Dalton Domino’s Dustbowl Sweet 16: Round 2

DustbowlR2by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

After eight hard fought match-ups in Round 1 of our Sweet 16 Artist Tournament, songwriters Ben McKenzie, Jamie Weston, Skylar Hamilton, Zach Coffey, Kody West, Eddie Saenz, Austin McManus, and Denny Herrin moved on.

Much like the First Round, the Second Round will be three days of voting. Again, here’s a playlist of the eight artists who moved on.

BWMcKenzie01) Ben McKenzie
Stillwater, OK

 

BWWeston08) Jamie Weston
Austin, TX

 

 

BWHamilton13) Skylar Hamilton
San Antonio, TX

 

BWCoffey12) Zach Coffey
Ft. Worth, TX

BWWest02) Kody West
Denton, TX

 

BWSaenz10) Eddie Saenz
Nashville, TN

BWMcManus03) Austin McManus
Lubbock, TX

 

BWHerrin06) Denny Herrin
Austin, TX

 


Song Premiere: Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward

RodneyParker5by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

When Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward began recording their upcoming album, Bomber Heights, it was last September. One year later, their third full-length is finally getting a release date–September 16. During that time, the band took more time off the road than originally anticipated.

“What we thought was going to be a little time off to make the album, but it turned out to be like nine months,” says Parker. “That was OK. It was good for us to recharge the batteries a little bit.”

With highly acclaimed producer Matt Pence (Centro-Matic, Justin Townes Earle, Quaker City Night Hawks) at the helm, Parker and company had the time and experienced guide to navigate them into the right directions throughout. At nine-tracks long, Pence, RP50PR, and a host of seasoned musicians–both in the form of Pesos and in new collaborators-crafted an album that’s as tightly woven as it is comfortable and worn.

Throughout Bomber Heights, you see Parker return to familiar subjects like heartbreak and breakup. But rather than rehashing the past, you see Parker come at it from new angles. There’s perhaps no better example of that than “The Day Is Coming.”

“The Day Is Coming” is very much like the antithesis of The Lonesome Dirge‘s “I’m Never Getting Married.” Rather than being the anthemic bar rally of a Saturday night that “I’m Never Getting Married” is, “The Day Is Coming” finds Parker in a much more sombre mood as he’s counting down the days to a wedding–that’s not his own. This time around though, it’s without beer clinks, clanks, and toasts. It’s with sobering coffee and Parker looking himself in the mirror.

Listen to the rocking ballad “The Day Is Coming” exclusively below.

In addition, listen to our latest podcast episode with Rodney Parker here.

Bomber Heights Tracklist

1. Steppin’ into Sunshine
2. Skin and Bones
3. Lewis
4. I Am a Cinematographer
5. The Road Between None and Some
6. The Day Is Coming
7. Night in My Hand
8. Ballast
9. Moon

 

The New Slang Podcast: 020 Rodney Parker

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

On Episode 20, we sat down with Ft. Worth singer-songwriter Rodney Parker. Parker and his band, 50 Peso Reward, recently finished up in the studio cutting their third full-length album, Bomber Heights with DFW-based producer Matt Pence at the helm, their latest album since 2013’s The Apology Part II. On this episode, we talk about the album and the songs that make it up as well as their early days as a touring outfit, RP50PR’s relationship with Lubbock bands such as Thrift Store Cowboys, Charlie Shafter, and Red Shahan, his love for American songwriter pioneer Bruce Springsteen, baseball, baseball cards,  the rise and fall of Americana music, and growing up in the ’80s and ’90s.

 

 

Album Premiere: Eddie & The EAT’s Midnight Snacks

EDDIEEAT2by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Amarillo outfit Eddie & The EAT began recording their debut album, Midnight Snacks, back last Winter. Since then, the Americana band has been slowing, but surely stacking up weekend runs and buzz in the win column. Midnight Snacks is just the latest.

For lead vocalist and lyricist Eddie Esler in particular, the album has been a long time coming. After the breakup of his last band, the bluegrassy Turbine Toolshed and a few years roaming solo, The EAT gave him some structure and the device needed to properly execute the heap of songs he’d been writing.

With Midnight Snacks, The EAT takes a giant step in the right direction as they put a focus on blending subtle moments of confession and admission with rootsy backbeats and rhythms and, at times, spacey guitar licks that come rushing from the stratosphere and beyond.

We caught up with Esler earlier this week to discuss the songwriting and sound of Midnight Snacks, which will officially be released later this week with an Album Release Show at Amarillo’s Golden Light on Saturday, August 27 (More details here). Exclusively stream Midnight Snacks below.

New Slang: A lot of the songs on the album live out in the plains. They feel like short stories that all have roots in this area. There’s a healthy dose of realism in songs like “King’s Crown,” “Dripping Red,” and “Right Back to You.” At one point did you realize a lot of these songs were sketches about folks in the Panhandle?

Eddie Esler:  I tend to take things I’ve seen, experiences I’ve had, and people I’ve met, and weave them into the songs. It wasn’t a preconceived thought to write an album of songs that were sketches of people in the Panhandle, but when I look back, most of the songs came out of personal experiences that I’ve had and the only way to express myself at the time was to put it into a song. I’ve lived in the Panhandle for 26 of my 30 years. It’s what I’ve known most of my life. We (the band) all come from Lubbock, Canyon, or Amarillo. It’s our home and what we know best.

NS: The best example of talking about the Panhandle is the album closer, “Stain on the Plains.” Where and when were you when you first started developing that song?

EE: I started “Stain on the Plains” the morning after the Blue Light Songwriter competition in the backyard of a friend’s house in the Fall of 2014. I was messed up and pissed off. I finished it at a rehab facility in Arizona the following month. I wrote it as a whole piece of of music trying to tap into something deeper. The final par of the song happened when my Navajo roommate, who never talked the month, began singing tribal hymns over what I was playing. What you hear on the record is my best reenactment of what happened that day. It was pure magic.

NS: There’s a lot of slow build up on the track. Some rustic, lonesome guitar and some sparse lyrics slowly build up into a rushing drum beat and guitars that soar. How’d that song end up building up into a lengthy, grand piece of music? Was that just a natural progression after playing it live numerous times?

EE: It wasn’t a natural progression of playing through time. It was more deliberate. We intended it to be a certain movement within the music to give it an orchestral feel. All of the parts, I had prewritten, but were taken to the band and only expanded upon by the group effort.

NS: “Flowers in December” feels like a real intimate moment on the album. That’s a song where it feels like you could have really taken the song to being exclusively acoustic. The band doesn’t overstep or play over you in the song, but they still make their presence known–in an almost post rock kind of way. How’d you guys find that delicate balance?

EE: Taylor, our drummer, brings that post rock aspect to it and does it very well without overstepping boundaries. But yes, it’s a very personal song about my time in Arizona. It’s a begging to come home. It’s missing my loved ones. It’s everything I missed about Texas. I would’ve done it acoustic, but the full band version seemed so much more powerful than anything I could have delivered. It’s exactly why I love playing with these guys–the control, the dynamics, the execution. They were able to feel he emotion of the song and bring it to life so much better than I would have ever done. It’s why they’re not my band, but why we’re a band.

NS: Part of your sound, it’s very organic in nature. The instruments feel worn in and comfortable. Aged. There’s some really grand, sharp guitar tones throughout, but there’s a mix of bluegrass and jam band elements happening as well. It’s mixed well without feeling forced. How have you guys mixed these different sounds?

EE: When we first started, I had an idea as to how I wanted to start a new band different than what I had worked with in the past. The rhythm guitar, drums, and bass worked together in a garage for over six months before ever bringing in the lead guitar. There was a focus on tightness and dynamics in the very beginning. We wanted to be a tight and cohesive unit before we ever started playing gigs. Every member of the band comes from a different background in music that ranges from jam bands to bluegrass to country to metal, hard rock, and blues.

NS: There’s a bit of a movement in Amarillo right now–a resurgence of younger bands creating a sound. You guys are coming up within that movement with some others. What’s going on in Amarillo between these bands? Feels like a real tight knit group.

EE: The bands coming out of Amarillo are so tight knit because most of us have known each other for a long time or have played with each other at some point. We show up to the jams a Hoot’s Pub, mix things up and support each other rather than sticking to our usual bands, and competing against one another. Basically, we’re all friends and love making music together.

Dalton Domino’s Dustbowl Sweet 16: Round 1

image1by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

For the next three days (Tuesday, August 23-Thursday, August 25), Round 1 of the Sweet 16 Tournament will open for voting. You can vote and share using the Votion bracket below. In addition, we’ve provided a playlist and more information on each of the 16 songwriters and artists.

BWMcKenzie01) Ben McKenzie
Stillwater, OK

 

 

BWWestly16) Bubba Westly
Boling, TX

BWWeston08) Jamie Weston
Austin, TX

BWBaxley09) Kirk Baxley
Austin, TX

BWAlan04) Davis Alan
Stephenville, TX

BWHamilton13) Skylar Hamilton
San Antonio, TX

 

BWKay05) Elaina Kay
Wichita Falls, TX

BWCoffey12) Zach Coffey
Ft. Worth, TX

BWWest02) Kody West
Denton, TX

BWDarlene15) Jackie Darlene
Ft. Worth, TX

BWSlu07) Gander Slu
Denton, TX

BWSaenz10) Eddie Saenz
Nashville, TN

BWMcManus03) Austin McManus
Lubbock, TX

BWHolder14) Billy Holder
Gatesville, TX

BWHerrin06) Denny Herrin
Austin, TX

BWJasper11) Cody Jasper
Amarillo, TX

 


Dalton Domino’s Dustbowl & Sweet 16 Announced

image1by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

A few months back, Texas singer-songwriter announced that he was creating a one day fall festival called Dustbowl. Hot off the heels of a successful Drinko–a day festival back in May–he announced that Dustbowl would be very much the same, except happening in the fall, Wednesday, October 12 to be exact.  Dustbowl will be happening in Lubbock at The Blue Light.

Playing this year’s Dustbowl will be: Six Market Blvd., Sean McConnell, Willis Alan Ramsey, Adam Hood, Jason Eady, Ben Hussey, Kaitlin Butts, Travis Meadows, John D. Hale, Courtney Patton, Charlie Stout, Brandon Adams, Jonny Burke, Randall King, Koe Wetzel, Gerald Salzarulo, Isaac Hoskins, Brad God, Eddie Esler, Pedro Ramirez, Hunter Hutchinson, Cody Riley, Breelan Angel, and Sarah Hobbs–with a couple more headliners to be announced the week prior to the event.

You can currently purchase presale tickets for $25 here.

Sweet16Finished

In addition, Domino has announced that there will be one play-in spot added to the bill via a Sweet 16 tournament bracket featuring some of Texas and Oklahoma’s up and coming singer-songwriters and artists. The Sweet 16 Bracket will be curated right here on New Slang and feature the following songwriters: Davis Alan, Kirk Baxley, Zach Coffey, Jackie Darlene, Skylar Hamilton, Denny Herrin, Billy Holder, Elaina Kay, Cody Jasper, Ben McKenzie, Austin McManus, Eddie Saenz, Gander Slu, Kody West, Bubba Westly, and Jamie Weston.

Much like an NCAA Basketball tournament, each songwriter will be pitted up against each other in one on one match-ups. Each round will have voting open to the public for three days. After those three days, the winner of each match-up, be decided by popular vote, will move on to the next round.

Below is a schedule for the Sweet 16 bracket.

First Round: Tuesday-Thursday (August 23-25)
Second Round: Friday-Sunday (August 26-28)
Semi-Finals: Monday-Wednesday (August 29-31)
Finals: Thursday-Saturday (September 01-03)

Starting tomorrow morning, we’ll announce the first round match-ups. Note: Seeding and match-ups for the tournament have all determined at random and Seed numbers have no weighted value.


Q&A: Gene Watson

Gene Watsonby: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Gene Watson has been a country music force for the better part of 50 years. Armed with one of the warmest and richest voices country music has ever seen, Watson has been gently breaking and mending hearts for decades.

His latest album, 2016’s Real.Country.Music., is much the same as can be expected from Watson. With over 30 studio albums under his belt, it’d be natural to see a dip in productivity, but in Watson, we see an artist who still has all charm, grace, and shades of sorrow as he’s ever had. Throughout the fourteen-track album, Watson’s sincerity shines. Often called a singer’s singer, Watson paints each individual track as vivid as he possibly can. Like the album’s title hints, Watson’s still delivering real country music in 2016.

We caught up with the country legend earlier this week to talk about his lengthy and storied singing career. Watson will be performing at The Cactus Theater this Friday evening in Lubbock.

New Slang: You’re about 50 years into your music career these days. Do you still get that good nervousness before a show? Is that something that leaves?

Gene Watson: I don’t really get nervous before. The most you’ll see from me is that anticipation. I can’t stand waiting back behind stage. That’s still there.

NS: The first part of your career was spent down in the Houston during the ’60s. You weren’t signed on to a major label yet. What were those early days like when you were still working a full-time job and playing music at night? 

GW: That kind of showed my love for the music. I had an 8 to 5 job doing paint and body work, but I loved music. I had a pretty good band with me. We played the local night clubs in the vicinity during the weekends. We didn’t make much money, but it was for the love of the music. We had a great following back then.

NS: I’m guessing it’s safe to say had you not ever signed a major label deal, you still would have played. 

GW: Yeah. Probably so. Being an entertainer or a recording artist, that was never one of my goals in life. I just loved music. I can remember singing as far back as talking.

NS: How’d you sound back then? Did you really change your sound much when you signed with Capital?

GW: Back then, when we were doing the clubs and everything, we really worked off requests. People would request songs from like Jones and Haggard. Every time we did one of their songs, I’d try my best to do it exactly the way they did. It was brought to my attention one night, a guy told me, “I don’t know if you know it or not, but you have Merle Haggard down.” I got to thinking about it. You know, there’s already a Merle Haggard, a George Jones, and a Willie Nelson. Honestly, I threw all that out the window and started singing the songs the way I felt them. Right, wrong, or indifferent, that’s the way I would sing them. Believe it or not, that was the beginning of the Gene Watson style.

NS: One of the things about you that’s carried over throughout the years has been your voice. There’s been little to no change since you started out. It’s not faded out or changed. Why do you think that is?

GW: I think the reason for that is because I’m myself with my natural voice. I also really concentrate when I’m singing. Every word, every phrase, I want the diction to be as good as I can get it. I don’t strain very much. Every once in a while I will–like the ending of “Farewell Party.” As a rule though, I’m singing what feels good to me so it’s never really much of a problem.

NS: You mentioned “Farewell Party,” A lot of your most successful songs are these heartbreaking ballads. How do you relate to songs of yours that are now 40 years old?

GW: You know, it’s not so much how I relate to them, but it’s how other people relate to them. I try my best to tell people’s life story in song. If I can get their attention that way, they’re going to listen. I try to pick songs that other people are going to relate to.

NS: I’m sure there’s been songs you were on the fence with before you actually recorded them. Is there any in particular that come to mind that you changed your mind on after seeing it have an impact on others?

GW: Yeah. “Paper Rosie” was one of those–and it ended up being a number one song. The first time I recorded it–well, first of all, I wasn’t really knocked out by the song at all. I guess I didn’t hear it, which is understandable since I don’t hear it in all of them. I didn’t care for it that much though. I recorded it and didn’t feel like I did the song justice. I wasn’t satisfied. The head of the country division in Nashville for Capital Records, Frank Jones, he’s the one who brought it to me from Canada. He loved it and wanted me to go back in and redo it. So I did. That second time, we added a flute and a couple of horns. They’re real subtle, but they’re in there. I kind of through my original thoughts out the window and really tried to discover the song. When we left the studio, I knew it was a great song. I didn’t know it was going to be a hit, but I knew it was a great song. I was satisfied with it.

NS: You catalog of music is pretty extensive. Over 30 studio albums. That’s a lot of songs recorded, but it’s even more that were pitched to you and weren’t recorded. At one point did you start searching for the songs yourself rather than waiting to see what was brought to you?

GW: One thing about my career that I’m so proud of is that I’ve always had the freedom to pick and choose the songs that I recorded. Nobody picked them for me. People helped me look for them, locate them, and find them, but I always had the last say. You never know where you’re going to find that next hit. Therefore, you have to go through them all. I never did trust anyone to critique the songs but me. I’d be the one who knew what I was looking for and whether it was mine or not.

NS: How do you know when a song is your song?

GW: It’s got to be a story I can live. Recording a song is like an actor playing a role. I have to feel that part and have to do a good job of acting that part. Otherwise, that song just isn’t for me.

NS: Going back to a lot of your successful hits being heart-wrenching ballads, did you ever feel typecast?

GW: I was kind of typecast in a way. People kind of expected that kind of music from me–the waltzes, the ballads, the sad songs. When they bought a Gene Watson product, that’s kind of what they were expecting. That’s not to say we didn’t have some up-tempo songs on there though. “Fourteen Carat Mind” was one number song on Billboard. I did record some of those, but my most consistent records were ballads and waltzes–sad songs and stories.

NS: Do you think that’s essentially what’s missing from modern country radio? There’s a lack of relatable and emotional sad songs and story songs?

GW: Absolutely. There’s no way in the world these new artists can feel what they’re singing. How the hell you going to feel a little mud on the tires? I’m not saying all of them are that way. I’m speaking in general. To me, a song has to have substance. Whether it’s sad, happy, fast, or slow, it still needs substance for it to really mean anything.

NS: Yeah. I’ve read a few of your recent interviews. I think you’ve done a good job of expressing that you’re not wanting these new folks to fall, but you’re more so disappointed in the song choices and the direction country music has been headed. 

GW: Yeah. I don’t want anybody to fail. I’m wanting them to succeed. But that doesn’t mean I have to like the music that they’re fabricating. I say that because it’s just a fact. You don’t have to be a good singer or have a good song. They’re looking for a marketing tool. They can record a perfect record now. You can go in with your computers and make it a perfect record.

NS: When do you think that shift started happening?

GW: I don’t know. I ‘d like to think it’s going to come back our way. There’s a lot of great talent out there. There are people that can be respected and doing well. It’s just that so many new artists, they couldn’t make it in the type of music that I do. I’m hoping everything turns back towards traditional country music though. I don’t know how long that’ll be though. It’s strayed away on several occasions before, but it’s always came back.

NS: You released a new album earlier this year. You mentioned how the recording process has changed over time earlier. Are you still approaching the album making process the same as you always have or do you feel like you’ve applied some of the newer recording techniques into your newest albums?

GW: My latest CD I think is some of the greatest work I’ve ever done. The one before that, My Heroes Have Always Been Country, for that, I went back and picked out songs that I’d been singing years ago that had been recorded by some of my heroes. A good song is everlasting. A good song is a good song is a good song whether it’s yesterday, today, or tomorrow.

The New Slang Podcast: 019 Zack McGinn of Dolly Shine

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Earlier this week, Stephenville’s Dolly Shine announced that they were going to be breaking up at the end of September. The five-piece outfit released their second full-length album, Walkabout, earlier this year to the delights of critics and fans alike. It comes as a surprise that the progressive country roots band is deciding to retire the band name and have its’ five members move on to other ventures and projects. It was just about a month ago we had caught up with lead vocalist and songwriter Zack McGinn here on the podcast. While this conversation has nothing to do with their breakup, it’s still great insight on the making of Walkabout, McGinn’s growth as a songwriter, and where he comes from as an artist.

 

West Texas Walk of Fame 2016 Inductees: The Flatlanders, Ponty Bone, Terry Cook, & Sonny West

2016 West Texas Walk of Fame Inductees: The Flatlanders (Top), Ponty Bone, Terry Cook, and Sonny West.
2016 West Texas Walk of Fame Inductees: The Flatlanders (Top), Ponty Bone, Terry Cook, and Sonny West.

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

The Civic Lubbock, Inc. board has announced that its 2016 West Texas Walk of Fame class will be honoring  alt-country pioneers The Flatlanders, accordion player & musician Ponty Bone,  opera singer & vocalist Terry Cook, and singer-songwriter Sonny West. Located in the Buddy & Maria Elena Holly Plaza, The West Texas Walk of Fame surrounds the statue of Buddy Holly–the Fame’s first inducted member–next to The Buddy Holly Center in the heart of the Depot District.

The 2016 inductees will be at the induction ceremony set for 6 p.m. Thursday, September 15 in the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center Theater.

The West Texas Walk of Fame has been honoring musicians, writers, and artists from West Texas over the last 37 years. With the addition of The Flatlanders, Bone, Cook, and West, the number of overall inductions rises to 72. This follows up 2015’s class of Natalie Maines and Jo Harvey Allen.

For more on The West Texas Walk of Fame, click here.

Watch/Listen to The Flatlanders, Ponty Bone, Terry Cook, and Sonny West below.

Terry Allen’s Lubbock (on Everything) Gets Reissued Date

Photo by Gary Krueger, 1968.
Photo by Gary Krueger, 1968.

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Earlier this year, the record label Paradise of Bachelors reissued Lubbock singer-songwriter and artist Terry Allen’s Juarez, his 1975 debut album. Now, Allen’s magnum opus sophomore album, the 21-track monolith Lubbock (On Everything) will be getting the same treatment.

Lubbock (on Everything) will officially be rereleased on Oct 14.

Much like Juarez before it, Lubbock (on Everything) will not only be available digitally, the double-album will get the deluxe treatment. According to PoB, The Deluxe 2×LP package includes tip-on gatefold jacket with lyrics, printed inner sleeves, download code, and 28 pp. book with related artwork and photos, an oral history by Allen, and essays by David Byrne, Lloyd Maines, and PoB. 2×CD edition features replica jacket, sleeves, and tipped-in 52pp. book.

You can currently order Lubbock (On Everything) here. Read our last interview with Allen on all things Lubbock (On Everything) here. Listen to the iconic opener “Amarillo Highway” below.

Locating the Lubbock Sound

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