When I was first getting into this scene many moons ago, two of my favorite acts both live and on record were Rusty Wier and Jerry Jeff Walker. THey were a touchstone to the past formations of the current movement and (at the time) still on their A game. Both releasing and touring on the backs of music at the level of their creative peak. Rusty Wier at the Saxon Pub was a weekly ritual for us during our college days and his set at LJT each year was always a highlight of the week. And of course none of this would be at the level it’s at with ol ‘Scamp Walker. He’d been an aimless fool, an arrogant jerk, a smart businessman, gifted songwriter, rowdy performer and was still at it. Jerry Jeff created myths and is as responsible for the success of Luckenbach as a tourist destination as Hondo Crouch or Waylon’s song. He lived it. He wrote it. He marketed it. Old dogs may not learn new tricks, but there old ones are still impressive.
We lost Rusty to cancer a decade ago, and Jerry Jeff’s back issues and positive bank account have kept him from touring like he used to, but there are still some veterans proverbially bringing it each weekend and each record.
Chief among these would be Ray Wylie Hubbard. The Wylie Lama is the inspiration for this piece based on the Twitter conversation below. We all spend so much time chasing the next big thing or wondering who the next Pat, RRB, JAB, Koe will be that sometimes we lose sight of those already in our midst. RWH provides a low-down groove, gritty lyrics and a stoic mysticism that finds him making his best music later in life. Championed by Beatles and Joe Walsh as fervently as goat ropers and honky-tonkers, Mr. Hubbard’s legacy is sublime.
ever think about doing a story on leveled off texas country artists to watch in 2018? https://t.co/siPnObUbHG
— Ray Wylie Hubbard (@raywylie) January 19, 2018
Here are some other old dogs still running the game and far from (jokingly) leveling off.
Fort Worth area honky tonk Texas legend doesn’t even let a heart attack slow him down. On the mend and already gigging once again, this man loves his “Texas Woman” and cervezas just once more.
At his peak, Morrow was one of the biggest acts in this scene and put on the best live show around. Maturity mixed with a reaffirmed Christian faith found Morrow letting the load be carried by Him and the bawdiness ramped down from an 11 to a solid 4. But, that doesn’t mean the man stopped entertaining. His shows are as good as ever, the songs are still great and John Carroll is the best lead guitar player in this scene.
Marchman survived VietNashville to have a run as an undeground Texas hero. Sporadic gigs still pop up and are worth catching if you can.
Robert Earl Keen
Perhaps more responsible for this entire industry than anyone. He’s influenced just as many as Willie, Waylon and Townes and evolved from coffee shop troubadour to honky-tonk rocker to reflective folk bluegrasser. Kids may dare call him the GOAT…and he’s still at it.
Bringing a Northeastern slant to Texas music, this Maine native has been producing some of the strongest songs of the last 20 years on a steady basis. He recently released an album (Ghost on the Car Radio) on par with his crowning achievement Brokedown and continues to tour.
He drinks honky-tonk champagne while wearing his Tony Lama’s…and Double D has never slowed down. A gifted singer, songwriter and guitarist, Dodd has seen just about everything in this crazy business and lived to tell about it. He’s still having fun and still making tremendous music…check out his most recent duets record with some of the biggest young pups of this scene for evidence.
Much like Keen, Lovett was a modern trailblazer for Texas music. They each started in the folk scene and graduated to vastly different realms. Lovett found his way to his Large Band and a jazzy, funky, offbeat take on music that is equal parts Glen Miller and Willie Nelson. Get to one of his shows asap if you’ve never experienced one.
Mike McClure/The Great Divide
There may not be a single individual more responsible for the sound of the music we all love. From knocking down doors with TGD back in the day to producing records for Ragweed and Turnpike in addition to his fantastic solo work, Mac has and continues to prove he’s on the Mount Rushmore of this music. Rumor has it TGD is preparing to get back in the saddle for another big run with the original line-up. Stay tuned.
The third piece of the late 90’s Pat/Cory triumvirate, Tempel absconded to Wisconsin for law school at the height of the scene’s early zenith. When he returned to Texas and music, Temple was more reflective and somber. He has continued to create amazing music on his own and pursue other creative outlets. And, he still finds time to write songs for Gary Floater.
He’s never stopped enjoying drinking with his brother or driving the winding curves between Leakey and Hondo, and Stalling’s voice is as smooth as an expensive glass of Texas craft whiskey. Stalling’s music is laid back, comfortable and puts you in a good mood no matter the style of the song.
Austin’s resident Ameripolitan hero provides a hard-charging brand of immediately identifiable music. He doesn’t change his style or attitude no matter the style and attitudes that surround him. He’s an extremely cool thing to experience.
They’ve slipped a little in national notoriety since the CMT boosted height of the Tony Villanueva era, but these Brian Hofeldt led Bakersfield by way of Austin country throwbacks are still a must see for a night of dancing at the Broken Spoke…or anywhere else they happen to be playing for that matter.
Hendrix has a hippie’s spirit and a songwriter’s mind and she melds the two into a quirky, upbeat style that is complemented by her partnership with Lloyd Maines. Catch a Terri and Lloyd show and you’ll immediately be transported to a happy place.
Amarillo country-rockers were amid the scene’s earliest headliners and a recent reunion finds them still branching out beyond the Llano Estacado even as the political aspirations of lead singer Matt Martindale grow. It’s still a loud country.
James “Slim” Hand
The closest thing we have to a modern Hank Williams. This dude is a throwback in every way imaginable and still at it.
“Magnolia” was his high watermark, but James never stopped producing solid records and gigs. He’s based out of southeast Texas and often holds a residency down there, but you can sometimes catch him in far flung locales with LJT.
Gary P. Nunn
Gonzo guitarist/pianist/songwriter turns himself into one of the last men standing on the strength of catchy tunes, loyal following and a cool live show…Gary P is one of those things that just keeps aging like fine wine.
Burns is a guitar slinger turned storyteller. His Texas history-inspired tales have given him a second career as an educator by way of song for elementary children across the state. But,don’t sleep on his deep catalog and the rare bar gig.
Larry Joe Taylor
Known more for hosting the biggest party in the state each year, LJT is still out there chasing the highways from time to time and creating his own brand of Third Coast Buffett by way of Port A tunes.