Category Archives: Panhandle

Interviews, news, and reviews on artists, songwriters, and bands who originate from The Panhandle of Texas.

Throwback Thursday: Waylon Forever

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

In 2008, Waylon Forever was released. Essentially, the eight-tracks are a collection of dated recording sessions done by Waylon Jennings and his son, Shooter, back in the late ’90s. These sessions were by all means, long forgotten until around 2007, when Shooter decided to dust them off and enhance the rough cuts with his band, The .357s,  himself, and a young producer named Dave Cobb.

It sure is hard getting old.

It’s even more difficult when you’re an icon, a leader of a movement, and the voice for a generation. Artists like Jennings, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Lou Reed, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Townes Van Zandt, etc they’ve all come to a point in their career when they, for a lack of a better description, become a shell of their former selves. You just can’t expect Springsteen to keep on making Born in the USA time and again. It only sets them up for failure. It only sets you up for disappointment.

Sports figures and Hollywood entertainers all can have problems holding on to their salad days and prime. Specifically, sports icons have trouble moving past their playing days and finding that second career. Actors–look no further than Sunset Blvd or action stars struggling moving past explosions and fight sequences (Looking at you, The Expendables cast).

Generally, they all hope to not become caricatures of themselves trading past jokes as some sort of novelty or nostalgic endeavor for the masses (Again, looking at you, the cast of The Expendables).

Sometimes, they go down that road a ways before the revelation hits them and they begin backtracking and finding their way once again. Late ’80s Dylan, current Dylan, Pre-American Recordings Cash (more on this in a second), post-Tattoo You Stones, basically everything from Elton John from A Single Man to Sleeping with the Past, Eminem since Encore, since Eric Clapton went Adult Contemporary, Jay-Z since Kingdom Come (with Watch the Throne being the exception), ’80s Neil Young  (with Re-ac-tor and Freedom the exceptions), and I think you’re getting the point. The list goes on. And sometimes, they just never realize at all.

With Jennings, you could argue that the vast majority of the ’80s and ’90s, was him trying to find his voice as a songwriter in a post-Outlaw Country world. While two of the three Highwaymen albums–Highwayman and Highwayman 2–were critically acclaimed and successful with the masses, Jennings solo albums struggled to make an impression with either groups (1980’s Music Man was Jennings last solo album to be certified Gold).

And that’s what ultimately makes Waylon Forever an interesting, experimental flash in the pan.

On the surface level, Waylon Forever is just Jennings recutting six staples of his ’70s prime. It’s  just rehashing. It’s looking for relevancy. It’s aiming to take advantage of our nostalgic self-interest. It’s once last hurrah stating, “I’m still an outlaw, goddamnit!” On the surface. A glance at the tracklist, it’s just those things.

Deep down though, Waylon Forever is Jennings having one foot rooted in the past and the other pushing forward into the unknown. Naturally, it’s Jennings revisiting those times he scaled the mountain but, it’s also acknowledging he isn’t the same individual. They were snapshots through a filtered lens. It’s Waylon, and eventually Shooter, searching for that next chapter for Waylon and “Outlaw Country.”

To give some context, the mid-’90s found Johnny Cash releasing his first two American Recordings albums with producer Rick Rubin–1994’s American Recordings and 1996’s UnchainedAmerican Recordings would go on and win the 1995 Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. Unchained would win the 1998 Grammy for Best Country Album. The series as a whole (six so far) gave rise to another side of Cash.

(Side Note: Unchained also gave us this 1998 advertisement featured below.)

It was Cash as the elder statesmen. The American treasure. The voice of reason and storyteller of heartache and loss in the most tragic of ways. He wasn’t busting lights at the Grand Ol’ Opry or smuggling prescription pills in his guitar case. He was reflective, insightful, and recreating the way we look at the American songbook. He was showed delicate precision with those rough, tougher-than-leather hands. They were both gentle in instances, but ultimately brutally honest and firm when need be.

To a lesser extent–and less critical acclaim and success–Willie Nelson was doing much the same. He was recutting old songs, recording newly christened American classics, and revisiting old American standards and traditionals.

Now, I don’t think Waylon Forever does that (what Cash did on American Recordings). But, in fairness, Waylon didn’t really have the same opportunity to either. Only Waylon and Shooter–who was only around 16-years-old at the time of these recordings–knew/know the original intentions of these pool house studio recording sessions. I don’t think they were looking to duplicate  the Cash American Recordings blueprint by any means, but rather, were inspired by Cash’s reemergence as a force in country and American music.

As mentioned before, Waylon Forever is a glimpse at a What-If. The same could be said for Old 97’s & Waylon Jennings, another set of ’90s demos that found a release in the 2000s.

By no means is Waylon Forever perfect. At times, it’s strange, opaque, dense, and slightly too self-indulgent. But when it hit its’ stride, it’s as strong a representation of Waylon as an artist as anything found on Honky Tonk Heroes, Ladies Love Outlaws, Dreaming My Dreams, I’ve Always Been Crazy, etc. When Waylon nails it, it’s as heavy, harsh, and captivating as anything on American Recordings.

“Outlaw Shit”–a reworking of the 1978 hit “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out of Hand”–is a sobering moment. It’s slowed down to a crawl. Haunting pedal steel, piano, and string arrangements are rich and full. Yet, it’s still sparse and leaves you feeling empty once finished.

The last gut punch is a final “out of hand” that’s more a conceding sigh than anything that coming after Waylon’s final run through the chorus. The mere fact that it’s changed to Outlaw Shit instead of  its’ toned-down Outlaw Bit predecessor says more than enough on its’ own. His vocals are worn and weathered with age and experience.

With the ’78 original, there was a tongue-in-cheek inkling to it. It was poking fun at the notion that Jennings and company were actually outlaws–something the audience probably took too serious during the ’70s.

The Waylon Forever version though, it’s insightful to the psyche of ’90s Jennings. It’s harrowing and desperate with a clear-eyed Waylon. It’s a cautionary tale from a man who’s seen it all.

Still, there’s some cumbersome moments–albeit, not for a lack a of trying. They’re certainly trying. They’re exploring uncharted territory on songs like the Cream cover “White Room,” the lone new Jennings song “I Found The Body,” and the Jennings Dreaming My Dreams standard “Waymore’s Blues.”

What they ultimately lack is a focused vision. But again, Shooter and company are only able to do so much with abandoned sessions from a decade before.

“Waymore’s Blues” feels too convoluted with Waylon’s vocals being layered and filtered. It’s suffocating in a way. “White Room” really feels tired. It’s the lone time in which Waylon’s vocals are tired or strained. And with “I Found The Body,” while it does have a thin-veiled silver lining to it–the howling pedal steel and slow burning groove–it ultimately goes too far down the “The Great Gig in the Sky” by Pink Floyd rabbit hole.

“Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This,” “Are You Ready For the Country?,” and “Lonesome, On’ry, and Mean” are high marks, but are still definitely a tier below “Outlaw Shit.” They don’t take the same experimental approach as “Outlaw Shit” or “I Found The Body.” You don’t find Jennings as exposed, avant-garde, or innovative.

Still, they’re probably more a testament to Shooter’s vision, Cobb’s producing chops, and the .357’s playing ability than anything else. The guitars are louder. They’re more crisp with a sharp, thick blade than anything on the originals. They’re probably closer to what Waylon would sound like had he come up today than a statement.

But more than anything, you see the beginnings of what would ultimately become the sound of Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, which, is naturally also produced by Cobb. “It Ain’t All Flowers” is just a better, more focused, developed, and recorded by an artist in his prime rather than one on his last legs.

While Simpson has said numerous times he’s never really been highly influenced by Jennings, I think it’s safe to assume this project has had a lasting impact on Cobb, and to a lesser extent, the latest generation of songwriters–even if they’re largely unaware.

And in that way, in many respects, it’s as innovative and on the forefront as anything Waylon ever did during the ’70s–even if it’s not nearly as perfect.

Find Waylon Forever here.

Throwback Thursday: Windfarm Vol. 1

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

“Read almost any article about Lubbock musicians and it is hard to avoid cliché lines about the desolate dusty plains of the area or the rich heritage of West Texas music. While both of those factors may influence the new music produced by Lubbock’s original musicians, it is clear these influences do not manifest themselves in a uniform way. That is, there is no definitive West Texas “Sound,” which may be the reason for consistently innovative music being produced in the area. This compilation provides a look at the diversity of Lubbock’s original music. These are all the bands that either have ties to the Lubbock music scene, or currently call Lubbock home. Some of these artists have moved on to larger markets, while some use Lubbock as a home base for regional and national touring. Still others use Lubbock as a place to refine their sound and live show in preparation for more widespread attention. The original music scene in Lubbock remains small, which is why you may see any number of these musicians sitting on stage with another on any given night. You often hear that if you can build a fan base in Lubbock, you can make fans anywhere, as the market is small, and support for original music is not always easy to come by. We hope this compilation will increase your awareness of the diverse local music scene that West Texas has to offer.”–Jeff Dennis

In 2007, Jeff Dennis wrote that for a small, now out-of-print compilation that showcased that window of music being made in and around Lubbock. It was called Windfarm, Volume 1. While Dennis did write the liner notes and inspire the Windfarm name, the compilation was largely the brain child of singer-songwriter Andy Martinez, one time leader of alternative country rockers, Burn the Wagon.

NOTE: You can listen to Windfarm Volume 1 above on Soundcloud except for Charlie Shafter’s “Medicine Man.” Instead, listen to it here.

I don’t want to say 2007 was the only year something like this could have been put together that captured an era. But really, 2007 was the only year in which this specific list of songs could have come together and held some form of relevancy for the period.

The bands and artists–Thrift Store Cowboys, Dirty Charley Band, One Wolf, Lesley Sawyer, Jake Unruh, Anthony Garcia, Sleepy Horses, Jeremy Nail, Burn the Wagon, Daniel Molina, Chaffin-Poelings, Amanda Shires, Charlie Shafter Band, Andy Martinez, and Waiting to Derail–all were coming off albums that were released in the window of 2005 to 2008. In many respects, Thrift Store Cowboys, Burn the Wagon, Shafter, and Waiting to Derail/One Wolf (Daniel Markham lead bands) were all hitting their stride individually and collectively.

Still, you could argue that songwriters like Shafter, Markham, Garcia (now vocalist/guitarist for Lubbock duo Outlier), and Shires especially, wouldn’t become the artists they wanted to become until years later.

Yet, 10 years later, it’s fair to say only a handful of current Lubbock music fans–and musicians for that matter–would recognize more than a handful of names. It almost feels like a relic from the past.

This isn’t even a pretentious take either. It’s the reality that while a decade isn’t that long of a period of time, it’s also an eternity in most music scenes. Bands and artists get covered by the sands of time. Good bands. Great songwriters. They’re sometimes left in the moment. A new fad comes along. Life catches up. Etc.

Thrift Store Cowboys, One Wolf, and Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward.

Thrift Store Cowboys would release one more album, 2010’s excellent Light Fighter, before going on an unannounced and infinite hiatus (The last Thrift Store Cowboys show with three or more core members was January 26th, 2014 at The Blue Light during Daniel Fluitt’s going away party).

One Wolf would too release one more album in 2010–One Wolf II: Secret of the Wolf–before calling it quits. Markham would eventually move to Denton and release more than his fair share of albums and EPs since while other members would go onto being members of Brandon Adams & The Sad Bastards, The Numerators, and Rattlesnake Milk among others.

Shires went on to release another four solo albums since ’07 while contributing to numerous other albums from the likes of Jason Isbell, American Aquarium, Justin Townes Earle, and Todd Snider.

Nail and Garcia (again, through Outlier) have released albums in the last year. Shafter just finished recording his fourth studio album just weeks ago.

While Burn the Wagon would only release a self-titled EP and album (Born in Blood), Martinez would release two solo pieces, Race the Buzzard Home and Lies Romance Blood. Fellow Burn the Wagoner Jake Unruh would record an album called The Curse–though, that still hasn’t ever officially been released.

Again, bands who you thought were on the rise, they ultimately fold shop and move on.

Early show poster for Lubbock show. By Dirk Fowler.

Read the liner notes again. Had I said that was written anywhere from ’57 to yesterday, you’d probably say it’s a fair and accurate assessment of Panhandle Music. The tracklist would almost certainly be different. But the message, what Lubbock and Panhandle Music essentially is–and what it isn’t for that matter–would be all the same.

That’s what I find most interesting. These 15 weren’t largely influenced by the artists and musicians who came before them. Yet, they almost certainly come to some of the same conclusions that Terry Allen, The Flatlanders, The Maines Brothers, Bob Livingston, etc all came to in the late ’70s and ’80s. That same sad, isolating echo and the constant howls of the wind that effected Buddy Holly, Sonny Curtis, Mac Davis, Waylon Jennings, etc, they all materialized in that mid-aughts bunch claiming Lubbock. It visits them all the same.

As Dennis says in the liner notes, you’d see these folks share the stage with one another and often show up on each other’s records. It’s a web with connections going in every direction. For example, Amanda Shires played in Thrift Store Cowboys, played on the Martinez solo records (Race the Buzzard Home & Lies Romance Blood) as well as being the primary artist on her song “Keep it Close.”

While modern Lubbock is highly influenced by Texas singer-songwriters with a country edge, just a decade back, it was much more of an alternative country and indie town. There was a punk edge and grit–not only in sound and style, but also in terms of a more DiY attitude.

Bands like Old 97s, Lucero, Whiskeytown, Son Volt, Drive-By Trucks, The Bottle Rockets, Alejandro Escovedo, as well as contemporaries like Cory Branan, Glossary, Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward, Monahans, DeVotchKa, Centro-matric, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Deadman, Eleven Hundred Springs, The Lusitania, and many others were all highly influential in how they developed.

It’s almost as though they were influenced by college rock radio, record shop conversations, and dive bar circuits just as much as the clichéd lines of dusty plains and heritage rich with music and art.

Los Lobos.

Windfarm is a Polaroid. It’s a glimpse into the not too distant past. But, more than anything, Windfarm serves as a reminder that it can all be gone in an instant. Things are constantly changing. They fade away only to be unearthed once again decades later–if at all.

Hell, it took Terry Allen some 37 years to be as highly regarded and appreciated by folks other than die-hard songwriters, art aficionados, record collectors, and Panhandle fanatics. Even then, I wonder just how many fully appreciate his life’s work and aren’t just jumping on the wagon because it’s en vogue.

And that’s what’s perhaps the strangest thing about Lubbock Music, albeit, you could probably say the same about music from any region. They say you’re never a prophet in your own home town. Just ask Natalie Maines, Joe Ely, Waylon Jennings, the aforementioned Allen, Bob Livingston, or Lloyd Maines.

When I say TSC, One Wolf, Burn the Wagon, Sleepy Horses, etc were all hitting their stride and representing a high water marks of Lubbock Music, circa mid-00s, it’s not necessarily accurate to say they were fully appreciated or supported by the Lubbock market the way, say a William Clark Green, Josh Abbott, or Flatland Cavalry are now.

In part, that’s because Green, Abbott, Flatland, and any other applicable example found a larger audience quicker. It shouldn’t come to any surprise that there’s more people in Lubbock who identify as Texas Country or Texas Music fans than who identify as alternative country or indie rock fans.

But, a larger part is because those three (and others) have found an audience outside of Lubbock. They were called great artists by the masses in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin (and since it’s 2017, Spotify, Apple Music, etc). They were crowned as Next Big Things elsewhere.

I’d argue that artistically, the music of 2007’s Windfarm was both richer and more diverse than it even is now.

Outside of perhaps Buddy Holly, Terry Allen, The Supernatural Family Band (Tom X Hancock), Cary Swinney, or the king of outsider music, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Thrift Store Cowboys has been the most progressive outfit to ever make music in the Panhandle.

But I digress.

Nothing is certain, but I wouldn’t be surprised if TSC–or any other on Windfarm (or say, a Brandon Adams, Wade Parks, Estelline, Colin Gilmore, Doctor Skoob, etc for that matter)–rises from obscurity, much like Allen’s ascension these last few years.


You won’t be able to find Windfarm digitally anywhere. No Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc (Though, there are currently TWO physical copies for sale on Amazon). But, except for four of them (“Black Yodel #1,” “It’s All Wearing Thin,” “Woman at the Well,” and “Common Man’s Son”), they’re available on the albums they originally appeared on. I’ve gone ahead and linked them below. Otherwise, you’ll have to fall into some luck at Ralph’s Records or bargain bins at Hastings.

As of 2017, there hasn’t been a Windfarm Volume 2.

Windfarm Volume 1 Tracklist

01. “Dirtied Your Knees” Thrift Store Cowboys
02. “Black Yodel #1” Dirty Charley Band
03. “Haunted” One Wolf
04. “Four In the Morning” Lesley Sawyer
05. “It’s All Wearing Thin” Jake Unruh
06. “Woman at the Well” Anthony Garcia
07. “Down (Heart Will Break Your Fall)” Sleepy Horses
08. “California” Jeremy Nail
09. “Ride the River” Burn the Wagon
10. “Common Man’s Son” Daniel Molina
11. “She Already Knows” Chaffin-Poelings
12. “Keep it Close” Amanda Shires
13. “Medicine Man” Charlie Shafter Band
14. “Born in Blood” Andy Martinez
15. “Streetsigns in a Junkyard” Waiting to Derail

Album Premiere: Grant Gilbert’s Lost in Transition

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Those early years of college can be strange days. You’re in this shifting period where you’re still attached to the steady, reliable hands of home and going out into the unknown of being on your own. In many respects, you’re still a child having to adjust to adult situations on the fly. There’s butterflies that wax and wane as you’re lost in the transition.

On Grant Gilbert’s debut EP, Lost in Transition, the Lubbock singer-songwriter is slowly, but surely finding his footing as an up-and-comer. Throughout the five-tracks, Gilbert traverses and endures varying degrees of heartbreak and heartache.

At times, it’s simple. It’s adolescent and youthful. They aren’t in it for the long haul and know it. Other times, like the standout “Time Well Wasted,” Gilbert’s not as light-hearted. There’s moments where maturity and growth supersede jealousy and envy.

Recorded at Mount Vernon Studios (Dalton Domino’s 1806, Benton Leachman’s Bury the Hatchet)  with a veteran cast of musicians (Jon Taylor, Brian McRae, Billy McLaren, and Lora Markham all appear), Lost in Transition, for the most part, has a robust pulse throughout. And while songs are most certainly fleshed out, they’re never too crammed, covering up, or distracting us from Gilbert’s storytelling.

Like with any debut, there’s hits and misses. There’s bits that you can nitpick. The chorus lines and the story arcs within the songwriting of Lost in Transition are strong and able. Overall, Gilbert–who’s still just north of twenty-years-old–has a strong launching point in the steady Lost in Transition.

We caught up with Gilbert earlier this week to discuss the release of Lost in Transition, songwriting, and his time here in Lubbock. Lost in Transition is officially out this Wednesday, January 25, but you can stream the EP in its’ entirety now below.

New Slang: You’ve been here in Lubbock the last couple years trying to juggle school and getting your foot in the door in the local music scene. There’s always setbacks and little breakthroughs when you’re trying to establish yourself. Has knowing that such a rich tradition of songwriters doing the same thing here in Lubbock been a source of inspiration when things have been tough?

Grant Gilbert: Yes, it has been a great source of inspiration for me. I look up to every one of those guys and feel honored just to be considered a Lubbock songwriter. I try my best to write the best songs I possibly can and always try to keep as much lyrical integrity as I can–to represent the music scene I am very proud to be a part of. There is no easy way or right way of going at this. We’ve been trying to find our way while now playing songwriter nights at the Blue Light on Mondays and playing gigs every chance we can. I listen to all those guys’ music, and I try to pick their brains and learn what I can from them to help me hone my craft. Having guys like we do in the Lubbock music scene is really great for us young songwriters.

NS: Feels like some things are starting to come together these last few months with you making the Finals in the last Blue Light Singer-Songwriter Competition and the release of this debut EP. But were there any times before then when you were beginning to get a little antsy and wanting to get a release of any kind out, even though it could have just been a collection of songs that weren’t cohesive or good?

GG: Of course. Going into the studio and recording, it’s something I have wanted to do since day one. We do have some recordings that were done on a very low-budget that were done in more of a demo style that were never released. Looking back, I’m thankful that they weren’t. I got very antsy at times and I’m glad I stayed patient up to this point. I’ve always been told you only get one chance to make a first impression, so I really wanted to make this first release a quality one, and one that I am truly proud of. I funded this EP 100% on my own and I’m very proud of that because it is paid for solely from playing shows. I took my time and tried to work with the best people I could to make this happen, and I think the timing is right and the songs were there we went into the studio and made it happen.

NS: A lot of these songs, they all deal with varying degrees of heartache. You’re obviously connected to each of them, but which still cuts the deepest for you on a personal level?

GG: “Time Well Wasted” is the one that gets to me the most–especially when singing it on stage. I wrote it during a time when I was truly feeling every word I wrote down on that paper. It is by far my favorite song to play every night off of the EP because it really does put me back in the place I was when I wrote it. To me, that’s the beauty of music.

NS: That song, “Time Well Wasted,” it feels like there’s some form of closure within it. It’s almost as though you’re walking away from the situation. Kind of the opposite of “Like I’m Your Whiskey” where you’re still holding on to any strand of a chance.

GG: Those are two very different songs for me. “Like I’m Your Whiskey” is pretty light-hearted. It’s one where you’re getting used, but you’re alright with it because you’re also getting something out of it. “Time Well Wasted” is one about how you gave it all, but you don’t have any regrets over it, and you’re right it does feel like you are walking away from the situation and looking back on it all. That’s exactly what I was doing when I wrote it. I put like “Time Well Wasted” at the of the EP just because I felt like it kind of wrapped up the whole little story of the album and brought it back full circle.

NS: Your buddy and fellow songwriter Dylan Price has been working around Lubbock as well. How beneficial has it been for the both of you being able to bounce songs off one another?

GG: Dylan and I have grown up together in every way since we were old enough to write our name to now. We’ve been playing shows together since we were 16. He plays lead guitar for me now and does his own project, playing shows on the side too. We are constantly writing songs and bouncing ideas off of each other, or helping one another in the scene. We’re roommates and always have a guitar around somewhere trying to whittle out something. I owe that guy a lot to be honest with you. He’s been by my side in some crazy situations and in some of the roughest dive bars you can imagine. I really like Evan Felker and he really likes John Fullbright. We look up to them a lot–so sometimes I just like to pretend we’re like them–just on a much smaller scale of course [laughs].

Josh Abbott Band Performs “Amnesia” on Conan

Josh Abbott Band with Conan O’Brien.

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

This past Wednesday, Josh Abbott Band performed their smash hit “Amnesia” on Conan.  It marks the band’s second time to perform on national television in the last six months–the first being “Wasn’t That Drunk” on Jimmy Kimmel Live this past June.

In addition, the seven-piece JAB–along with JAB’s guitar tech Dusty Gregg–presented Conan O’Brien, an avid music fan and guitar player, with a special handmade electric guitar with O’Brien’s iconic hair and “Team Coco” on the body and neck.

Watch Josh Abbott Band perform “Amnesia” below.

Abbott and company are currently on the road on their “Live It While You Got It” Tour in support of their latest album, Front Row Seat.

Josh Abbott Band Tour Dates

Jan. 20-21 – Denver, CO – Grizzly Rose
Jan. 25 – Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room
Jan. 26 – Minneapolis, MN – Skyway Theatre – Studio B
Jan. 27 – Springfield, IL – Boondocks
Jan. 28 – Rosemont, IL – Joe’s Live
Feb. 3 – Norman, OK – Riverwind Casino
Feb. 10 – San Antonio, TX – Cowboys Dance Hall
Feb. 11 – Donna, TX – Chisholm Trail Festival
Feb. 17 – College Station, TX – TBD
Feb. 25 – El Paso, TX – Texas Country Music Festival
March 1 – Boston, MA – TBD
March 2 – Clifton Park, NY – Upstate Concert Hall
March 3 – Washington, DC -TBD
March 4 – New York City, NY -TBD
March 8 – Warrendale, PA – Jergel’s Rhythm Grille
March 9 – Grand Rapids, MI – The Intersection
March 10 – Indianapolis, IN – 8 Seconds Saloon
March 11 – Rootstown, OH – Dusty Armadillo
March 15 – Seattle, WA – The Croccodile
March 17 – Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory
March 18 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory
March 22 – Sacramento, CA – Goldfield Trading Post
March 23 – Bakersfield, CA – Buck Owen’s Crystal Palace
March 24 – San Diego, CA – House of Blues
March 26 – Anaheim, CA – The Parish House of Blues Anaheim

Panhandle Releases Report: Week 1/2

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

With EPs like SPiVEY’s Chief’s Hideout and Sugarwitch’s Fancy Practice sneaking their way into the final weeks of 2016, these first 13 days of 2017 has mainly been Panhandle artists and bands gearing up for the year with songwriters Davis Alan, Cody Jasper, Delbert McClinton, and Hayden Pedigo all releasing preview single(s) for larger releases in the coming weeks and months.

Below, we’ve highlighted what’s caught our ears so far. For an always updated Spotify playlist of music released this year, click here.

“Searching for Gold”
Davis Alan

“Searching for Gold” is the most recent preview of Davis Alan’s upcoming album, Bad Luck Story. The Stephenville-to-Lubbock transplant has been working with a Who’s Who of Texas musicians on the project, including guitarist/producer Josh Serrato behind the board. While still certainly green, at this juncture in his early career, Alan’s strength as a songwriter is his ability to deliver a hook–something “Searching for Gold” and first single, “The Flood” have in spades.

Panhandle Rambles
Cody Jasper

Just a few days back, Amarillo singer-songwriter Cody Jasper uploaded a handful of songs onto his Soundcloud. It’s safe to say they’ll all eventually make their way onto Jasper’s sophomore record–something he’ll be finishing up before Summer 2017. While there’s still that rock flair we’ve grown to expect from Jasper (“Panhandle Pearls” and the slow burning groover “Along For the Ride”), there’s certainly a down home country feel to tunes like “Good Day” and “Jesus Drank Wine.” With previously shared songs “Love is Overrated” and “Panhandle Ramblin'” in the can, Jasper’s next release looks and sounds promising. We’ve conveniently thrown the lot into a playlist below.

“Don’t Do It,” “Like Lovin’ Used to Be,” and “Doin’ What You Do”
Delbert McClinton

Long time country-blues-rock pioneer Delbert McClinton has released three singles–“Don’t Do It,” “Like Lovin’ Used to Be,” and “Doin’ What You Do”–to preview his upcoming full-length record, Prick of the Litterdue out January 27. This being his 19th studio record finds McClinton venturing down a bluesy jazz road. “Like Lovin’ Used to Be” is easily one of McClinton’s smoothest and laid back tunes. The newest of the three, “Doin’ What You Do,” takes McClinton’s signature voice and wailing harmonica and throws it on one of his most beautifully arranged and sleek-grooved tunes in years.

4VR
Hayden Pedigo

Earlier this week, Amarillo guitarist Hayden Pedigo released a two-track surprise in 4VR. Described by Pedigo as a tribute to Vini Reilly and The Durutti Column, the English songwriter’s band. As you’d expect, the two demoesque instrumental recordings are heavily influenced by the dream pop landscapes laid down by the post punk outfit.

Chief’s Hideout
SPiVEY

For Chief’s Hideout, Lubbock folktronica singer-songwriter (Ryan) SPiVEY took to the Colorado wilderness. Recorded at a family cabin over the course of four days, Chief’s Hideout gains an added boost from the natural reverb evoked from the secluded cabin’s walls. Spivey and co-producer David Wilkinson tapped into warm, haunting echoes and howls. Chief’s Hideout feels more layered and full than Spivey’s debut, the still excellent Lungs, Heart, & Hands. It’s neither too convoluted or wrapped up in itself for the sake of pompous vain. Spivey’s songwriting has room to breathe. Throughout, he shows that his lyricism would shine through in any style, none better than the lonesome roaming of “No Reason.”

Fancy Practice
Sugarwitch

Four-piece Lubbock rockabilly outfit Sugarwitch released Fancy Practice in the last week’s of 2015. Much like their ’14 full-length I’m Sorry, Mom, Fancy Practice‘s strengths are vocalist and chief lyricist Jessica Robinson’s sense of humor and scorching howl–that’s, at times gravelly, and at times, a full on growl. Plenty of jumping bass lines litter the five-track EP. Guitarist Brian Duhan’s guitar doesn’t come in guns a-blazing like it did on I’m Sorry, Mom.  Instead, he comes in with sharper, Spaghetti Westernesque lines that burn far longer.

 

Other Notes of Interest

  • Texas singer-songwriter Grant Gilbert has announced his debut EP, Lost in Translation, will be out January 25th. Preorder here.
  • Earlier this week, Dalton Domino announced Corners, his follow-up to 2015’s breakout debut 1806, will be officially released April 28th.
  • Cowboy Songster Andy Hedges has recently announced Cowboy Recitations, a collection of spoken word cowboy poems has collected over the years. While the album hasn’t made its’ way to iTunes just yet, you can find the record on Hedges’ website here.
  • Speaking of Hedges, he has also recently launched Cowboy Crossroads, a podcast that’ll feature interviews with cowboy poets, songsters, storytellers, songwriters, collaborators, and well, cowboys. Subscribe on iTunes here.
  • William Clark Green has slowly, but surely sharing songs that’ll be included on his TBD fifth studio album, tentatively slated for a late 2017/early 2018 release. Songs like “She Loves Horses,” a co-write with Jay Clementi and Trent Willmon, and “Drunk Again,” a co-write with Brandon Adams (and myself providing cigarette and beer runs), making their way into acoustic sets as of late, it’s “My Mother” that’s found most notoriety so far. Watch an acoustic rendition of the tune recorded recently at Billy Bob’s below.

Greg Vanderpool Announces New Album

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Singer-Songwriter Greg Vanderpool has announced Pilot, his second solo record, will be released April 06, 2017. Vanderpool, once leader of alternative country and indie outfits Milton Mapes and Monahans for the better part of the past decade, released his debut solo album Rescue Letter in 2014.

The former Lubbockite recently shared “To Violet,” a growing, drone-infused song that teeters between being a lo-fi anthem and a lost letter for the future. Like much of Vanderpool’s catalog, he taps into the desolate soundscapes of Texas and The West at large.

Listen to “To Violet” and B-side bonus, “For the Broken Family Band,” below.

Pilot Tracklist

01. Be My Eyes
02. To Violet
03. Empty Words Don’t Need To Lie
04. Nowhere To Land
05. Pilot
06. Burying Ground
07. All Your Steps Are Wired
08. Do You Hear It Calling You
09. The Wind Is Alive
10. The Opposite Of Shadows

Panhandle Music 2016: Top Releases

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

After a year in which the likes of William Clark Green, Red Shahan, Ryan Culwell, and Strangetowne all released monster records, coming into 2016 felt as though it simply could not live up to such a standard left by 2015. And while the sheer number of albums, EPs, and one-off singles did go down, the release of albums like Flatland Cavalry’s Humble Folks, Randall King’s Another Bullet, Grady Spencer & The Work’s The Line Between, and several others made sure 2016’s top releases shined just as bright as 2015’s record class.

Below, you’ll find our 2016 countdowns–Top 25 Releases (Full Lengths & Extended Plays) and Top 50 Songs–as well as other notable releases and reissues that were released in 2016.

Note: Records/EPs released in the waning days of the December are considered the following years’ releases. Lubbock outfits Spivey and Sugarwitch respectively released excellent EPs in Chief’s Hideout and Fancy Practice these past few weeks.

Listen/Follow below.

Top 25 Panhandle Releases of 2016

Top 50 Panhandle Songs of 2016

Top 25 Panhandle Releases

25. Welcome to Babylon
Jim Dixon

The brightest moments on Jim Dixon’s latest EP are when he and guitarist/co-producer Brian McRae are kicking up the West Texas dust. Tracks like “Unlucky Horses” find Dixon and McRae fiddling around in the West Texas and Eastern New Mexico heat. There’s subtle Spaghetti Western nods that feel like worn and rugged. On “She Hates My Guitar,” Dixon feels more at home than on any previous material released. While the song was written about and for fellow Lubbock songwriter Danny Cadra and his young daughter, there’s plenty of Dixon’s own personal life within the intimate ballad.

Key Tracks: “Unlucky Horses,” “She Hates My Guitar”

24. Gypsy Jane & The Travelers
Gypsy Jane & The Travelers

On their self-titled debut, Gypsy Jane & The Travelers navigate through various genre styles all the while never straying too far from the a gypsy jazz foundation. While more traditional folk moments, Tex-Mex hints, and rockabilly nods all happen throughout, it’s that identifiable gypsy jazz progression and tones that drive the record forward. Songs like “Stars,” “Stop & Smell the Roses,” and standout “Woe” feel just as rooted in Los Lobos, Ry Cooder, or Chingon as much as some like Django Reinhardt.

Key Tracks: “Stars,” “Torn Sails,” “Woe”

23. Zoe Carter
Zoe Carter

Part of Zoe Carter’s charm is her grasp of the English language. She doesn’t settle for common and overused words. Rarely does it feel forced or aloof. For the most part, the EP is intimate bedroom folk that traverses into diary highlights ever so often. Zoe Carter is just that. There’s not any moments where she steers off that course in search of a pandering radio ballad or “I’m just one of the guys, y’all. See? I drink too!” party anthem attempts. It’s Carter doing Carter in her own distinct way.

Key Tracks: “24,” “Crosby County Blues”

22. Panhandle+Whirl Wind+Sunlight EPs
Shotgun Rider

After releasing their debut self-titled EP in 2015, Panhandle band Shotgun Rider amped up the ante with three EPs–Panhandle, Whirl Wind, and Sunlight–all released in 2016. In many respects, it kept the band’s name floating around every few months with newer, fresher material. Over the course of the 13 tracks, the band recirculates through bar drama and honky-tonk heartache that’d rival Urban Cowboy.  Logan Samford time and again shows off a strong vocal delivery hitting highs on catchy choruses that feel as polished as Nashville hits without ever fully diving head first and become too shiny.

Key Tracks: “Here and Gone,” “Mess I’m In,” “Sunlight”

21. The Axis of Equality
Judiciary

Despite being only some 11-minutes-and-change long, Judiciary’s The Axis of Equality lingers on. It’s just good old fashioned hardcore aggression being taken head on by the Lubbock four-piece. Still, there’s more to Judiciary’s sound than just a hardcore influence. Even when songs hover around the three-minute length, there’s no doubt they could easily have gone a more sludge or doom metal route and lengthened the songs into eternity due to their strong, piercing guitar riffs. The Axis of Equality bookends “The Axis of Equality” and “Silent Vice” reveal that fusion guitar wielding merger.

Key Tracks: “March of the Abuser,” “Silent Vice”

20. Then Sings My Soul…Songs for My Mother
Wade Bowen

After the massive releases of Wade Bowen and Hold My Beer Vol. 1 (with Randy Rogers) in ’14 and ’15, Bowen’s Then Sings My Soul…Songs for My Mother, in many respects, flew under the radar in 2016. What started out as a collection of traditional gospel songs Bowen went and recorded as a gift for his mother, Then Sings My Soul was originally never going to be released to the public. Despite not being the usual Bowen release, Then Sings My Soul is a nice fresh breath of air and exhale for the songwriter. For the most part, Bowen takes the 12 tracks of Then Sings My Soul and plays it on the straight and narrow without ever venturing too far from the original interpretations of the traditional. In this case, it’s not needed, but rather, inviting.

Key Tracks: “Just over in the Glory Land,” “Farther Along,” “Old Rugged Cross”

19. Love to Live By
Cooder Graw

After a six-year hiatus, Amarillo’s loud country pioneers Cooder Graw began playing shows again back in 2012. After a handful of once-a-month gigs, folks began asking if and when new material would once again start circulating from lead vocalist and chief songwriter Matt Martindale and company. Fast-forward four years and it’s just now that the band has released Love to Live By. They’re maybe not as “loud” as they once were circa 2000, but Martindale’s storytelling has aged well–much like Robert Earl Keen’s later material. Tracks like “Hello From Hell” and “Mexican Blues” have just as many Tex-Mex textures as they have West Texas space. Still, “Virginia Slims & Little Kings” show there’s still plenty of room for those  vintage crashing rock licks.

Key Tracks: “Hello From Hell,” “Love to Live By”

18. Said & Heard
Derek Bohl

While the majority of Lubbock songwriters are venturing further and further into Americana and country veins, Derek Bohl is going against the grain. His debut EP, Said & Heard, is a bit of fresh air. His acoustic pop sensibilities lean more towards John Mayer than John Prine, John Mellencamp, or Johnny Cash. Armed with light and crisp vocals, Bohl’s able to take choruses to another stratosphere–even when the vast majority of his material is about going through some stage of heartbreak. Highlights like “It Won’t Be Easy,” “(I Can’t Sleep) Through This,” and “San Francisco” all have an intimacy about them that feel genuine to Bohl without ever feeling too specific or conversely, too cliche or trite.

Key Tracks: “It Won’t Be Easy,” “(I Can’t Sleep) Through This”

17. Remember Who You Are
Susan Gibson

Despite only being six songs long, Susan Gibson still covers a lot of ground on Remember Who You Areher first batch of new material since 2011’s excellent album, Tightrope. EP starter “Good News” has an infectious banjo strum that lays the groundwork as Gibson traverses the tabloid and gossip reports that have flooded the news and pop culture landscapes. And while “Good News” and “Shoulda” have a smile-and-nod playfulness to them, Gibson shows that she’s still able to carve out a serious song with the best of them. The best moments of Remember Who You Are are when Gibson’s most  reflective ones. It’s on “Little Piece of Heaven” and “Remember Who You Are” when Gibson’s songwriting really glows. It’s her, at times, quirky details, that really breathe life into the vivid imagery and make songs more than just memories.

Key Tracks: “Good News,” “Little Piece of Heaven,” “Remember Who You Are”

16. Strange
The Numerators

Brooklyn/Austin-via-Lubbock psych garage rockers The Numerators’ Strange finds the band fleshing out their fuzzed-induced and reverb-enhanced sound more so than ever before. There’s a balance between a laid-back slacker lo-fi sound and structured guitar wails, howls, and echoing grooves. With only roughly 16 hours to record and mix the entire album, Burgers and Sammi Rana–the two primary members of The Numerators–enlisted the help of Lubbock guitarist Andrew Chavez (Rattlesnake Milk, LaPanza, etc) and Ian Rundell (Ghetto Ghouls) to record Strange at Rundell’s Austin studio, Second Hand Taco. Rather than rushing the band, it made them hone in on a sound and vibe. That organic flow culminates on the chill-wave grooves of “The Karachi Kid” and “Lonely Wave” as well as the nostalgic surf rock and rockabilly licks of “Chencho” and “Wastoid.”

Key Tracks: “Chencho,” “The Karachi Kid,” “Bill”

15. Midnight Snack
Eddie & The Eat

For lead vocalist and lyricist Eddie Esler in particular, Midnight Snack 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.

Key Tracks: “Southbound,” “Flowers in December,” “Dripping Red”

14. Villain
The Forty-Eight

Alissa Beyer is the mainstay and force within Lubbock pop-punk band The Forty-Eight. On the latest release, Villain, Beyer relies on a savvy background and experience within the pop world. Armed with her piercing vocal range, Villain soars to heights that other albums simply can’t. While the seven-track release certainly has one foot firmly planted in the pop-punk realm, Beyer continuously takes influence in other pop extremes. There’s subtle nods to ’80s drum machine beats, disco keys, and even darker tones that could pass as shadowy synth pop.

Key Tracks: “Villain,” “Fast Life,” “Pane Plane (Newer Worlds)”

13. Go Thank Yourself
Tori Vasquez

After a handful of years in some sort of album purgatory, Tori Vasquez’ Go Thank Yourself  finally received a proper and official release–albeit, it did get trimmed down to an extended play in the process. Still, the bite and aggression found on the full-length version (you can find it at live shows and via Vasquez’ official website). The songs that remain–“Thin Air,” “Makin’ What I Make,” “The Storm,” “Black Sheep,” and “Her Holiness is Dead”–all reveal Vasquez’ progression and growth as a singer-songwriter and performer since her 2011 debut, Let It Go. While Let It Go was a superb release, it lacked the melody and vocal experimentation that Go Thank Yourself  successfully executes time and again.

Key Tracks: “Thin Air,” “The Storm,” “Black Sheep”

12. Cowboy Songster Vol. 2
Andy Hedges

As the title suggests, Cowboy Songster Vol. 2 is Andy Hedges’ second helping of old trail songs and cowboy tradition. Much like 2013’s Cowboy Songster, Hedges’ approach is deeply rooted in tradition–and keeping that tradition alive and relevant. Songs like “Ragged But Right,” “Clayton Boone,” “Get Along Little Dogies,” and “Button Willow Tree” all have origins that date back 100 years or so. He turns the page back with his acoustic interpretations that often show just how little has changed in the West Texas and Eastern New Mexico landscapes. “Into the West,”  originally written by legendary cowboy poet S. Omar Barker back in the mid-1920s is a standout. You can almost hear the crackling of campfire as Hedges eases into the three-stanza piece with soft, simple guitar strumming. Like many in the tradition, the words are worn and worked. They’re lived in. The grace and maturity within the story is only matched by Hedges’ kind, relaxed delivery.

Key Tracks: “Ragged but Right,” “Into the West,” “Charlie Rutledge,” “Walkin’ Down the Line,” “Old Texas/Lonesome Road Blues”

11. Live at Gruene Hall
William Clark Green

On William Clark Green’s first live album, Live at Gruene Hall, Green decided to try and capture the standard WCG, circa 2016 show (Granted, if Jack Ingram performed “Goodnight Moon” at the end of every show). Recorded over a two-night stand at Gruene Hall, Green and company essentially did that. The bells and whistles of the record aren’t frills or add-ons; it’s what you’re typically going to hear each and every night they take the main stage. At 19 tunes long, Green plows through the hits–“Next Big Thing,” “Hanging Around,” “Old Fashioned,” “Rose Queen,” “Sympathy,” “Wishing Well,” “Ringling Road,” “She Likes the Beatles” and more–with a handful of aptly-timed cameos from Dani Flowers, Ross Cooper, Randall Clay, and the aforementioned Ingram. And while there’s plenty of rambunctious moments that amp the crowd into a frenzy, some of Live at Gruene Hall‘s best moments are when Green slows things down with the likes of “Caroline,” “Gypsy,” and best of all, “Still Think About You.”

Key Tracks: “Dead or In Jail,” “Old Fashioned,” “Gypsy,” “Still Think About You,” “Ringling Road,” “Goodnight Moon”

10. Midnight With No Stars
Natalie Schlabs

With Midnight With No Stars, West Texas native Natalie Schlabs released one of the year’s most underrated albums. On it, she dissects the ups and downs of your late 20s. Songs feel as intimate as whispers. Tracks like “Every Word” and “Where Am I Gonna Go” show a stark truthfulness we often save for conversations with only ourselves. Her soothing vocals enhance those honest notions. Songs like “Midnight with No Stars,” The House is Burning,” and “Throw a Spark” has Schlabs pulling back the layers of relationships. Throughout, she spends time revealing both sides of the coin. Her pop sense keeps the folk-leaning songs from ever growing tired or stale.

Key Tracks: “Drowning in the Wave,” “The House is Burning,” “Midnight With No Stars,” “Every Word”

09. Dustbowl Soul
Zac Wilkerson

Zac Wilkerson’s sophomore album, Dustbowl Soul, really picks up right where his self-titled debut left off. Songs like “Tell The Truth” and “The Only One” find Wilkerson delivering crunchy blues riffs that are one-part country soul and one-part MoTown era pop. He adds more to the formula this time around though. Songs like “Baby Don’t Go Crazy” and “Give Me Just a Moment” find Wilkerson and company falling in line with early country guitar picking and Western Swing movements. Still, for all of Wilkerson’s prominent outside influences–the country dustbowl and R&B soul groove–it’s when he’s at his most private, intimate, and simple where he finds his primary voice as a songwriter and vocalist. The album closing “Scar” isn’t just the best song on the album; it’s one of the best songs to be released in recent Panhandle memory.

Key Tracks: “Tell the Truth,” “Love Me Like You’re Losing Me,” “Amarillo Funk,” “Scar”

08. Another Bullet
Randall King

While his Lubbock contemporaries have seen plenty of success with their own albums, Randall King has been sitting back and searching for that sound, which he’s ultimately found with his upcoming Another Bullet, a tightly-wound five-tracker built around his last single, the guitar-chugging “The Problem.” His fine tuning and focus on neo-traditional country ballads and honky-tonk homages has paid dividends. At just five songs, it never hits a lull or dragged down by filler tunes nor does it ever feel like a stop-gap collection just to buy time for an upcoming full-length album. The slow burn of “Ain’t Waiting on You” reminds you of late ’80s and early ’90s country radio ballads by Keith Whitley (“I’m Over You”) and another King, early George Strait (“Chill of an Early Fall”). There’s a dose of melancholy weaved in that channels the two’s slower, lonesome moments. “Another Bullet” is perhaps King’s best moment as a songwriter. It still rests in his ’90s country world of slick, wallowing pedal steel and smart hooks. But, it also lives in the realm of cowboy folk and acoustic singer-songwriter circles. It’d work just as well as a bare bones piece. With hints of West Texas dust and Ryan Bingham grit, King transforms into the cowboy on a shrinking range.

Key Tracks: “Ain’t Waitin’ On You,” “Another Bullet,” “Hard Livin’ Illene”

07. Dust & Wind+OKLAHOMA (Live Bootleg)+Maine Country
Charlie Stout

While yes, technically recorded and released last year, Charlie Stout’s Dust & Wind saw its’ official release this past summer. By now, you’re probably familiar with the story about how Stout drove out into the New Mexican desert and recorded at the First Presbyterian Church in the deserted town of Taiban. A less confident songwriter wouldn’t have dared to put himself out in the elements with just his guitar, a handful of microphones, and little else. But makes it work is Stout’s relentless attention to detail and the quest for writing stories that feel as rugged as they do feel genuine. OKLAHOMA, a live opening gig recording Stout documented with his iPhone 5S, makes Dust & Wind sound like a Phil Spector Wall of Sound record. But again, despite its’ rough edges and lo-fi quality, it’s because of the songs recorded that makes it worth the investment. Songs like “Downtown,” “Feels Like Home,” and “West Texas in My Eye” all make appearances with a handful of Dust & Wind tunes–as well as former Damn Quails members Kevin “Haystack” Foster” (fiddle on “The Hanging”) and Bryon White (background vocals on “West Texas In My Eye”). With the wood creaking beneath Stout’s footsteps, Stout’s truest form, a storyteller, emerges. Even with the tongue-in-cheek throwaway tunes Stout developed in the middle of the summer called Maine Country has a level of integrity. He’s of course poking fun at the idea of Texas Country. But again, the devil is in the details. He throws in references to places like Acadia, Mount Desert Island, and Frenchman’s Bay the same way Texas Country radio has made cliches about fields of bluebonnets, the Stockyards, and The Alamo.

Key Tracks: “I See Stars,” “Resurrection Day,” “Dust & Wind,” “West Texas in My Eye”

06. The Line Between+New Nail EP
Grady Spencer & The Work

Much like  Grady Spencer’s catalog–Sleep, Sunday’s Ships, and The Seminole Optimist’s Club–The Line Between finds Spencer working within the realm of fat guitar lines, sharp tones, and a warm smoothness that weaves itself throughout. Though, this time around, it’s his best sounding. Sonically, it wraps around you with its pristine, natural glow. As a songwriter, Spencer is a swinging hammer. Each time, he’s hitting the proverbial nail in the board a little further down. It’s always been clear that Spencer’s main muse has been his wife, but an underlying theme has always been the blue-collar working man. While previous works found Spencer hitting his stride on first-person love ballads, but songs like “Goats” falls closer to the likes of River-era Springsteen and Songs by John Fullbright. Here, for the first real time, we see Spencer holding the short end of the stick. He’s a doomed man–not because of any character flaws–but because he’s willing to bet on himself.

Key Tracks: “Winning Wrong,” “Nothing is Bad,” “Austin,” “Goats,” “Home Remedy”

05. Uncouth Pilgrims
Keegan McInroe

Plenty of songwriters end up writing about the seemingly endless road. For most of us, we’re familiar with the American ramblers of the past who either traveled to California during the Great Depression (think Woody Guthrie) and/or up towards urban centers during the Great Migration (think Mississippi Delta blues). For Keegan McInroe, most of the roaming within Uncouth Pilgrims is primarily influenced by his numerous treks across Europe in recent years. The way he ultimately conveys these European vignettes, it’s deeply rooted within the country, folk, and blues–American storytelling music. “Country Music Outlaws” rambles on like genuine country songs from the ’70s such as Willie’s “Me & Paul,” David Allan Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” and Billy Jo Shaver’s “Honky Tonk Heroes” with McInroe filling in his own “outlaw” tales and tongue-in-cheek digs at those who claim to be bona fide outlaws and country music prophets. Songs like “I Got Trouble” and “Nikolina” play a nice gritty counter to the prototypical softness to storytelling songwriter ballads like “Tonight” and “Woody & Ruth.”

Key Tracks: “Country Music Outlaws,” “Give Me the Rain,” “Woody & Ruth,” “I Got Trouble,” “Nikolina”

04. Disintegrator
Daniel Markham

Daniel Markham’s Disintegrator finds him sharp and zeroing in on the sound and voice he’s been seeking from the outset. Though he’s never fully settled down as a specific kind of songwriter or band, his transparent, effective melodies have been a constant. Following the likes of Alex Chilton, Elliott Smith, and Chris Isaak, they’re as right as rain throughout. Undoubtedly, Markham’s sound isn’t solely based on the open spaces and long, empty highways of West Texas–or even realized  by Markham until well into his career–but, like many others, they crept in after a lifetime of living in the area. Markham’s roots and admiration of the likes of R.E.M., Big Star, Centro-Matic, Jason Molina, and Vic Chesnutt all find their way in. It’s part of his music equation. He often wears these influences on his sleeve rather than hide and pretend they didn’t seep in along the way. Much like most of Markham’s work, the greatest qualities within the album come through its subtleties. It’s the haunting pedal of “Slayer Tapes & AM Radio,” the Born in the USA Springsteenesque synth line of “Land of Men,” and the T. Rex hop of “Zelda” that push the album over the top.

Key Tracks: “Disintegrator,” “Slayer Tapes & AM Radio,” “Land of Men,” “Show Me What You Got”

03. My Piece of Land
Amanda Shires

On My Piece of Land, Amanda Shires’ fifth solo album, she sounds about as confident as one can get as a performer and songwriter. This go around, there’s less murder ballads than in the past. But she still has a knack for diving into the darker, murkier sides of the human condition. “Harmless” and “Pale Fire” play like confessions from a past life. Lines like “If thunder had a color” and “she lost his eagle-feathered roach clip” are rich with details. When she revisits the revealing and intimate “Mineral Wells”–first cut on 2009’s West Cross Timbers–she falls back into the moment as if it was recently written. Always a Leonard Cohen fan, Shires has often channeled the recently passed poet and songwriter with a descriptive line or two here and there. But on the closing statements for My Piece of Land, she shares her most comparable Cohen composition. “You Are My Home,” much like Cohen’s “I’m Your Man,”–a song Shires’ has done throughout her career–is decisive and sharp. And while it may be in part a homage to Cohen’s tone and technique, it undoubtedly stands independent and on its’ own credence.

Key Tracks: “Pale Fire,” “My Love (The Storm),” “When You’re Gone,” “Mineral Wells,” “You Are My Home”

02. Public Domain
Outlier

Outlier–guitarist Anthony Garcia and violinist Melanie Lenau–very well could be the most talented individuals within the modern Panhandle music community. They’re undoubtedly the most versatile. After Outlier and PianoViolin in recent memory–one a hearty desert rock album and one a towering and elegant instrumental–it seemed as though anything was within the realm of possibilities for their third. In several ways, Public Domain is Outlier blending the two. As the title suggests, Public Domain is primarily traditional songs–Irish, Spanish, and Western Swing. They take on perhaps the most iconic of material with songs “Malagueña Salerosa,” “Faded Love,” “Salty Dog,” “Rocky Road to Dublin,” and others all making appearances. Time and again, the duo deliver takes that are forward and progressive, yet hold onto their traditional value. “The Wind,” one of two originals to make the cut, finds Garcia and Lenau arranging one of their greatest compositions. Musically, “The Wind” could have been an instrumental easily fitting within the confounds of PianoViolin. There’s a gentle beauty and grace in Lenau’s soft violin pieces while Garcia seamlessly transitions from acoustic guitar to piano and back again. And still, lyrically, it’d have been right at home with Outlier‘s isolating and stark desert world.

Key Tracks: “Malaguena Salerosa,” “Salty Dog,” “The Wind,” “Spancil Hill”

01. Humble Folks
Flatland Cavalry

On their sophomore release, their first full-length, Cleto Cordero does his best to shake the pigeonhole-typecast scenario. Still, there’s plenty of that same young & dumb love and love loss flowing on the 11-track record to feel like the growing, mature companion piece to Come May. If anything, on Humble Folks, Cordero has the room necessary to stretch out completely and expand his heartache heavy world. In addition, he adds broke-in Desert-Meets-the-Panhandle vignettes to balance the load. As much as there’s maturation in Cordero’s lyricism and a growing confidence in his West Texas drawl, Humble Folks’ love songs further the loose narrative set in Come May. Like Come May, Humble Folks opens up with “One I Want,”  an airy, crisp, and light song about falling in love, before falling into regretful daydreams and callbacks. The band surrounding Cordero–Reid Dillon, Laura Jane, Jason Albers, and Jonathan Saenz–find and work out grooves that feel like old abandoned horse trails in deep West Texas. They don’t just serve the backdrop of Cordero’s character sketches, but rather, they push the narratives into dark country and folk. The closing statement on for the album is the ringing “Humble Folks.” It not only serves as nod to those who’ve helped them get here–namely, their parents and family–but possibly as a hint of where they’ll go next. The reverb in Cordero’s microphone–subtle hints of a Sturgill Simpson influence–and the sweet blend of guitars and fiddle bleeding into one another show promise of a band not finished and consumed with past–albeit, at this point, short–success of a sound tried and true. It’s not a full on kick of a door off its’ hinges, but the hinges are indeed busted.

Key Tracks: “One I Want,” “February Snow,” “Stompin’ Grounds,” “Humble Folks”

Reissues

Juarez/Lubbock (on Everything)
Terry Allen

Originally released some 35+ years ago, Terry Allen’s Juarez and Lubbock (on Everything) both received the reissue treatment earlier this year. There’s been Buddy, Waylon, Ely, Hancock, etc but Allen, more so than any of them, created the Lubbock Sound and mythos that goes along with it. In many ways, Juarez and Lubbock are polar opposites. With 21 tracks, Lubbock is still as encompassing and relevant as it was in 1979. There’s something on there that just about anyone can flock to and comprehend. Whether it’s “Amarillo Highway,” “The Great Joe Bob,” “Truckload of Art,” “New Delhi Freight Train,” “Flatland Farmer,” or anything in between, Allen’s Lubbock material has a way of revealing something within you. There’s an incredible balancing act that Allen plays within the record. It’s both a macro look at small town West Texas and a micro look at himself and how small town West Texas slowly, but surely became a part of him. Juarez on the other hand takes time to digest. Juarez is more so character and plot driven than Lubbock‘s Dubliners approach. Throughout Allen’s career as an artist and songwriter, he’d always circle back to the Juarez story and plotline. Songs like “There Oughta Be a Law Against Sunny Southern California,” “What of Alicia,” and “Four Corners” would all blossom into full band pieces later in life. But here, in their original drawn-out form, they’re still as refreshing, new, and intriguing as they were in ’75.

More on Terry Allen here.

Lay Low While Crawling or Creeping
Thrift Store Cowboys

A decade back, Thrift Store Cowboys released perhaps the best Panhandle album of the last 25 years with the gripping album Lay Low While Crawling or Creeping. Now, the band’s re-releasing (and re-mastering) the album, making the 12-track album available on vinyl. It’s not that their first two albums weren’t great–Nowhere With You and The Great American Desert–but, without any doubt or hesitation, Lay Low is the moment of arrival for the band. It’s the moment they went from a band from Lubbock, Texas to the band from Lubbock. There’s a growth and maturation in sound, style, songwriting, and storytelling. While their previous albums did hint at being more than just another alt-country band, Lay Low is where they ultimately decided to make those moments carry on throughout not just songs, but the entire length of an album. They took the cosmic, desert elements within Colt Miller’s guitar and Amanda Shires’ fiddle and followed them into the wilderness. Drummer Kris Killingsworth and bassist Clint Miller added pace and space in which everyone everyone else was able to breath. They never muddied the water or made songs too busy just because they could. Vocalist/lyricist Daniel Fluitt’s songwriting grew and expanded with every additional song. He morphed into a cast of broken and unfortunate characters that were intriguing, captivating, and who were fractured in ways we all knew too well. If he had just dipped into this on Nowhere with You and The Great American Desert, he’d be diving head first on the southern textures of Lay Low. His lyrics often become less straightforward or transparent. They’re nearly as eccentric as the Thrift Store sound of the time. It’s not that they’re difficult to understand, but your full attention is paramount. You’d see the influence of this album–and Thrift Store in general–transcend the Panhandle. While artists like Estelline, Burn the Wagon, One Wolf, The Diamond Center, Rattlesnake Milk, Charlie Shafter, and Brandon Adams would all go on and pick out specifics that’d influence them on future albums, artists like Whisky Folk Ramblers, Devotchka, Rodney Parker & The 50 Peso Reward, The Lusitania, and Dirty River Boys would all cite Thrift Store Cowboys as a significant force on their songwriting and overall sound.

Top 50 Panhandle Songs

50. “Circa Whenever” Glass Cannon Seuku EP
49. “The Greatest Demise” Slow Relics Single
48. “Trust” Jenni Dale Lord Free Whiskey
47. “Birds” Everything Is Sad Live at RUDC Studios
46. “Gravity” Dave Martinez Single
45. “Maine Man” The Mainers Maine Country Demos
44. “Learn to Sing” Dallas Owens Single
43. “Pieces” Ryan Todd Garza Single
42. “Woe” Gypsy Jane & The Travelers Gypsy Jane & The Travelers
41. “Broke Down Heart” Austin McManus Single
40. “Double Goer” Daniel Markham & Claire Morales Neighborhood Creeps
39. “Silent Vice” Judiciary The Axis of Equality
38. “Here and Gone” Shotgun Rider Panhandle EP
37. “February Snow” Flatland Cavalry Humble Folks
36. “Last Afternoon” The Goners Single
35. “Get Me Through” Dylan Price Single
34. “I Got Trouble” Keegan McInroe Uncouth Pilgrims
33. “The Karachi Kid” The Numerators Strange
32. “Tell the Truth” Zac Wilkerson Dustbowl Soul
31. “Potter County Blues” Pedro Ramirez This Time of Year
30. “I See Stars” Charlie Stout Dust & Wind
29. “Good News” Susan Gibson Remember Who You Are
28. “Darlin’ Darlin'” Ronnie Eaton & The Cold Hard Truth Killer in the Choir
27. “Hello From Hell” Cooder Graw Love to Live By
26. “She Hates My Guitar” Jim Dixon Welcome to Babylon
25. “Flowers in December” Eddie & The Eat Midnight Snack
24. “Dying Day” Phlip Coggins Single
23. “Villain” The Forty-Eight Villain
22. “Wolf Howl” Jerrod Medulla Single
21. “Crosby County Blues” Zoe Carter Zoe Carter
20. “It Won’t Be Easy” Derek Bohl Said & Heard
19. “Ain’t Waiting On You” Randall King Another Bullet
18. “Austin” Grady Spencer & The Work The Line Between
17. “Love is Overrated” Cody Jasper Single
16. “Black Sheep” Tori Vasquez Go Thank Yourself
15. “I Just Ain’t Merry This Year” Ross Cooper Single
14. “Into The West” Andy Hedges Cowboy Songster Vol. 2
13. “Resurrection Day” Charlie Stout Dust & Wind
12. “Pale Fire” Amanda Shires My Piece of Land
11. “Every Word” Natalie Schlabs Midnight With No Stars
10. “July” Dalton Domino Single
09. “Stomping Grounds” Flatland Cavalry Humble Folks
08. “Country Music Outlaws” Keegan McInroe Uncouth Pilgrims
07. “Another Bullet” Randall King Another Bullet
06. “Disintegrator” Daniel Markham Disintegrator
05. “Goats” Grady Spencer & The Work The Line Between
04. “The Wind” Outlier Public Domain
03. “Scar” Zac Wilkerson Dustbowl Soul
02. “You Are My Home” Amanda Shires My Piece of Land
01. “Humble Folks” Flatland Cavalry Humble Folks

Other Notable Panhandle Releases

Andrew Michael Akins Wilderness
Chancy Bernson Back in Time
Everything Is Sad Live at RUDC Studios

Glass Cannon Seuku
Jenni Dale Lord Band Free Whiskey
Daniel Markham & Claire Morales Neighborhood Creeps

Mood Ring Big Glow
Dan Patterson My Own Worst Enemy
Pedro Ramirez This Time of Year

Burning Photographs: A Band of The Times

photo-oct-13-4-59-35-pmby: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Six Market Blvd. has been on a string of reunion shows where, for all intents and purposes, the term “reunion” is used rather loosely. It’s only been a couple of years since the Stephenville-based band called it quits. When they started playing shows again earlier this year, it didn’t feel as though they were ever even gone.

Nothing stays the same though. Time touches everything.

It was December 2013 when 6MB announced that they would be on an infinite hiatus. Since then, the major cogs in 6MB have gone on to other enterprises. In the three years, they’ve done more individually than they had as a band–or could have together. That’s not a knock; it’s reality.

Now, this isn’t going to be a “If 6MB stayed together, the Texas Music world would be a better place” or a “Here’s 11 reasons why 6MB should have stayed together (You won’t believe in #4) kind of piece.

Could have 6MB gone on to do grand things? Sure. But more than anything, they were a band of a time and place.

They wrapped up this reunion run last night in Lubbock at The Blue Light. They were as top-notch as they’ve ever been. But it’s like a dream. Something’s off and it’s only when you awake when you become aware of the glaring warp, omissions, etc of the dream. The music, it’s the same. It’ll always be the same. The strangeness–it’s you, me, them, and us. The collective whole.

To fully understand why, you have to go back.

There was a stretch of time when 6MB was the biggest damn band in Lubbock. While their two studio albums–Running on Seven and Shake It Down–sound good, their live shows is where you truly became a fan of the band. Always a sellout. Asses to elbows. Every damn time. They’d finish their set with a round of beer being thrown around and being flung off the ceiling fans. Beer soaked floors, backwards cap, long beards, sweat, Apple burns, cigarette smoke (This was back when you could smoke in Blue Light), more Apple burns, Lone Star, another round of Apple burns, rinse, repeat, repeat.

Hot off the adrenaline rush of the show, you’d end up at The Castle House–at a time, the epicenter of Friday & Saturday nights. Never too crazy, but plenty of excess that’d perhaps rival any spot in or around town. The sprawling house had plenty of space to find your conversation/activity of choice without being on top of another. In a way, kind of the antithesis of that night at BL. A nice decompressing zone. Ultimately, you’d smoke away your pack of cigarettes, empty any and all remnants of alcohol on the premises, and sometimes, end up at Jake’s at 8 in the morning for a couple more rounds and healthy conversation. Sometimes, you’d find yourself just sitting on the back porch, pulling out your sunglasses to fight back the rising sun.

Naturally, most talk circled back to music. We’d come up with ridiculous hypotheticals and questions about the music of Jerry Jeff Walker, Kings of Leon, The Band, The Strokes, the underrated Mick Jagger and difficult Keith Richards relationship,  and really, the happenings of Texas music at large.

All of that though, it almost doesn’t even matter. The reason the afterparties were even cool is solely because of the band playing. The bigger and the better show, the better the rest of the night and next morning was going to be.

Fastforward to last night. Walking into the back patio of Blue Light, the first person I see is Ben Hussey. We grab a seat and talk. Danny Cadra is playing on the stage with his cowboy cool croon in full force. Usually, Hussey and I, we just go into music talk, but I guess because of the nature of the night, we just talked about old days–not necessarily the better than present old days, but good nonetheless. You wouldn’t redo them a different way, but you’re not exactly looking to repeat them in the present either.

Now, it’s not all Hank Williams Jr “All My Rowdy Friends (Have Settled Down).” But it’s kind of the Lite version–Topo Chico and coffee took the place of pills and ninety-proof–you get the point.

Old faces show up and it kind of becomes a night of nostalgia .As much as it is a band playing, it’s the people who show up that throw the nostalgia into a higher gear. Newer folks show up and you talk and realize this is their first (and last) time seeing 6MB. That’s not being an elitist either. It’s just an “oh wow, I never thought about that being the case for about half the crowd” kind of enlightenment. Their impressions of the band rest largely on that night’s show.

6MB start playing. It’s finishing their set without a round of beer being thrown around and being flung off the ceiling fans. Beer soaked floors, same backwards cap, longer beards, sweat, Apple burns, no cigarette smoke (Blue Light is a non-smoking facility), maybe another Apple burn, Lone Star, no more Apple burns, rinse, repeat. It’s the singalong to “Silence in Me,” the “is that a Kings of Leon cover?,” the “I ain’t worried about shit like that.”

It’s the show, the song, the conversation. A band of the times.

Enjoy the Salad Days while you still can. You never know when it’ll be the last time you see a band play–even when it’s your first time.

Video Premiere: Natalie Schlabs’ “Drowning In The Wave”

schlabs2by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Last Friday, Nashville singer-songwriter Natalie Schlabs released her first full-length album, Midnight With No Stars.

Midnight finds the West Texas native traversing the ups and downs of your late 20s–immense moves in location, relationships, and family roles. It’s a maturation and growth that we typically gloss over as being for the better and an easy transition.  Schlabs doesn’t necessarily turn that notion upside down, but she does show how it’s not that black and white or simple.

The candid intimacy she reveals on tracks such as “Every Word” and “Where Am I Gonna Go” shows a rugged truthfulness we often save for conversations with ourselves. Schlabs soothing vocals echo the refreshing  and honest notion. Songs like “Throw a Spark,” “The House is Burning,” and “Midnight With No Stars” has Schlabs pulling back the layers of being in relationships. She spends time showing both sides of a relationship and how that not only affects you, but how it affects the other involved.

For the first single, “Drowning  In The Wave,” Schlabs and company drove down to Atlanta and worked with music video director Ben Rollins.

“We were playing in front of these huge projectors. While we were playing, they were showing pieces and pictures of my family,” says Schlabs. “It was kind of a weird emotional thing for me–being surrounded by these memories in this dreamy state of the music video.”

We caught up with Schlabs last week to discuss the making of Midnight With No Stars. Find it on iTunes here. Watch the music video premiere for “Drowning In The Wave” below.

New Slang: Midnight With No Stars was released this past week. Take me back to when you first started writing for the album. How long ago were the first songs started?

Natalie Schlabs: I started writing this record last summer. I had written a few songs that ended up on the album the year before or something, but most of the album was written last summer. It was basically started by me reaching out to some songwriters in Nashville. I was really scared to [laughs]. But asking them to co-write. I ended up asking Neilson Hubbard if he’d produce the album. We started writing every week. Basically, Neilson suggested we start tracking the songs. That’s really how it came about.

NS: There’s a real crispness to the album–a very cool, calm, and refreshing vibe. Was that something you intentionally wanted these songs to be?

Schlabs: I think it was the desire to have the album centered around my voice. Neilson thought it’d be important to center everything around my singing. When we started out recording, it was myself, Neilson, and the guitar player. It wasn’t until later that we added everyone else in–even the drums didn’t come in until towards the end. We didn’t want to set the record in a certain direction too quickly. I think as we started adding other instruments on, we saw what really enhanced my voice and didn’t muddy it up too much. We wanted to keep it open.

NS: This collection of songs, it feels like they’re very personal. What on the album do you feel was the most personal and intimate when written?

Schlabs: I think “Every Word” was probably the most personal. It was probably the one I needed to write the most. I wrote that almost as soon as I got to Nashville. The chorus goes “Every word I say, every note I sing sends an echoing from my head to my brain.” The thought behind that was how when you hear yourself speaking in a recording, it doesn’t sound like how you think you’d sound. There’s some weird science stuff that happens there, but that’s basically how moving to Nashville was for me. I thought I was this person, I thought I sounded like this, but then moving here, I was looking at myself questioning it. I was asking myself if that’s who I really was. It’s pretty jarring.

“Sit With Me” was very personal as well. It hits me in a different way. I’m getting close to 30. My parents are still in great health and doing well, but I’m realizing as I’m getting older, seeing some older friends who’ve had family pass away, you realize how that’s inevitable. There’s this switch that happens when the kids become the strong ones for their parents. It’s kind of looking into the future.

NS: You’re from out here in West Texas. When did you move up to Nashville?

Schlabs: It’s been exactly three years since I moved up to Nashville.

NS: There are some hints about the move on this album. You mentioned it just now with “Every Word.” How much of the album was influenced by the move?

Schlabs: I would say a good chunk of it was. I don’t think it’s all about it, but I think it’s the thread throughout a lot of the songs. Really, it’s about this massive change. Some of that change isn’t just about location. In that time, I got married, moved, and changed career paths. There was a lot of jarring changes. Some of them are good, some have been not that great. I think a lot of the album has that perspective.

NS: What song did you have most trouble getting down on paper? Was there anything you felt was a great idea, but then had trouble actually writing into song form?

Schlabs: That was definitely “Sandra’s Song.” That song was written from the perspective of my grandfather towards my grandmother. He passed away five or six years ago. I had that idea and kept writing it down and ultimately erasing it. Then, writing it down and erasing it. It’s difficult to encompass someone’s life and their relationship. I felt everything I was writing was coming off trite or wasn’t really encompassing who my grandpa was. There was so much there–just the way my grandpa looked at my grandma, I always knew there was something really special there. It’s kind of offset by the demons that my grandpa fought–whether it was drinking or the difficulties he had in his family. There were issues there that he brought into other parts of his life. I didn’t know how to write how great of a man he was with the darkness that he struggled with.

I kind of trashed and threw away the parts I had been writing and started with a whole new melody and chorus. I think I had the thought for it, but just had to start all over. I had written half of it or so when I showed it to Neilson. He sort of stepped into what I was trying to say. I think he wrote all of the second verse. I felt it was just perfect. He didn’t know my grandfather, but it felt like he did with the way he was writing about him.

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