The final installment of my attempt to categorize and chronicle the signature songs of our music scene can be found below. This has been an extremely rewarding and satisfying trip down memory lane and into the future. The feedback has been phenomenal and I’m proud that this will stand as a testament to all that we as a music scene and community have been a part of.
At some point I’ll sit down and calculate the diversity of artists, release dates and crunch all the associated data. For now, I’m just going to sit back and listen to the 350+ songs. I hope you’ve found stuff you never knew about, forgot about or dig the hell out of in general. An addendum list will be forthcoming at some point and will be continually updated with artists we left out or new artists as they come along.
Volume 1 (A-F): http://galleywinter.com/texas-best-americana-reds-part-1/
Volume 2 (G-L): http://galleywinter.com/texas-best-americana-reds-volume-2/
Volume 3 (M-R): http://galleywinter.com/texas-best-americana-reds-volume-3/
Spotify Playlist of this entire project A-Z can be found HERE.
Sam Baker- “Juarez (A Song To Himself)” (2007)
A writer that knows the depths of how low life can get and how sweet redemption can be after surviving a terrorist bombing in Peru during 1986. Reconstructive surgeries numbering near 20 and a literary realism make Baker a must listen.
Sam Sliva – “It Is What It Is” (2012)
An indie rocker in Americana clothing, Austin’s Sliva named his backing band The Good and for a time they were nearly as good as it got in the late 2000’s.
Sam Riggs – “Angola’s Lament” (2013)
An energetic frontman that brought arena rock elements to the dingy clubs of the circuit as he played fiddle and drums at various points during his show, even gained Ray Wylie Hubbard’s stamp of approval as he rose up the ladder. That rock influence finds its way into the studio as well and on this track Riggs delivers a thunderous tune in the country prison tradition. His most recent studio album was pop bro country poorly disguised as Red Dirt, but his live show still lets you know who the true Sam Riggs is.
Sammy Sadler- “Heart Shaped Like Texas” (2009)
After some middling late 80’s success, Sadler survived a literal music on Murder Row and returned home to Texas to lay low for a time. He re-emerged in the mid 2000’s with this regional radio hit.
Sarah Jarosz – “Dark Road” (2013)
Musical prodigy hits all the right notes and expands far beyond the confines of Americana to worldwide acclaim.
Scooter Brown – “Huntsville” (2009)
Cheating and prison have always played a role in country songs, former Marine Brown delivers one involving the pinnacle of Texas prisons.
Scott H. Biram-“Lost Case of Being Found” (2006)
Bluesy one man band delivers a country-tinged classic.
Scott Copeland – “Rebel Soul” (2009)
Basing out of Fort Worth, informed by Oklahoma and cranking out a prolific amount of material allowed Copeland to become one of the hippest songwriters around. Mike McClure gives him a little help on this track that was a radio hit in the spring of 2009.
Scott Miller – “I Made a Mess of This Town” (2001)
Virginia bred Miller was one of the first and best to combine elements of vintage country with 70’s rock and helped create a world where alt-country was cool. This is one of his coolest.
Scott Wiggins – “Lonely Is Holding Me” (2007)
San Antonio songwriter oft-overlooked, but as this song shows…with a range like this he should be on everyone’s radar.
Sean McConnell – “Saint’s Heart In a Sinner’s Skin” (2010)
A product of growing up in the folk coffee-house circuit of the northeast, McConnell moved to Nashville to chase his musical dreams and ended up fostering a relationship with Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen via co-writing that prompted him to enter into the Texas Music derby with the most human and soulful of strokes.
Seth James – “Leaves of September” (2009)
Blues guitar prodigy who first gained notoriety by playing his strat like a lap steel. Later, he’d stand up and become one of the finest musicians on the planet with booming vocals, blistering guitar and a triumphant spirit. Whether solo or in The Departed, James’ work speaks volumes. Oh, and this one was co-written by some dude named Chris Stapleton.
Seth Walker-“Kick It Around” (2007)
This modern Texas bluesman combines Texas, Memphis, Chicago, Kansas City, New Orleans and more on his albums.
Shad Blair-“Do What I Do” (2004)
Songwriter in the classic Texas vein who cranks out observational and humorous lyrics backed by folk shuffles.
Shakey Graves – “Unknown Legend” (2015)
An uber talented singer-songwriter with an ear for melody and a directness that avoids anything other than exactly what the song calls for. This duet with Shovels and Rope on the Neil Young song “Unknown Legend” is Shakey’s finest moment for Texas/Americana fans.
Shane Smith and the Saints – “Dance the Night Away” (2012)
Bursting with a bravado and energy that reminds of a young Reckless Kelly, Smith and his Saints broke through around 2015 and reached next level status with songs that resonated with crowds like this.
Sheila Marshall-“What If I Was” (2009)
Ronstandt is recalled when you hear Marshall’s bluesy take on country, best exemplified here.
Shelley King-“Talkin’ Bout the Weather” (2014)
Soul belter gets sentimental and romantic on this track that relates how the mundane is sometimes the most special.
Shinyribs – “East TX Rust” (2010)
Springing from The Gourds experience and into a side project full of funk and freedom, allowed Kevin Russell to take his shiny alter ego to places previously unimaginable. A husky, middle-aged white man playing R&B covers sounds crazy until you see it in person. But, at the root of it all is the undeniable groove that he and his bandmates deliver that first popped up with this tune that features a Ray Wylie cameo.
Shooter Jennings – “Busted in Baylor County” (2005)
No musical legacy looms larger over this scene than that of Waylon Jennings. Shooter Jennings became an honorary member of the scene with his first record that featured this rail-splitting rocker with a theme similar to Ragweed’s “51 Pieces”.
Shovels and Rope – “Birmingham” (2012)
Husband and wife duo comprised of Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst bring a raw folk rock approach to Americana music with tremendous success. Don’t sleep on their duet with Shakey Graves on Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend” either.
Shurman – “Back to Texas” (2012)
A rock n’ roll band formed in Texas and coming at you from Austin.
Shy Blakeman – “Sweet Southern Woman” (2005)
Blakeman survived a robbery attempt outside Adair’s in the early 2000’s that nearly killed him and inspired him to chase his music with as much abandon as one could have. Blakeman ended up on Nashville Star a couple seasons after Miranda Lambert and Sheila Marshall and before Kacey Musgraves. Yet, he never quite could grasp the brass ring or a wide audience and had last been heard from working on boats in the Caribbean. Blakeman strove for a southern rock sound that would formulate much better for Whiskey Myers and Statesboro Revue. Here’s one of his better songs.
Silo Road – “Load In” (2014)
Billy Broome’s band steps up with a tale any musician, or fan for that matter knows well. The tale of the load in, load out blues.
Six Market Blvd – “14 Miles From Home” (2012)
Clayton Landua led it, Ben Hussey provided the low end and Josh Serrato’s frenetic guitar propelled it before they went their separate ways in 2014. Known for a hard-edged sound that leaned closer to rock than country, it was this contemplative reflection on life and finding one’s self that proved to be the band’s most lasting mark.
Slaid Cleaves – “Horseshoe Lounge” (2000)
A New Hampshire transplant taking up roots in Austin provided this memorable ode to people-watching at an Austin landmark divebar. The vivid imagery Cleaves uses in his more folk, songwriter driven work is found here and it’s all fostered with his sensitive vocals.
Slow Rollin’ Lows- “Waking Up With Strangers” (2009)
Classic road-weary narrative backed with a slow-building beat.
Son Volt – “Windfall” (1995)
Jay Farrar and his purveyors of alt-country godliness dropped this dime in 1995 and it would receive a second Texas life a decade later when Wade Bowen recorded it on his Live at the Blue Light album.
Sonny Burgess – “When In Texas” (2001)
Cleburne’s Burgess keeps it traditonal and does it well, as evidenced here.
Sons of Bill -“Siren Song” (2012)
Virginia purveyors of Americana made some waves in Texas in the late 2000’s/early 2010’s with songs like this one.
Sons of Fathers – “Roots and Vine” (2013)
Originally known by the name of Beck and Cauthen prior to legal action from Beck Hansen, Paul Cauthen and David Beck brought different influences and styles to the table to combine for something truly special in Sons of Fathers before heading out for solo treks.
South Austin Jug Band – “Hill Country Nights” (2004)
Fronted by James Hyland, this supergroup slapped progressive country into bluegrass and came up with something uniquely Texan.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones – “Call Me” (2014)
A soul band from Birmingham led by the boisterous Paul Janeway features throwback sounds with a modern attitude. This is what going to church sounds like.
Statesboro Revue – “Fade My Shade of Black” (2013)
Stewart Mann has been fronting the Revue alongside his brother Garrett for quite some time. The band has proven a launching ground for serious guitar players and grooves alike. Here, they keep the groove swampy and Mann blasts his vocals out with unrivaled emotion and enthusiasm.
Stephanie Macias (aka Little Brave et al) – “Mercy” (2011)
Years of being a bass player in outfits such as Rodger Wilko guided Macias into art-rock inspirations which she delivers sublimely with this track.
Stephanie Urbina Jones – “Shakin’ Things Up” (2003)
One of the first artists to claim success on what were then newly founded Texas radio charts, Urbina Jones produced solid tracks like this one.
Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers- “Blue Jean” (2005)
A rock band from Massachusetts that crossed over into Americana fav circles based on songs like this.
Stephen Pointer-“Shut Up and Drink” (2008)
Fort Worth’s Pointer is one of the more talented cats around and before becoming an in-demand guitar gun for hire, he released a string of successful solo projects that sounded like this.
Steve Earle – “Guitar Town” (1986)
One of the most influential artists for Texans and Americana artists alike, Earle’s vintage 80’s work provided a template many future artists would follow. Attitude, intelllect and rawness thrown together with reckless abandon and an eye for detail. And, Selma is still a speed trap some thirty years later.
Steve Fromholz – “I’d Have to Be Crazy” (1973)
A 60’s folkie who was there at the dawn of the 70’s Texas/Progressive/Outlaw movement, Fromholz’s “I’d Have To Be Crazy” became a standard-bearing outside the box song that has gone on to be covered by everyone from Willie Nelson to Sturgill Simpson to Cory Morrow. He was known as the Poet Laureate of Texas and survived a stroke in 2003 to continue performing. He was tragically killed in a hunting accident in 2014.
Steve Helms-“Nowhere But Texas” (2009)
DFW mainstay Helms broke into the larger Texas scene with this song.
Stonehoney-“Headlight on a Midnight Train” (2010)
Band of veteran Austin musicians who produced some of the most solid and layered music of the decade.
Stoney LaRue – “Oklahoma Breakdown” (2007)
LaRue is one of the most talented vocalists to ever grace the Red Dirt scene. An expert song interpreter who hasn’t written many songs of note on his own…but those he has written are pretty damn good. This song is a cover and it’s fitting that LaRue’s most lasting radio hit is a live cut from his Billy Bob’s record that features the blazing lead guitar of virtuoso Rodney Pyeatt and the ace drumming of Jeremy Bryant.
The Subdudes-“I’m Your Town” (2009)
New Orleans funk musicians masquerading with their Springsteen fantasies made Americana fans say welcome to our town.
Sturgill Simpson – “Living the Dream” (2014)
A transcendent artist at unease with the spotlight, creates some of the most compelling and smart country music of the past 25 years before exploring broader themes and pushing himself in an almost Beatles-like studio creative manner.
Sunny Sweeney – “From a Table Away” (2010)
Major labels came calling after Sweeney made enough noise in Texas and helped her release a string of critically acclaimed albums that featured this as a big hit.
Susan Gibson – “Wide Open Spaces” (1999)
Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks would make it a massive world-wide hit, but it was Gibson’s story to sing first.
Taylor Hodak – “Good Man” (2013)
This West, TX (yes, comma) singer/songwriter could never break out much beyond the Waco area market but he had all the tools to do so.
Tejas Brothers- “Boogie Woogie Mamacita” (2014)
The ultimate party band. Definitely in the flavor of Texas Tornados, this Dave Perez outfit makes smiling mandatory at their shows. Their studio work has never quite captured the live magic, but once you see a show you’ll be hooked and boogie-ing.
Terri Hendrix-“Wallet” (1997)
Hendrix is a folk singer that has paired with Lloyd Maines on stage and in the studio for nearly 20 years. Her songs are infectious and fun.
Terry Allen- “The Girl Who Danced Oklahoma” (1979)
Allen’s Lubbock (On Everything) is the building block upon which all alt-country records that came after would be built upon. It’s undoubtedly one of the greatest albums to ever come from this state. A legitimate artist and sculptor, Allen threw himself full bore into songwriting and brought in a young Lloyd Maines and legend Don Caldwell to help him form this masterpiece.
Texas Renegade- “Bar Ditch” (2007)
One of the most talented true bands to be a part of the Texas scene, TXR is able to produce thought-provoking right alongside entertaining. This is the latter and it’s done extremely well.
Texas Tornados – “Who Were You Thinkin’ Of?” (1990)
Doug Sahm, Freddy Fender, Augie Meyers and Flaco Jimenez created this Texas supergroup and had a damn good time in the process, as evident on this track. You can still find the surviving members laying it down at dancehalls across the state with Doug’s son Shawn leading the charge.
Thieving Birds – “Hey, Leigh” (2011)
Breaking away from former band leader Kyle Bennett and adding Ace Crayton on vocals, throwing in a name change and a step-up in production has produced stellar results for this band treading in Petty waters and aquitting themselves quite nicely.
Thom Shepherd – “Texas Girls”(2007)
The king of Texas mailbox money, Shepherd is one of the most celebrated songwriters in the entire country music genre. Fowler joins him on this song that sounds just like you’d imagine it does based on the title.
TJ Broscoff- “Wrong Side of the Tracks” (2010)
Broscoff found worldwide acclaim with his rock band The Unknown before addiction and music biz cruelty brought it all to an end. Thankfully, he found his way back to his Texas roots to create music like this.
Todd Mankin- “The Sail” (2008)
Mankin produced a hard-charging brand of Texas Music that found loyal audiences for a few years before he hung things up. This song was all over the radio for a time.
Todd Snider – “Late Last Night” (1996)
A performance artist with a deep appreciation for Jerry Jeff that spent some time being fostered by Kent Finlay is sure to make for a good story, and thankfully Snider is full of such. Snider shot out of a canon in the late 90’s and has never looked for a parachute. He bounces between storytelling and song so often it’s as if a Vin Scully broadcast has been set to music. Underneath it all is a sharp wit and reverence few can match. This is one of his more straightforward efforts.
Tom Gillam – “Dallas” (2001)
This Pennsylvania rocker invaded airwaves across the scene in 2001 with his tribute to the nice time of year in Big D…then a decade later he became a part of the New Braunfels airwaves as morning DJ on KNBT. But, never doubt Gillam’s rock acumen…it comes out in spades.
Tommy Alverson – “Una Mas Cerveza” (1999)
A true survivor of the Texas Music scene, Alverson has been a part of it longer than just about anyone. A fantastic lead guitar player and a songwriter with a simple humility that allows slices of life like this beach rendezvous gone wrong to happen.
Tony Taylor-“Driver” (2010)
Taylor came from Corsicana before stopping in Waco on his way to New Braunfels. He generates a country-rock sound that is compelling.
Townes Van Zandt – “Pancho and Lefty” (1972)
Much like with Guy Clark’s addition on this list, you could really just post Townes catalog on a wall and throw a dart. But, for the purposes of this list, we’ll go with his most well-known hit.
Trainwreck -“Downtown is Thumping” (2002)
DFW group fronted by JD Whittenburg. This record is out of print and damn hard to find, but those that heard that mandolin riff and all that came with it will never forget.
Travis Linville-“Waterwheel” (2006)
One of the finest musicians to ever come from Oklahoma, Linville also happens to be one damn good songwriter. This is one of his finest.
Travis Mitchell- “Back in Touch” (2009)
A song with slick, big, bombastic production and a simple nostalgic theme about recapturing a special summer moment.
Tres Womack-“Gather Round” (2007)
Drew’s brother produces music that echoes that of his sibling but with a bit more dirt under the groove. Like this one.
Trish Murphy – “All I Want” (2005)
Murphy emerged in the Lilith Fair female artist movement of the late 90’s (even doing a run on that legendary tour), but with a style that was distinctly country. She dueted with Pat Green and was one of the early trailblazers for women in this scene.
The Trishas-“Mother of Invention” (2012)
Formed as a one-off for a tribute concert, this female supergroup came to redefine what a powerful female country artist could be in the wake of the Dixie Chicks disappearance. Charming, folksy, smart, sexy, country and folk…these ladies were trendsetters.
Troy Cartwright- “Next Flight Home” (2015)
Cartwright trolls the more mysterious and rocking sides of Texas Music and is one of the most promising young artists in the scene as evidenced by this song.
Turnpike Troubadours – “7 &7” (2010)
Evan Felker and his band became the scene’s biggest success story of the past decade due to songs such as this. Ryan Engleman’s guitar riff carries this song about not realizing you were the boy mom warned girls about; alongside the awkwardness of running into that girl in the grocery store post breakup. A story so specific to Felker, yet so relatable that we all felt like we’ve been on that same supermarket aisle.
Two Tons of Steel – “King of a One Horse Town” (2000)
San Antonio rockabilly aficionados make it rock and make it swing.
Tyler and the Tribe – “Love Me, Hate Me” (2012)
An energetic group from Dallas that made some fairly significant waves before retooling for more recent releases. They had a poppy, catchy way with songs as you can hear here.
Uncle Lucius – “Keep the Wolves Away” (2012)
Kevin Galloway has always kept a social consciousness at the heart of his lyrics. This song details a man watching his dad pay the price for a lifetime of keeping the proverbial wolves of south Texas at bay.
Wade Bowen-“Nobody’s Fool” (2008)
Bowen’s music has always carried with it a heaviness (even in its lightest moments) that show an artist constantly striving to say more than just 3 chords and the truth. He’s going to give you that to be certain, but he’s also going to give you more. Bowen’s hero is Springsteen and his music shares many similarities with the Boss. In many instances that includes some blistering guitarwork from his stellar studio choices that is replicated by his amazing live band such as here.
Walt Wilkins – “Trains I Missed” (2007)
Walt is the Texas Buddha. A serenely calm, gentle soul full of sage wisdom and sharp intelligence that he puts to song. His “Songs About Texas” would go on to be covered by Pat Green in the early days and become sort of an unofficial theme song of the entire movement. But, it was this rejoiceful song of being happy for what you have that nails Wilkins’ style cold.
The Warhorses – “I Don’t Give a Damn” (2014)
Austin country-rock outfit with a boozy swagger and a hard edge that sounds like whiskey personified.
The Washers- “Two Left Feet” (2012)
Pure Americana rock n’ roll out of the Houston area.
Waylon Payne – “Her” (2004)
Waylon Payne’s story is well documented and the subject of a forthcoming documentary that looks outstanding. The son of country legend Sammi Smith and Willie Nelson’s lead guitarist Jody Payne had a troubled upbringing and an even darker early adulthood. He found himself in LA with the help of Shelby Lynne before landing a major label deal and releasing a colleciton of songs called The Drifter, which we at this website named the album of the 2000’s. In a set of highlights, this album opener provides listeners with a good insight into Payne’s style and psyche.
Wheeler Brothers-“Long, Hard Road” (2011)
Austin rock band that became indie and Americana darlings due to their smart songwriting hooks and loud guitars.
The Whipsaws- “Contraband” (2006)
Alaska’s answer to the Drive-By Truckers once drove all the way to Austin from Alaska to play a gig. That rawness is felt in their tunes.
Whiskey Myers – “Dogwood” (2014)
The second coming of Skynyrd rose out of east Texas with a twin guitar fury and a Van Zandt wisdom that nobody else can match. “Ballad of a Southern Man” and “Broken Window Serenade” show different sides to Cody Cannon’s songwriting style, but this track seems to put them all in one spot.
Whitey Morgan and the 78s- “Me and the Whiskey” (2015)
Morgan and his 78s are as authentic as honky-tonk rock n’ roll gets and he began to gain ground in the Texas scene after many co-headlining runs with Cody Jinks. This song shows why they’ve been greeted with sold out audiences across the state and beyond.
Will Hoge -“Even If It Breaks Your Heart” (2009)
Hoge had been an indie rock darling for years and had even bounced around label homes before a motorcyle crash nearly killed him and enabled him to create his finest work. Released in 2009, Hoge’s album The Wreckage featured this song detailing Hoge’s love affair with music which made a lot of noise for Hoge. The buzz from this record garnered genuine Springsteen and Mellencamp comparisons prior to the Eli Young Band snapping it up for their next record and making it one of the biggest songs of the last 20 years.
William Clark Green – “She Likes The Beatles” (2013)
WCG was already wearing the title of Lubbock’s next great songwriter even before the Rose Queen album came out with this as its lead single and made him a regional phenom. This song and this phase of Green’s career catapulted him to headliner status and he hasn’t looked back since.
The Wood Brothers-“I Got Loaded” (2013)
These cats are Adam Hood’s favorite band and their style is hard to describe. It’s country, folk, rock, jazz…and always Americana.
Wrinkle Neck Mules-“Central Daylight Time” (2012)
Virginia band who made inroads to Texas in the early 00’s, and inroads across America on the strength of this longtime fan favorite that was snatched up by the advertising gurus at Geico.
Zac Wilkerson-“Middle of the Night” (2014)
Amarillo’s Wilkerson knows how to lay down the soulful rock tones like few other artists. His ability to meld styles into his own distinct Dustbowl Soul stew makes Wilkerson a standout artist with his own personal style.
Zach Huckabee – “Can’t Stop the Rain” (2007)
Lampasas’ own Huckabee scored a Texas radio smash with this song.
Zack Walther – “Down Easy” (2009)
Walther’s vocal range and smart arrangement sensibilities inform this song with Georgia in the title and Texas all over it.
Zane Williams – “Overnight Success” (2013)
Williams is one of the wittiest songwriters in Texas and possesses a natural ability to make things commercially appealing without losing any grit. This song gives the long way to the top if you wanna rock n’ roll experience a new treatment.