Is Texas Country as Appalling as Nashville's Brand?


9. Bri Bagwell, "Hound Dog"
One sad way Texas and Nashville are a lot alike is that both country charts are a virtual sausage party; the next female act after Bagwell this week is the Rankin Twins at No. 36. So it's up to this tall drink of water from Las Cruces to contend with all that testosterone all by her lonesome -- by vowing she can be just as low-down as the boys.


8. Mark McKinney, "Stolen Cash"
This track is swimming in banjo, harmonica, steel guitar and an irresistible singalong chorus. That's pretty country all right; "spent that night like stolen cash" is a clever line, too.


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7. Reckless Kelly, "The Last Goodbye"
Nothing fancy, just a simple, plain-spoken ballad about how when it's over, it's really over this time. (Maybe.) In other words, the sort of song Nashville lost interest in about 20 years ago.


6. Kyle Park, "Fit For the King"
George Strait tribute ingeniously woven out of about three dozen Strait song titles. Texas country is light-years ahead (or behind?) Nashville in terms of respecting its elders. (See also: Kevin Fowler, "Don't Touch My Willie"; Bruce Robison, "What Would Willie Do.")


5. Wade Bowen, "Songs About Trucks"
The pickup-song backlash reaches Texas country... and mentions several different makes of trucks along the way. Nicely done.


4. Green River Ordinance, "If It Ain't Love"
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, some Texas country acts (like this one) exhibit a heavy Ryan Adams influence. That's a plus, in case you were wondering.


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3. Josh Abbott Band, "She Will Be Free"
This Lubbock group has been arguably the hottest act on the Texas scene for a while, and this tearjerker wants to be the moment at every show where guys squeeze their dates extra tight. Frankly it's a relatively dull moment on JAB's otherwise very good 2012 album Small Town Family Dream, but kudos to Abbott et al. for drawing attention to a very serious subject -- sex trafficking, right here in the good old U.S. of A -- in the 12-minute video.


2. Will Hoge, Strong"
As heard in a recent Chevy truck commericial. Moving on...


1. Cody Johnson, "Ride With Me"
The No. 1 song currently on Texas country radio celebrates the pleasures of female companionship on the open road, but in a convertible. It's no better or worse than an average Keith Urban song, but hey -- at least there ain't a diamond-plate tailgate in sight.


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19 comments
amucomm
amucomm

@fieldcrow52 @WhiteLightning @BobDunn Y'all have very interesting points - and yes unfortunately I have to agree with Chris Gray's headline - what's offered these days as Texas Country or Red Dirt Music is as generic as the stuff coming out of Nashville. Another song about a dirt road, a pickup truck, a tailgate and a longneck in your hand is as boring as the fodder coming out of Nashvegas. 
Yes there are/were some notable exceptions in Texas Music, but most of the current artists have gone "mainstream" or the Garth Brooks Highway, with over simplified songs catering to the University Frat communities in Amphitheaters and other oversized venues. 
But if you look beyond the charts, you will discover that there is still a healthy scene of musicians making great, quality music. Check out Austin club "The White Horse" for instance or listen to the newly resurrected KOKE FM or any of the public radio stations (KDRP, KNON) that have a Texas music show.
Check out artists like Amber Digby, Jake Hooker, Bobby Flores, James Hand, Dale Watson, Roger Wallace, Amanda Cevallos, Shannon Lee Nelson, Bob Appel, Shad Blair, Bracken Hale, Leo Rondeau, Two Hoots & A Holler, Wink Keziah, Brennen Leigh & Noel McKay, the Band of Heathens and some of the already mentioned ones and you will discover originality (instead of copy-cats) and quality (instead of lowest common denominator) are still alive. 
And yes, do that with Nashville (or the US) as well, Jaida Dreyer, Kacey  Musgraves, Sturgill Simpson, Arty Hill, Amanda Shires and her hubby Jason Isbell, Amelia White, Patty Griffin and many others relase quality records after quality records - unfortunately too good for the radio. Skip commercial radio and start investigating. 
And as a tidbid of information - it was Bob Wills and his band who introduced drums into country music, being the first band to have drums at the Grand Ole Opry. 

leecrowell30
leecrowell30

Wrap yourself in the flag and drive your mama to church on a tractor while your girlfriend sits on the tailgate and you've got a hit. 

fieldcrow52
fieldcrow52

ha ha re: the gentleman's comments about you including Bob Wills in the Pantheon of Country titans seemed peevish, like how some Norwegians resent being lumped in with the Danes when discussing the Norse invasions of England. but I don't think the people who loved and still love Bob Wills would question its being called Country, and I see it as Country that is at an ensemble level of talent like Louis Armstrong at his peak in the previous few decades. Western Swing was definitely the last Bridge to Africa in mainstream Country Music I think.

fieldcrow52
fieldcrow52

nice article. spot on imo. I was hoping Texas Country radio would embrace the Texas singer-songwriters more as there are some great songs from artists of all ages & stylistic shadings in that pool. I was hoping it (Texas country radio) would be more artistic, like KOKE-FM in Austin was when I moved there in the mid 70's. Texas mainstream Country and Nashville mainstream Country have one thing in coming - square-ness.  none of the songs are any good if you like W. C. Handy, Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Fats Domino, Elvis, Waylon & Willie, Merle, Ray Price, Jerry Lee, Muddy & Howling, Slim Harpo, Dylan, Kristofferson, the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Satchmo, etc. None the of the new blah blah blahs has any real good ol' American yeoman - or Texican - or strident African American types of Personalitiy. It's over.

WhiteLightning
WhiteLightning

Let's simplify this: For all the shouting about Nashville, the Texas music that Best in Tx covers is exactly equal in its overall lameness. Get out on the highway and put on any of these so-called Texas music stations and you're usually in for a shite-fest that equals anything on a Clear Channel country station. Dreck is dreck.

BobDunn
BobDunn

"Surely Merle Haggard (and maybe even Bob Wills) would recognize this as country music right away."

Bob Wills hated country music, and so did his iconic guitar player Eldon Shamblin, who eventually joined admirer Merle Haggard's band for the steady paycheck.  Western Swing is not country music, and Bob Wills was not a country performer.

theonecalledjake
theonecalledjake

Reckless Kelly is one of the few country bands I'm truly interested in. Their newest album is kinda meh, but most of their material is pretty great to this mostly non-country fan.

Anse
Anse

It's sad to think that if Red Headed Stranger were released today, it would be almost completely ignored, and that album is more or less what opened the door for everything called "Texas Country" today.

Anse
Anse

@fieldcrow52 I think the indie rock hipsters have a better appreciation for country music than a lot of the so-called country acts played on radio today. I knew things had changed when Merle and Loretta Lynn had to go to punk rock and indie rock labels to release new material. I've played the Gourds for the "Texas Country" fan-bros back in my hometown and they look at me like they don't know what in the heck they're listening to. And of course they don't.

WhiteLightning
WhiteLightning

@fieldcrow52 AMEN Mr. Crow! The total Republican whiteness of the Texas country thing = (as you noted) squareness. Too much of that, not enough Sam Baker, John Fullbright, Mike Stinson, Shinyribs, Joe Ely, Gourds, Churchwood, Texmaniacs, Bombasta, Pinata Protest, etc etc. Songs with any meat or with playing that is outside the tiny box scares those Texas radio folks. 


WhiteLightning
WhiteLightning

@BobDunn You're probably splitting the hair a bit too finely. Your point is taken, but you still find Bob Wills (and Bob Dunn) in the Encyclopedia of Country Music etc. My mom loved Bob, but believe me she considered it country music.

WhiteLightning
WhiteLightning

@Anse The radio pikers of today wouldn't have a clue about what to do with Red Headed Stranger.

fieldcrow52
fieldcrow52

@Anse @fieldcrow52 It's true, it's true. Yet they are connoisseurs of so many things. But 'they' rightly see it as 'art', which it is, but I don't think 'they' would be caught dead in Branson at the Moe Bandy theatre - it's closed I know having read this paper's story on him - They don't really go for the kind of middle-aged, middle-of-the-road, songs for working class Cgristians to sin to ha ha. The indy-hipsters that I know have never mentioned Easy Lovin' or Farewell Party ha ha. Bit I don't know that many any more. New Roots hipsters, I'm not sure what they like either. Never heard any of them mention Slim Harpo. I remember playing the Flaming Groovies or Wynonie Harris for peer coeds who would rather have been hearing Rumours or Fogelberg.

fieldcrow52
fieldcrow52

@WhiteLightning @fieldcrow52 then surely there must be a good ol' fucker Texican radio insurgency in the works that is both wide-ranging and discriminating. Surely some swells in Houston have the money for this. You must lead this crusade. Just blame it on Dallas and sally forth. please.

BobDunn
BobDunn

@WhiteLightning @BobDunn 

No doubt that country music embraced him (eventually, and it took many years) and his influence on country is powerful (Merle Haggard for instance); but it's not splitting hairs to say that he hated country music, did not consider himself a country artist, and was very outspoken in that attitude.  Western Swing is a branch of jazz, not country, and this is a viewpoint almost universally shared by the musicians who created and popularized the style.

That being said, I am a huge Country fan as well as a Western Swing fan so I am not judging the quality of the music.  There is as much a distinction between the styles as there is between Bluegrass and Country, another example of two very different art forms frequently confused with each other.  But they're all rich and fascinating in their own ways.

WhiteLightning
WhiteLightning

@BobDunn @WhiteLightning Got you. Bob had his music store not far from where I live today. Influenced an amazing number of steel players via lessons at his store.


BobDunn
BobDunn

@WhiteLightning @BobDunn 

Yes, country (not Country) people loved Bob Wills and Western Swing in general from the beginning.

Unfortunately, no relation here to the real Bob Dunn.  I am just a Milton Brown fan who considers Bob Dunn to be one of a handful of the most exciting musicians of the 20th century.

WhiteLightning
WhiteLightning

@BobDunn @WhiteLightning Agreed, no quarrel with any of this. Had a long talk with Herb R. about all this six months back. But let's face one fact: It wasn't jazz listeners who crowded the dance floor at Bob Wills shows. It was country folks, even if they lived in the city.

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