I’ve opined in this space many times about the special things that make the Texas/Red Dirt scene different from mainstream country music. Of the many things I’ve listed out over the years have been quality songwriting, gritty live shows, genuine talent and appreciation of fans among others. Some of the mainstream acts have pieces of those things, but it is rare. Those instances, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, LeeAnn Womack are highlighted in our scene because they feel camaraderie with our guys and gals. However, as several things have unfolded over this past month it made me realize that the core ingredient distinguishing our scene out here on the backroads from the slick concrete streets of Nashvegas cash cows is the common thread of loyalty. Sure, country music in general proclaims to have the best fans in the world, and I suppose that is true. But, try telling that to someone in the metal, punk, or hip-hop scene. Every scene thinks they have the best fans. But, I’ve recently seen three distinct examples of what makes us special.
Jason Boland has been at the forefront of Red Dirt music for nearly a decade. In the early days it was his bullish behavior and rowdy live shows that drew fans in. Then, once they were hooked in by the intensity they had only heard of by word of mouth, they discovered an incredible songwriter and performer…at home with his full band of Stragglers backing him or just a guitar and the stories pulled from the back of his highly intelligent brain. This cat was singing what he was living. From battles with demons to the wreckage of relationships and Detroit’s best steel, Boland has managed to escape and use up just about eight of what surely has to be nine lives. Recently, while beginning the ramp up to the publicity push for his fantastic new album, Comal County Blue, Boland received some terrible news. After noticing some strain on his voice and being unable to sing, or even talk, as he was accustomed, Boland was referred to several specialists. Finally, he ended up in the care of the country’s best throat/voice doctors, ironically located in Nashville. Their advice was surgery as soon as possible, many months off the road, and complete vocal rest.
Well, for bands in this scene, that might as well spell a death knell. But, most bands don’t have a leader and team as resilient as Jason Boland and the Stragglers. Knowing their touring income would be severely slashed, Boland and his team devised a frenetic and creative publicity tour for the new record. The end result was ending up with the number one country album on ITunes the week of release. Befitting of his life’s adventure up to this point, Boland underwent vocal cord surgery on the day his album was released and is already planning a thunderous return to the stages of the circuit and beyond.
Boland’s story underscores the theme of loyalty I was referring to. His band has been loyal to him through it all. His fans have stuck by him through it all to the point of pushing his latest release to a top-seller knowing he needed album income more than anything. And, Boland has been loyal to himself. Sober, stoned, straight and narrow or live and lit…Boland has stayed true to his roots and his fans have stayed with him.
Roger Creager is another guy who exemplifies what I’m talking about. I know many of you are scratching your heads…saying to yourselves, what?!? Especially, if you know my musical tastes. Early on in my forays to Texas Music, I was a big Creager fan. I loved his first two records. But, by 2003 he was doing the same shows, songs and bits onstage that I’d been seeing since 2001 with little in the way of good, new output. Yet, through it all, Creager had the guns and stuck to them. His audiences continually outdraw many of the acts I dig that are on the more innovative end of things. He has survived tragically losing everyone’s favorite road manager, Kirby Standley (RIP bro!). His band has undergone numerous personnel shake-ups. Yet, the people kept coming. And, Creager kept plugging along. After many years without a new release, Creager is coming out with Here It Is this fall. It has elements of those first two albums I dug so much. And, it is a testament to his dedication and hard work that he’s still here while many of his peers have either headed to greener pastures or fell by the wayside. The loyalty of his fans throughout these slow output years has been amazing to sit back and watch. Not many bands can get people to support them and come out to new shows without any new songs for nearly five years. But, Creager did it….and he now appears poised to go on a fresh five year run.
Wade Bowen’s career was detailed in the article I wrote about him for the Aug/Sept issue of LoneStarMusic magazine. Much like Boland and Creager, Bowen has a tale of loyalty to tell. Throughout the slow burn of his career, best exemplified by the Lost Hotel project, Bowen has been loyal to the gut instinct that has made him one of the top dogs of the Texas scene. One of the nicest guys you’ll meet in this scene, Bowen’s career has been two steps forward, three steps back at many junctures…and none of that was his doing. Yet, Bowen was persistent and consistent with his work ethic and dedication taking over. Now, on the eve of releasing his latest, If We Ever Make It Home, Bowen’s loyalty to his instincts and his hard work have him poised to make the leap up the career ladder seen by several of his close friends.
Lastly, I’d like to point out the loyalty we see on this website. We’ve been at this for around eight years in one form or another. The amazing thing is that we still have some folks that have been around since the inception and are still active. We have many more that our just active lurkers. And, the man that got this whole place started,Pat Green, has even begun jumping back in and hopping onto the forums to comment on things. The loyalty you folks have shown us is nothing short of inspiring, and it’s what keeps me going. My passion for the music is matched by so many people from all over the world and we come here to share it. Please take the lessons of the examples I talked about and apply them to your life…it’ll make you a happier person.
Push through hardships, stick to your guns, and work hard…just like your favorite musicians.
-Our recent listening parties with Brandon Rhyder and Jason Boland have been a huge success…generating more traffic than any of our previous parties. We have one on the horizon with Wade Bowen…and I’m trying to nail Randy Rogers down for one.
-Speaking of Wade and Randy, I will be posting 20 Questions 2nd Editions with those guys during their album release weeks.
-Check out our new calendar format. We’ve been working hard on improving it for a while and it should be a little more user-friendly. We’re continuing to work towards Galley 3.0.
-I’m so glad football season is here again. Is there a better fall weekend than hitting up some Friday night light action, sleeping in on Saturday, waking up with College Gameday, checking out some college ball till sundown, then heading out to a show. Sleeping in again on Sunday, lounging around while checking your fantasy stats and rooting on the Cowboys? If so, I haven’t found it. The capper to those weekends used to be The Front Porch Show on 99.5 the Wolf. Too bad idiots now run that place and they got rid of Justin.
-Speaking of radio, if you haven’t seen it, we have a new Texas/Red Dirt radio forum that has been getting a ton of hits with some lively debates. Also, I’m really digging living within reception range of 95.9 The Ranch. My onlycomplaint is that the playlist is rather derivative at times. On one recent trip in the truck, I heard a Ragweed song and a Chris Knight song on my way to my destination. Then about an hour later on my way back home, I heard a Ragweed song and a Chris Knight song. Throw in some ladies! I’d love to hear Bonnie Bishop, Fallon Franklin, Modern Day Drifters, Kimberly Kelly, Susan Gibson, Maren Morris and others mixed right in with those guys. All in all…great job guys…digging the all Texas format. Now, if I could just pick up Mandatory FM in Fort Worth I’d be set.
-I’m not yet 30, but I realized I was getting old when I had no interest in seeing that College movie that has been getting so much promotion.
-Randy Rogers recently celebrated his 30th birthday with an 80’s themed party. I went to an 80’s party last NYE and it was a blast. I got to create the playlist, dress up etc. How long before the generation behind us is doing 90’s party and mocking us? Wearing flannel, blaring Nirvana, Tupac and Britney while answering Friends and Seinfeld trivia questions?
-This month’s recommended film: Tropic Thunder. I’d heard both good and bad going into this, so I didn’t really know what to expect. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find it the comedy I’d genuinely laughed at loud the most at in the theater in at least a year. Robert Downey Jr. steals the show, and keep your eyes open for all the cool cameos.
-This month’s recommended album: Bruce Robison-The New World.. I wrote a complete review of this for the next issue of LSM mag. However, let me just say that Bruce’s gift for being the songwriter even folks like Radney Foster look up to continues. Bruce has a knack for making the simple seem sublime and vice versa. This is his most adventurous record musically speaking and one I think just about anyone will enjoy.
-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”-Mark Twain