Miles and Miles of Texas” (1976)
Ray Benson got to Texas as fast as he could and has seen more miles of it than just about anyone.
Austin Allsup – “Some Days” (2011)
Emerging from the shadow of his father (legendary guitarist Tommy Allsup) in the mid 00’s with a raw sound, Allsup has honed it into a well-rounded troubadour vibe that is shown here.
Austin Collins- “8 Dollar Thrills” (2008)
Picking up where bands like Whiskeytown left off, Collins turns in an Americana rock n’ roll tour de force.
Austin Gilliam – “Strawberry Lemonade” (2012)
A bombastic vocalist and guitar beast who conjures up some of the sweetest imagery and melody in this metaphorical toast to summer refreshment of all kinds.
Austin Meade – “Feeling Closer” (2014)
A young songwriter finding his voice with each new song. Things have changed a bit for Meade since this release, but the promise shone here is only getting sharper.
Back Porch Mary – “Harsh Light of Day” (2007)
A no bones about it rock n’ roll band that hit the road harder than most and then put that attitude on wax with this track.
Band of Heathens – “Jackson Station” (2007)
Evolving from a jam at Momo’s in Austin, this supergroup juggernaut blast out of the chute with songs that evoked a band similar in name, minus the “of Heathens” part.
Bart Crow- “Wear My Ring” (2006)
Often misidentified as “Little Angel With the Bottle”, Crow’s calling card is as catch today as the first day it was released.
Beaver Nelson – “Forget Thinkin’ “ (1998)
A heady songwriter in the Clark tradition that took things very seriously delivers a tune you can’t stop thinking about.
Ben Danaher – “Starting Over” (2013)
An appropriate song title given the inspiration. Danaher knocked around the Texas scene for a few years before trekking to Nashville and finding his niche. This song is about a relationship…not necessarily of the romantic variety.
Ben Kweller – “Fight” (2009)
Kweller became an underground indie sensation due to his work alongside John David Kent in the band Radish. In 2008, Kweller delivered a fantastic country record that claimed this as its finest moment.
The Bigsbys- “No Trouble” (2014)
A band that likes to jam and finds grooves in a wide array of places. They had no trouble making this song a minor hit.
Bill Pekar – “The Colors Are All the Same” (2000)
Though no longer in the same athletic conference, Longhorns and Aggies still share a bond (or hatred depending on your view). Pekar put this relationship to song at the height of the rivalry and threw in a SWT Bobcat twist.
Billy Joe Shaver – “Live Forever” (1995)
As prolific and simplistic a songwriter as Texas has ever borne, Billy Joe co-wrote this with his guitar prodigy son Eddy. The song becomes more poignant with each passing moment of Billy Joe’s life (Eddy’s death, his wife’s death, firing a gun in a dive bar, having Robert Duvall sing it onscreen) etc.
The Black Lillies- “Smokestack Lady” (2013)
Progressive Americana has never sounded so wickedly cool.
Blake & Fallon -“Here We Are” (2007)
Duos have a rather checkered history in this scene, especially those comprised of male and female counterparts. Austin upstarts Blake Powers and Fallon Franklin united for some fine Texas Music that veered toward alternative rock-pop. Most importantly, they made you feel it.
Bleu Edmondson – “$50 and a Flask of Crown” (2000)
Matt Powell wrote it. Bleu Edmondson charged onto the Texas Music scene in the late 90’s/early 00’s on its back. To be certain, Edmondson has several songs behind his own pen worthy of consideration in this spot. But, when his name comes up, you can be sure this song will be mentioned first.
Blue Water Highway – “Medicine Man” (2015)
A lively bunch from San Marcos making strides with a folksy full band approach full of melody, vigor and vibe. This song is all of that.
Bo Cox – “Rich Man’s Gold” (2009)
Cox was a songwriter that was never able to reach a wide audience, but it wasn’t for lack of fantastic material. Rich Man’s Gold is an underrated album and song.
Bo Phillips-“Red Dirt Girl” (2011)
Former Ag teacher with a brother that’s a scene headliner, embraces his own natural calling and becomes a successful musician on his own terms. Plowing the soil of Oklahoma for inspiration lands Phillips a winning song.
Bobby Duncan – “Forever From Here” (2012)
Duncan was a Walt Wilkins’ protege who showcased a lot of hope with his debut release, but he really found his own style by the time he delivered this track. It relies on the sensibilities of John Mayer more than Johnny Paycheck…and that’s a good thing here.
The Bois D’Arcs- “Take Me As I Am” (2007)
North Texas alt-country rockers have a funny name, but a serious penchant for solid country music as evidenced here.
Bonnie Bishop – “Send Me a Cowboy” (2004)
Bishop would go on to larger renown with her Dave Cobb produced soul effort, but this early release was a live and radio staple in the early days. People still ask for it.
Brandon Adams and the Sad Bastards – “Reckless Heart” (2011)
Golf pro goes country and lays on the adrenalized heartache in such a manner that it makes everyone pay attention.
Brandon Jackson – “Dancing” (2010)
After splitting from No Justice, Jackson unleashed this bouncy, fun song that doesn’t try to be anything more than it is. Dancing it does indeed.
Brandon Jenkins – “Feet Don’t Touch the Ground” (2002)
Stoney LaRue’s cover version would become more well-known, but there’s something in the husky-voiced Oklahoman’s original that really makes the song so much more relatable.
Brandon Wayne Jones – “San Marcos River” (2004)
College rabble rouser and marketing genius who’s debut public performance was at a sold-out Gordo’s in San Marcos. For a brief time, he was the biggest thing in the 78666…even bigger than the RRB. Then he just vanished. He left this rolling track (that became a Texas State phenomenon) from a session that featured Eric Johnson on guitar.
Brandon Rhyder – “Freeze Frame Time” (2005)
Rhyder struggled to find an identity on his first couple of releases. Though solid, something was missing. When his Conviction album came out, the centerpiece became this vibrato-strained tale of wishing you could stop the world when it’s just right.
Brandy Zdan – “More of a Man” (2015)
That title isn’t by accident. Zdan is more of a man and musician than many males that bow in her path. She has the chops of a session cat and the emotion of a songwriter. An eclectic multi-talented artist is hard to beat. It’s all on display here.
Brant Croucher – “Doing Well” (2012)
Croucher cut his teeth in the competitive music scene around UNT and Denton before heading back home to Houston to succeed rather well in all aspects of life. This track is smooth alt-country.
Brent Mitchell – “Take Me Back Home” (1999)
In the late 90’s, Mitchell was one of the biggest names in a burgeoning Texas Music scene that had yet to be fenced in. Celtic and folk influences peppered his country-rock. So much so that he soon moved to Europe to play music and hasn’t been seen in state much since.
Bri Bagwell- “Crazy” (2013)
Arguably the most successful female artist to be a part of the male-dominated Texas scene, Bagwell has charted numerous radio hits and high profile festival slots. She’s real, talented, engaging, entertaining, beautiful and yes, perhaps a little crazy. The good kind.
Brian Burns – “I’ve Been Everywhere (In Texas)” (2002)
Burns fronted a band in the late 80s and early 90’s that featured Deryl Dodd alongside him. Led by these two, the band known as Cherokee Rose would find widespread regional acclaim. As Dodd left for greener pastures, Burns focused on his solo work. This focus culminated in him becoming something of a de facto state musical historian. His tweak of the Hank Snow/Johnny Cash classic “I’ve Been Everywhere” became a Texas radio smash. Burns can now be found doing musical programs and workshops in elementary schools across the state.
Brian Keane – “90 Miles an Hour” (2012)
Breaking way from the Band of Heathens and rolling solo finds Keane embracing a free-wheeling sense of musical space that leads both he and the audience down a road that can only be driven at 90MPH.
Brian Wright and the Waco Tragedies – “Glory Hallelujah” (2011)
Sugar Hill Records snapped this Waco native up and he soon became a favorite of both Texas Music fans and people who may dig the warped tour. Here, Wright leads one of the most demented, yet cool choirs you’ve ever heard.
Brison Bursey – “California Can” (2010)
Bursey burst on the scene with his Ken Block from Sister Hazel powerfully resonant voice and a knack for detail. Coming from the record Expectations and Parking Lots, this song and album should’ve made Bursey a big deal. For some reason, audiences never clicked with it and Bursey is now an attorney who can bask in the memory of one of the finest records this scene has seen.
Britt Lloyd – “Same Old Song” (2008)
Inspired by a post-grunge ethos just as much as Texas singer-songwriters, Britt Lloyd combined the two influences to create a new style of music that wasn’t just the same old song.
Bruce Robison – “Angry All the Time” (1997)
Perhaps the greatest modern songwriter in Texas. Robison can write hits and he can write from the heart and sometimes those two things intersect on the same song. Tim McGraw would later take this up the mainstream charts, but it’s Bruce’s own version that lives on.
Cameran Nelson – “The Little That We’re Livin’ On” (2015)
Gary Stewart’s former merch slinger takes center stage on a paint by numbers, yet effective song that has found him playing to growing audiences.
Casey Donahew – “White Trash Story” (2006)
Never one to seek lyrical witticism or depth, Donahew gained a large following with this tale of Johnson County rednecks and their ensuing debauchery. For a time, songs like this made Donahew one of the biggest draws on the touring circuit. That momentum has cooled a bit, but there is still a strong and receptive market for his brand of Texas Music.
Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition – “Couple 1000 Miles” (2013)
These Red Dirt brothers hit it hard and chased the ghosts of those before them throughout every honky-tonk in the midwest and below. That journey lives in each syllable of this song.
Charla Corn- “Lie a Little” (2009)
Best known as morning show co-host alongside Justin Frazell on the Ranch, Corn shows that she knows her way around the other side of the mic just as well with this song.
Charlie Robison – “My Hometown” (1998)
Few songs distill the elements of Texas Music as well as this one. Nostalgic. Rowdy. Fun. Optimistic. Takes the piss out of Nashville just a bit. Robison kept it simple with this one and scored a touchdown. Of course he did…he could run like the wind.
Charlie Shafter – “Illinois” (2012)
A complex artist with a myriad of influences that has managed to meld them all into a sound completely his own. Illinois has never seemed more Texan.
Charlie Stout – “I See Stars” (2016)
Transplanted from West Virgina, Stout first gained notice for his fantastic photography. Basing himself out of west Texas, Stout grew an audience for his music too. Stout shows promise in the mold of Terry Allen. An all-around, true artist. He recorded an entire album in an abandoned church. Authentic.
Chris King – “Homeland” (2013)
This former high school football coach grinded his way to respect in the music scene via smart social media use and the best way of all: damn good songs. In his homeland, Chris King is definitely someone.
Chris Knight – “It Ain’t Easy Being Me” (1998)
Easily one of the three most covered songs in this scene’s short history. Knight detailed a raw desperation with a winking cynicism that hasn’t been done quite as well since.
Chuck Pyle – “Jaded Lover” (1975)
Pyle was a native midwesterner known around Texas in his heyday as the Zen Cowboy. Much of his music finds this an apt title. A clever lyricist who said much with little.
Chris Wall – “Three Across” (1998)
A chance meeting with Guy Clark and Jerry Jeff stumbling into one of his gigs in Jackson Hole during the late 80’s prompted Wall to move to Austin shortly thereafter and pursue his music career in Texas. A true cowboy and one hell of a songwriter, Wall’s perhaps best remembered for this country spin on the “Jesse’s Girl” theme of loving your best friend’s girl. The lo-fi recording just makes it that much cooler. Oh, and the backing band is a group of brothers from Idaho.
Cody Bryan – “Small Town Noise” (2015)
Cody Bryan is still a green artist pouring water on his talents. His unquestionably country talents. This track showcases where he just might be headed.
Cody Canada & The Departed – “Skyline Radio” (2011)
Tom Skinner penned it and Cody Canada cathartically sang the hell out of this tune about small town gossip that in the wake of the Ragweed break-up had multiple overtones. That riff. That melody. That message. So good.
Cody Gill – “King of Your Hometown” (2009)
Springing from Stephenville, Gill achieved a modicum of moderate success and still has a loyal greater westoplex following proving that he is still the king of his hometown. Or at least right behind Larry Joe, Art Briles, Ty Murray and Kevin Kolb.
Cody Jinks – “Mamma Song” (2015)
Transitioning from heavy metal to country has been done before, but never quite as well as Jinks. This hard scrabble tale of being stuck in LA and down on every bit of luck but the prayers of your mother is a tried and true country tradition that Jinks nails.
Cody Johnson – “Ride With Me” (2011)
Texas Music’s answer to Chris LeDoux is perhaps our biggest musical export at the moment. Any number of his songs could make this spot. Yet, it was around the time this Zane Williams cover hit radio that the rockin’ CJB attained headliner status and began turning ears around all over the place.
Cooder Graw – “Llano Estacado” (2001)
Matt Martindale and the gang had been hitting it hard for several years prior to Dodge trucks snapping up this tune to be the soundtrack to a statewide ad campaign. The song became ubiquitous and unavoidable; exposing CG to a slew of new audiences and cementing their legacy.
Cory Morrow – “Nashville Blues” (1999)
For a time Cory Morrow was as big as it got in Texas Music. Rivaled only by his college buddy and co-trailblazer Pat Green, Morrow shaped the burgeoning scene’s longstanding narrative with this ditty about sweet Emmylou Harris and fighting a fight he was still truthfully unaware of.
Courtney Patton – “So This Is Life” (2015)
Written from the intensely personal perspective of being an adult and watching her parents 30 year marriage fall apart, songs don’t get much more heart-wrenching and authentic than this one.
Crooks – “Barstool” (2012)
Live hellraisers that backed it up with a couple fantastic studio records. This track captures their live energy better than most.
Cross Canadian Ragweed – “17” (2002)
They had more that rocked. They had more with grit. But, this Jason Boland co-write made them a household name. The tale of never outgrowing your hometown is one of the best hook’s this scene has ever had.
Curtis Grimes – “Our Side of the Fence” (2014)
An artist that is a tad too slick for the Texas Country scene…a tad too Texas for Nashville. Songs like this are the result. Grimes has talent and promise though…we haven’t heard the last of him.
Dalton Domino – “Jesus and Handbags” (2015)
Breaking out of the Lubbock scene that launched so many, Domino made his first regional mark with this portrait tune about a specific type of girl we all know.
Damn Quails – “Fool’s Gold” (2012)
Two Oklahoma songwriters begin jamming together and are soon joined by a host of Okie hippie friends in a musical commune that is Red Dirt’s answer to the Grateful Dead. The party wouldn’t last long, but at least we got this song out of it.
Dan Adams-“Under the Live Oaks and Lights” (2014)
This soulful crooner from SEC country has made Texas his home and proves his Texan worth with this tender song about lovers connecting under the suspended magic of a dancehall.
Dave Fenley – “My Life My Way” (2011)
Before landing himself several rounds deep into a run on America’s Got Talent, this east Texas entertainer plugged along the Texas circuit and developed a large following in the New Braunfels/San Antonio area. Elements of hip-hop often snuck into Fenley’s live show, and there’s a trace of that here.
Davin James – “Magnolia” (2001)
Davin James’ big break arrived on a run-in with Gary P. Nunn in the mid 90’s. Gary P. would go on to record a few of James’ songs and break the honky-tonk entertainer into the larger Texas consciousness. By 2001, James was fully in creative stride when he released the Magnolia project.
Dean Seltzer – “Lovin’ You” (2001)
Austin country-rocker Seltzer created a jukebox staple with this bawdy track about realizing your past lover was a big mistake.
Delbert McClinton – “Lone Star Blues” (2002)
One of the finest song stylists to come from the Lone Star state, produced a late career radio hit with this tribute to Fort Worth.
The Derailers – “All the Rage in Paris” (2001)
The finest purveyors of the Bakersfield sound tooling around Texas had some major sucess in the late 90’s/early 00’s; this Jim Lauderdale cover proved a fitting bookmark to their career as co-lead vocalist Tony Villanueva would soon leave the honky-tonks behind for the ministry. The band has never again reached such commercial peaks.
Derek Larson – “Barnyard Romp” (2010)
Fort Worth folk rocker turns in a whale of a jam that sounds exactly like the title. Reminiscent of Days of the New’s “Touch, Peel, Stand”.
Deryl Dodd – “Things Are Fixin’ To Get Real Good” (2007)
A supremely talented multi-instrumentalist who knocked around the Texas highways before scoring national acclaim. Just as he was reaching the top industry rungs, a serious illness damn near took his life. He returned home to Texas, recuperated and came blazing into the Texas scene with a fantastic Live at Billy Bob’s record that had this song as a centerpiece.
The Dirty River Boys – “Boomtown” (2010)
Proving that not all music in this scene is born on the 35 corridor, College Station, or Lubbock, these El Paso boys kicked things up a notch with their high-octane live show and a Texas answer to the Avett Brothers or Mumford and Sons. This was the most rocking of folk-rock-Americana. Explosive even.
Django Walker – “Texas On My Mind” (2000)
Being the son of a larger than life legend is never easy, yet Django Walker was able to forge his own path. While in London for school, Django penned this modern companion to “London Homesick Blues”, Pat Green made it a hit and Django made a career.
Doug Moreland – “The Beer Song” (1999)
A callback to the singing comedy found in road Opry and barnshows, Moreland always had a biting style of comedy under the core of his work. He had other “serious” songs that were quite good and other funny songs that were more humorous…but once he tweaked the lyrics to “I’ve Been Everywhere” into a celebration of beer and soon his toasts, songs and banter could be found on stages near and far for years to come.
Drew Kennedy – “Stars in California” (2011)
A master songwriter who has found a niche by blazing his own trails and making his own brand of music without following trends. Inspired by the likes of Guy Clark and Steve Earle, Kennedy ended up in Texas via Pennsylvania and has found himself a home both literally and artistically. This song gives example to Kennedy’s gift for smart, vivid lyrics matched with ringing melodies.
Drew Womack – “Hey Daisy” (2004)
Much like Deryl Dodd, Womack found national radio fame with Sons of the Desert and backing vocals for LeeAnn Womack ‘s (no relation) “I Hope You Dance”. He returned to Texas and added enough sawdust to his sound to be embraced by the Texas scene for a short time in the early 00’s.
Dub Miller – “These Old Boots” (1999)
A fine songwriter in the grand Aggie tradition, Miller was one of the biggest scene headliners in the early 2.0 days. He was backed by a band that featured at various times Brady Black, Les Lawless, Matt Skinner, Adam Odor among others, Miller paired a wild eyed optimism with a poet’s heart and made some of the finest Texas Music to be found anywhere at any point in time. This track showcases his love of Texas beyond rivers, beer and dancehalls.
Dustin Welch – “Whisky Priest” (2009)
The son of Kevin Welch made a name for himself with this funky, bourbon-soaked foot-stomper.
Eleven Hundred Springs – “Raise Hell, Drink Beer” (2010)
Matt Hillyer has been fronting one of the coolest bands in Texas for over two decades. This song is a live staple that serves as a call to arms to all who are new to the party.
Eli Young Band – “Small Town Kid” (2005)
Before they became the greatest modern commercial success to launch from Texas, this slick crew from Denton hit paydirt with an anthem that Texas teenagers have related to ever since it was first released.
Emory Quinn – “Good Times” (2007)
Named from the bandleaders middle names and formed at Texas A&M, this band cranked out a diverse style of music that often exuded good times.
Erick Willis – “Please” (2014)
A soulful, rangy voice allows Erick Willis to attack this plea with enough understanding to not overwhelm it.
F. Co- “Tattoos and Tears” (2003)
Houston area group that enjoyed the talents of Cody Kouba on guitar. These cats had all the right pieces and poor timing as far as catching an audience. This song, album and band is all but dust, but for those that heard them…they know this song was the real deal.
Flatland Cavalry – “Tall City Blues” (2016)
Flatland Cavalry sent shockwaves around the country music world when they debuted very high on the charts with their album Humble Folks. Many were surprised, but not those from Lubbock or those who’ve been paying close attention. Band leader, Cleto Cordero, got his BBA from TTU and that won’t be the only thing you’re left with when this song ends.
Folk Family Revival – “Fallin’ (2011)
A jam band-ish outfit from the Houston area produces a big sound and keeps it tight enough to become a regional hit.