The Texas 30: The Second Runners-Up, Albums 50-41
On our computer, Rocks Off has been looking at that damn Texas 30 spreadsheet so long our eyes are frosting over. Monday we said about 400 different albums were spread across the ballots we received from almost 25 music-media wags across Texas. We looked at the sheet again after that and it was actually closer to 500. Sheesh.
Graphic by Monica Fuentes
So here we are at the middle of the middle, albums No. 50-41. Fittingly, because it is getting hard to tell up from down, this range is about the ceiling for one-shot breakout records by acts that burned bright but quick like The Plus and Minus Show, and cult artists who would have been higher up if they had been more accessible or hadn't broken up 25 years ago. It's also about the basement for some very well-known acts whose particular albums were excellent in some ways but somehow off the mark for one reason or another.
Either way, it adds another layer of context to what has been both an enriching and exhausting project for me, sifting through the best Texas music of the past 30 years. Enjoy.
50. Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way (2006)
After the long, long "Top of the World" tour, a live album and DVD, and a few babies here and there, the Dixie Chicks regrouped for Taking the Long Way ready to settle some scores with a music industry (especially country radio) that had by then turned its back on them. The music is impeccable, with co-writers including the Heartbreakers' Mike Campbell and Semisonic's Dan Wilson, and much, much closer to adult pop than anything approaching country -- mainstream, alternative, bluegrass or otherwise. But for whatever reason, Long Way just didn't have quite the same zing as its predecessors, and its sales reflected that. Its near-sweep of the 2007 Grammys is practically the Webster's definition of "Pyrrhic victory."
49. Joe Ely, Live at Liberty Lunch (1990)
When people of a certain age, mostly men, talk about the Joe Ely Band in tones otherwise reserved for church and their newborn children, Live at Liberty Lunch is what they're thinking about. Led by fire-fingers guitarist David Grissom, Ely's band -- with Jimmy Pettit and Davis McLarty, as good as a rhythm section as Texas had in the '80s, apart from Double Trouble -- blazes through one good-rockin' favorite after another ("Are You Listenin' Lucky?", "Cool Rockin' Loretta") until bringing things down to a whisper on an anguished "Letter to L.A." that stretches past 12 minutes.
48. Steve Earle, Copperhead Road (1988)
Pound for pound one of the brawniest records of the '80s, Copperhead Road is where Steve Earle upped his profile as a scruffier, snarlier Bruce Springsteen, identifying himself with outlaws of every stripe and joining the Pogues for rollicking soldier's story "Johnny Come Lately." But it also reveals what a softie he can be in some of his most tender-hearted songs ever, like "Even When I'm Blue" and Christmas carol "Nothing But a Child."