Category Archives: Texas, Etc

Interviews, news, and reviews on artists, songwriters, and bands who are located within the state of Texas–both geographically and with the state of mind.

The Ranch: Double Dipping in Texas Music, Americana, Nashville Country, Etc Angers Fans. But Why?

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Over the last few weeks, Ft. Worth’s 95.9 The Ranch has come under heavy fire for a change in their battle-tested, fan-approved format. Primarily, the expansion of their playlists has drawn criticism and concern from listeners. Still, several fans and artists have come to the defense of these minor changes citing that expanding what’s considered Ranch-worthy material only expands listeners’ musical palettes.

It’s already been well documented by several other music publications so I’ll save you 10 minutes and get onto why these claims of “going mainstream, etc” are fraudulent at best.

The Ranch you claim to have lost was already expanding those playlists for several years running. They’ve essentially been playing all of the artists deemed unfit for “Texas Radio” for a while now. You didn’t notice until they acknowledged it themselves. There’s certainly some changes, but again, they’re not as massive as a lot of listeners have made them out to be.

A year ago, I listened to several radio stations across the state of Texas from 8am to 8 pm, documenting exactly what they played and when (Lubbock’s 105.3 The Red Dirt Rebel, Amarillo’s 107.1 Armadillo, Austin’s 99.3 KOKE-FM, New Braunfel’s 92.1 KNBT, and Dallas’ 95.3 The Range were the other stations documented). A year later, that Ranch list comes in handy once again.

Earlier this week, I went ahead and documented exactly what they played during the same time slot. If you saw the lists side by side, you wouldn’t know the difference–other than maybe the fact that they’re playing more recent singles a year later.

Here’s some raw numbers.

Number of Songs Played

2016: 144
2017: 140

Number of Individual Artists

2016: 103
2017: 106

Four less songs in an 12-hour block isn’t too alarming. By percentage points, it means they’re technically playing a wider range of artists.

Most Played Artist

2016: Ryan Bingham, Wade Bowen, William Clark Green, Cory Morrow, Reckless Kelly, Mike Ryan, Aubrie Sellers, Shane Smith & The Saints (8 Artists, 3 Plays Each. Technically, Bowen has 5 total plays with Bowen/Randy Rogers collaborations)
2017: Wade Bowen, Hayes Carll, Miranda Lambert, Stoney LaRue, Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson (6 Artists, 3 Songs Each)

This is really the key to making the formula work. To get a wider range of artists–more artists–you obviously have to be less top-heavy. It seems minimal, but going from eight artists at three spins each to six artists at three spins is, at the bare minimum two more spins for other artists who weren’t being played that day.

Bowen is the sole artist with three songs played each day. Bingham, Green, Morrow, Reckless Kelly, Carll, LaRue, Musgraves, and Nelson all were played both days as well.

Most Song Played

2016: “Til It Does” Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers, “Rattlesnake,” Dolly Shine,  “Find Us Alone” Dalton Domino, “February Snow” Flatland Cavalry, “The War” Joey Green, “The Flag,” Brandon Jenkins, “Bad Reputation” Mike Ryan, “Light of Day” Aubrie Sellers, “Brace For Impact” Sturgill Simpson,  “All I See Is You” Shane Smith & The Saints, “But You Like Country Music” Sunny Sweeney & Brennen Leigh (11 Songs Twice)
2017: “Make You Mine” High Valley, “Wish You Were Here” Cody Jinks, “We Should Be Friends” Miranda Lambert, “Once” Maren Morris, “Forever Today,” Reckless Kelly (5 Songs Twice)

Depending on what side of the argument you side with, here’s probably your biggest point. You either cite how they’ve varied the playlist by playing half as many songs twice or you cite how artists like High Valley, Miranda Lambert, and Maren Morris–three artists who are more in line with “Mainstream Country”–are taking song spots once claimed by “Independent Texas Music” artists. Again though, I’d at least challenge the notion that all “Independent Texas Music” artists are both A) better and B) don’t have their fair share who sound comparable in sound and style. Is Mike Ryan’s “Bad Reputation” (or “New Hometown” for that matter) really that different from “Mainstream Country”? I’d say no–and that’s not necessarily even a bad thing.

Artists Played Both Days: Bart Crow, Dalton Domino, Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Flatland Cavalry, Radney Foster, Kevin Fowler, William Clark Green, Jack Ingram, Waylon Jennings, Cody Jinks, Cody Johnson, Robert Earl Keen, Stoney LaRue, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Whitey Morgan, Maren Morris, Sean McConnell, James McMurtry, Cory Morrow, Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Kyle Park, Charlie Robison, Reckless Kelly, Sam Rigs, Billy Joe Shaver, The Steeldrivers, Marty Stuart, Sunny Sweeney, Randy Rogers Band, Sturgill Simpson, Turnpike Troubadours, Uncle Lucius, Aaron Watson, Whiskey Myers, Zane Williams, Erick Willis, Dwight Yoakam (47)
Songs Played Both Days: “Saturday Night” Wade Bowen, “The Love That We Need” Hayes Carll,  “The Guitar” Guy Clark, “All Just To Get To You” Joe Ely, “February Snow” Flatland Cavalry, “Rose in Paradise” Waylon Jennings, “Call Me the Breeze” Lynryd Skynryd, “Lie Baby Lie” Sean McConnell, “Drink One More Round” Cory Morrow, “New Year’s Day” Charlie Robison, “Too Late For Goodbye” Randy Rogers Band, “Brace For Impact” Sturgill Simpson, “Keep the Wolves Away” Uncle Lucius, “Floodgate” Erick Willis (14)

If anything, I think you could even argue that The Ranch is keeping right on line to a fault. Two random days in March roughly a year apart have 14 songs played both days. You have 47 artists who were played both days–which, makes sense. 14 of the same songs is surprising though. That means 114 artists were played on one of the two days–a list that includes the likes of Cross Canadian Ragweed, The Great Divide, Jason Eady, Chris Knight, Jason Isbell, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Quaker City Night Hawks, Shane Smith & The Saints, Grady Spencer & The Work, Pat Green, John Moreland, John Fullbright, Luke Wade, and Lyle Lovett–all seem to be in line with what the majority of fans want. Choose another day and it could be any of those 114 who made the list of played both days.

Now, let’s break it down further by genre. Note: I’m not here to argue the semantics of why Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward is actually just Americana. I’d agree for the most part, but we’re going with what the average listener would probably classify them as.

Classic Country/Neo-Traditional

2016: Waylon Jennings, Dwight Yoakam, Willie Nelson, Hal Ketchum, Radney Foster, Marty Stuart (6)
2017: Johnny Lee, Gary Allan, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Tom T. Hall, John Anderson, Hank Williams Jr, Sammy Kershaw, Johnny Cash, Mac Davis, Jerry Reed, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Johnny Paycheck, Dwight Yoakam, Marty Stuart, Chris LeDoux, Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, Clint Black (20)

Top 40 Country

2016: Aubrie Sellers, Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, Maren Morris (4)
2017: Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Jamey Johnson, Easton Corbin, Chris Stapleton, Zac Brown Band, Sundance Head, High Valley, Maren Morris, Aaron Lewis (10)

Rock & Roll

2016: Lynyrd Skynyrd (1)
2017: Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Georgia Satellites, Tom Petty, Eagles, Janis Joplin (8)

These seem to be the most hotly debated points of interest. The jumps from six to 20, four to 10, and one to eight in Classic Country/Neo-Traditional, Top 40 Country, and Rock & Roll are incredibly massive. Artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, George Strait, Mac Davis, could just as easily been classified as Texas Music Classic. The additions of Easton Corbin, Sundance Head, Zac Brown Band, High Valley, and Aaron Lewis are the most egregious of the bunch. But again, there’s some comparable artists within Texas Country.

Texas/Red Dirt Classic

2016: Guy Clark, Gary P. Nunn, Ray Wylie Hubbard, The Great Divide, Steve Earle, Jerry Jeff Walker, Slaid Cleaves, Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, Mike McClure, Billy Joe Shaver, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Cooder Graw (13)
2017: Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Radney Foster, Billy Joe Shaver, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Joe Ely, Steve Earle, Slaid Cleaves (9)

Americana

2016: Sturgill Simpson, Parker Millsap, Uncle Lucius, Ryan Bingham, Whitey Morgan, Chris Knight, Hayes Carll, American Aquarium, The Steeldrivers, Justin Townes Earle, Chris King, Dale Watson, David Ramirez, Owen Temple, Jason Isbell, Carter Sampson, James McMurtry, John Moreland, K. Phillips, Quaker City Night Hawks, Courtney Patton, Charlie Stout, No Dry County, Walt Wilkins (24)
2017: James McMurtry, Shooter Jennings, Sturgill Simpson, John Fullbright, Lucinda Williams, Hayes Carll, Brent Cobb, Whitey Morgan, John Moreland, Ryan Bingham, Paul Thorn, The Steeldrivers, Luke Wade, Alison Krauss, Paul Cauthen, Luke Bell, Uncle Tupelo, Punch Brothers, Bonnie Bishop, Uncle Lucius, BJ Barham (21)

These seem to be pretty on line with each other. 13 to 9 and 24 to 21 aren’t really eve worth mentioning. Nothing to complain about.

Texas Country/Red Dirt

2016: Wade Bowen, Mark McKinney, Sean McConnell, Flatland Cavalry, Damn Quails, Randy Rogers Band, Zane Williams, Reckless Kelly, Mike Ryan, Grady Spencer & The Work, Shane Smith & The Saints, Cody Canada & The Departed, Mike Stanley, Jamie Richards, William Clark Green, Stoney LaRue, Bart Crow, Brandon Jenkins, Kyle Park, Erick Willis, Cory Morrow, Whiskey Myers, Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers, Houston Marchman, Cody Johnson, Prophets & Outlaws, Sunny Sweeney & Brennen Leigh, Dirty River Boys, Dolly Shine, Turnpike Troubadours, Cameran Nelson, Josh Grider, Mike & The Moonpies, Jack Ingram, Sam Riggs, Adam Hood, Phil Hamilton, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, Dalton Domino, John D. Hale, Max Stalling, Michael Padgett, Austin Allsup, Cody Jinks, John Baumann, Charlie Robison, Ryan Beaver, Micky & The Motorcars, Joey Green, Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward, Kevin Fowler, No Justice, Thieving Birds, Six Market Blvd (54)
2017: Zane Williams, Stoney LaRue, Pat Green, Aaron Watson, Flatland Cavalry, Randy Rogers Band, Wade Bowen, Green River Ordinance, Kevin Fowler, Cody Jinks, Charlie Robison, Midnight River Choir, Reckless Kelly, Sean McConnell, Turnpike Troubadours, Kyle Park, Sunny Sweeney, Bleu Edmondson, Eli Young Band, Josh Abbott Band, Troy Cartwright, Whiskey Myers, Jack Ingram, Roger Creager, Cody Johnson, Sam Riggs, Casey Donahew, Bart Crow, Statesboro Revue, Jason Boland & The Stragglers, Erick Willis, Jason Eady, Dalton Domino, Cory Morrow, Parker McCollum, Austin Allsup, William Clark Green, Brandon Rhyder (38)

Going from 54 to 38 a 16 song swing. I admit, it’s pretty large. You can pretty much contribute that to the additions of Classic Country and Neo-Traditional artists like Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Clint Black, Tom T. Hall, Johnny Paycheck,  Gary Allan, etc are really the artists take those spots. Rock & Roll classics like Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, and the Eagles take a handful. And yes, Easton Corbin, Zac Brown Band, and Aaron Lewis from the Top 40 Country take a few.

But you should also be reminded that some of those spots are taken not by necessarily replacing those Texas Country artists, but rather, taking some of their double (and triple) spins.

And again, you must keep in mind that these are just two random day selections. There’s an argument to be made that any of the artists “added” were there all along. Of course, the data here does suggest that you–the listener–is getting plenty of Texas Country, but just at a slower rate.

I’d argue that Texas Music as a whole will be benefited by this gradual shift. It means Texas artists aren’t being graded on a curve anymore. Playing the best songs available overall means you can’t just be from Texas and decent to get played. So many radio stations pride themselves on being strictly Texas Country and Red Dirt. But then they play mediocre and lower rung artists and songs. It waters down the product and honestly makes Texas Music look top-heavy and amateur by comparison. The notion that being from Texas makes you a more qualified artist is a ridiculous, silly, and sad narrative that so many have fallen into and bought. Stop.

And even though I’m not the largest fan of some of the artists added–Sundance Head, Easton Corbin, Zac Brown Band, Aaron Lewis (Seriously. This is the only one I really wince at)–those songs aren’t bad. At minimum, they’re on par with some of the “best” that Texas seems to offer.

It seems to me that 1) The changes are small. They were already playing a good chunk of what people are railing against for years. 2) Even with the small tweaks, it’s for the better. Better songs being played is always the right answer.

For more on the shift of what Texas Country/Red Dirt Music is, read our January and February Exchanges.

Below, are the two logs in play order. (And for asking, it’s fairly simple to log these without sitting for 12 straight hours listening to the radio.)

March/2016 8AM-8PM
Saturday Night Wade Bowen
Brace for Impact Sturgill Simpson
Sunshine Mark McKinney
Novacaine Sean McConnell
February Snow Flatland Cavalry
Midnight Swagger The Damn Quails
Too Late for Goodbye Randy Rogers Band
She Is Zane Williams
Pining Parker Millsap
Light of Day Aubrie Sellers
Best Forever Yet Reckless Kelly
Bad Reputation Mike Ryan
Things to Do Grady Spencer & The Work
All I See Is You Shane Smith & The Saints
Skyline Radio Cody Canada & The Departed
Miss Her Mike Stanley
Any Way You Want Me To Jamie Richards
Sticks & Stones William Clark Green
Us Time Stoney LaRue
Rose in Paradise Waylon Jennings
Dear Music Bart Crow
The Flag Brandon Jenkins
What Goes Around Comes Around Kyle Park
The Guitar Guy Clark
What Did You Expect Erick Willis
Wichita Falls Houston Marchman
21 Days Cory Morrow
The War Joey Green
Road of Life Whiskey Myers
War of Art Courtney Patton
Til it Does Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers
Too Many Nights in a Roadhouse Gary P. Nunn
Keep the Wolves Away Uncle Lucius
Me and My Kind Cody Johnson
I See Stars Charlie Stout
Soul Shop Prophets & Outlaws
Honky Tonk Man Dwight Yoakam
Outdrink the Truth Walt Wilkins
But You Like Country Music Sunny Sweeney & Brennen Leigh
Boom Town Dirty River Boys
Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah Reckless Kelly
Losing Ground Aubrie Sellers
Red Headed Stranger Willie Nelson
Southside of Heaven Ryan Bingham
Rattlesnake Dolly Shine
Count My Blessings Ray Wylie Hubbard
Goin’ Down Rocking Whitey Morgan & The 78s
Every Girl Turnpike Troubadours
The Little W’re Living On Cameran Nelson
Sweet Loreen Hal Ketchum
Smallest Town on Earth Josh Grider
Putting it Down Mike & The Moonpies
Cry Lonely Cross Canadian Ragweed
The Jealous Kind Chris Knight
The Love That We Need Hayes Carll
Nobody’s Fool Wade Bowen
Call Me The Breeze Lynyrd Skynryd
Losing Side of Twenty-Five American Aquarium
Until It’s Gone Radney Foster
Dance the Night Away Shane Smith & The Saints
Til the Wheels Fall Off No Dry County
Never Could The Great Divide
Pablo & Maria Zane Williams
Fool Jack Ingram
Good Ol’ Boys Club Kacey Musgraves
Hold On and Let Go Sam Riggs
Next Big Thing William Clark Green
The Devil’s Right Hand Steve Earle
Lie Baby Lie Sean McConnell
Flowered Dress Slaid Cleaves
New Deep Ellum Blues Adam Hood
High Time Waylon Jennings
Big News Small Town Phil Hamilton
Ponies Jason Boland & The Stragglers
Won’t Let It Show Mike Ryan
Midnight to Memphis The Steeldrivers
Find Us Alone Dalton Domino
Heartbreaker John D. Hale
I’ve Got Something Max Stalling
Picture on My Wall Jack Ingram & Jerry Jeff Walker
Lungs Dirty River Boys
Brace for Impact Sturgill Simpson
Canopy Michael Padgett
Lone Pine Hill Justin Townes Earle
It’s True Austin Allsup
Roadhouse Gypsy Ryan Bingham
Wrapped Walt Wilkins
Loud and Heavy Cody Jinks
Guns & Knives Grady Spencer & The Work
Borderland Chris King
The Flag Brandon Jenkins
Good Luck N’ Good Truckin’ Tonight Dale Watson
Better Than I Ought to Be Randy Rogers Band
Light of Day Aubrie Sellers
Nobody’s Girl Reckless Kelly
Another Dollar Chris Knight
Worry Me Houston Marchman & The Contraband
Rattlesnake Dolly Shine
Vices John Baumann
Winning Streak Ashley Monroe
Harder to Lie David Ramirez
Songs About Trucks Wade Bowen
All Just to Get to You Joe Ely
Copenhagen Robert Earl Keen
Sympathy William Clark Green
Down Home Country Blues Ray Wylie Hubbard
New Year’s Day Charlie Robison
Find Us Alone Dalton Domino
King of the Road Hayes Carll
Cry Slaid Cleaves
Dark Ryan Beaver
Modelo Mike McClure
My Church Maren Morris
February Snow Flatland Cavalry
Live Oak Jason Isbell
Bloodshot Micky & The Motorcars
Wilder Side Carter Sampson
No Damn Good Jason Boland & The Stragglers
Allnighter Cody Canada & The Departed
You Never Can Tell Owen Temple
Bad Reputation Mike Ryan
Drink One More Round Cory Morrow
All I See Is You Shane Smith & The Saints
The War Joey Green
Heart’s Too Heavy John Moreland
Floodgate Erick Willis
I’m Blue, I’m Lonesome Marty Stuart
Storekeeper James McMurtry
Georgia on a Fast Train Billy Joe Shaver
Moose Lake Michael Padgett
Heart of Breaking Up Cooder Graw
Adventures of You & Me Ryan Bingham
To Dance With You K. Phillips
Guitar Town Steve Earle
Atlantic City Rodney Parker & The 50 Peso Reward
Beat the Machine Quaker City Night Hawks
World Thru a Windshield Cory Morrow
Til It Does Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers
Bring It On Kevin Fowler
Night’s Pay in My Boot Max Stalling
Bend But Don’t Break No Justice
Kentucky Thieving Birds
Silence in Me Six Market Blvd.
But You Like Country Music Sunny Sweeney & Brennen Leigh
 March/2017 8AM-8PM

Hello World Zane Williams
The Guitar Guy Clark
Vice Miranda Lambert
Glory Days Bruce Springsteen
Look at Me Fly Stoney LaRue
Cherokee Fiddle Johnny Lee
Baby Doll Pat Green
The Deed and The Dollar Shooter Jennings
Outta Style Aaron Watson
Smoke Rings in the Dark Gary Allan
February Snow Flatland Cavalry
Down and Out Randy Rogers Band
Follow Your Arrow Kacey Musgraves
Stars on the Water Rodney Crowell
Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way? Waylon Jennings
Beat Me Down Wade Bowen
Flying Green River Ordinance
Long Line of Losers Kevin Fowler
Brace for Impact Sturgill Simpson
The Wall Willie Nelson
Wish You Were Here Cody Jinks
In Color Jamey Johnson
Hard Light of Day Radney Foster
The Year That Clayton Delaney Died Tom T. Hall
You Got to Me James McMurtry
Roll With It Easton Corbin
Dead Flowers Rolling Stones
Too Late for Goodbye Randy Rogers Band
Barlight Charlie Robison
Soul Food Midnight River Choir
Forever Today Reckless Kelly
Traveller Chris Stapleton
Live Forever Billy Joe Shaver
Black Sheep John Anderson
Lie Baby Lie Sean McConnell
Moving John Fullbright
Diamonds & Gasoline Turnpike Troubadours
Trouble Wade Bowen
Women I’ve Never Had Hank Williams Jr
Can’t Let Go Lucinda Williams
Homegrown Zac Brown Band
Somebody’s Trying to Steal My Heart Kyle Park
Natural Forces Lyle Lovett
13 Year’s Sundance Head
From a Table Away Sunny Sweeney
The Love That We Need Hayes Carll
Queen of My Double Wide Trailer Sammy Kershaw
Last Last Time Bleu Edmondson
We Should Be Friends Miranda Lambert
Feet Don’t Touch the Ground Stoney LaRue
Even If It Breaks Your Heart Eli Young Band
Down in the Gulley Brent Cobb
Road Trippin’ Josh Abbott Band
Folsom Prison Blues Johnny Cash
Corpus Christi Bay Robert Earl Keen
My Girl Troy Cartwright
Wave on Wave Pat Green
Texas Forever Kevin Fowler
Me and Paul Willie Nelson
When the Lights Go Out Sam Riggs
Make You Mine High Valley
Saturday Night Wade Bowen
I Ain’t Drunk Whitey Morgan
Into the Mystic Van Morrison
Diamond in My Pocket Cody Johnson
Jayton and Jill Zane Williams
Stone Whiskey Myers
Wherever You Are Jack Ingram
Fun All Wrong Roger Creager
Texas in My Rearview Mirror Mac Davis
All Just to Get To You Joe Ely
Once Maren Morris
I Don’t Like Half the Folks I Love Paul Thorn
Country Roads Ryan Bingham
Call Me the Breeze Lynyrd Skynryd
Cleveland County Blues John Moreland
One Star Flag Casey Donahew
East Bound and Down Jerry Reed
Dandelion  Bart Crow
Broke Down Slaid Cleaves
I Feel Like Hank Williams Tonight Sunny Sweeney
The Dollar Jamey Johnson
Dunken Poet’s Dream Hayes Carll
The Fighting Side of Me Merle Haggard
Fade My Shade of Black Statesboro Revue
Skin & Bones Eli Young Band
If it Hadn’t Been For Love The Steeldrivers
Somewhere Down in Texas Jason Boland & The Stragglers
Keep Your Hands to Yourself The Georgia Satellites
Good Ol’ Boy Steve Earle
Keep It To Yourself Kacey Musgraves
Fool Hearted Memory George Strait
Down in Flames Stoney LaRue
The Runaround Luke Wade
Wish You Were Here Cody Jinks
Missing You Alison Krauss
She’s Like Texas Josh Abbott Band
11 Months and 29 Days Johnny Paycheck
Once Maren Morris
Purple Rain Dwight Yoakam
July in Cheyenne Aaron Watson
Wildflowers Tom Petty
That Ain’t Country Aaron Lewis
Tempted Marty Stuart
Lonely East TX Nights Whiskey Myers
Flood Gate Erick Willis
Forever Today Reckless Kelly
Gravedigger Willie Nelson
The Rose Hotel Robert Earl Keen
Rose in Paradise Waylon Jennings
Why I Left Atlanta Jason Eady
My Old Man Zac Brown Band
Still Drivin’ Paul Cauthen
Earthbound Rodney Crowell
Sometimes Luke Bell
Jesus & Handbags Dalton Domino
Don’t Forget Where You Come From Kyle Park
Nobody to Blame Chris Stapleton
Drink One More Round Cory Morrow
High Above the Water Parker McCollum
Seven Year Ache Rosanne Cash
We Should Be Friends Miranda Lambert
No Sense in Lovin’ Uncle Tupelo
Bad Liver and a Broken Heart Hayes Carll
Peaceful Easy Feeling Eagles
Trains Bonnie Bishop
Bread and Water Ryan Bingham
Life is a Highway Chris LeDoux
Sink or Swim Austin Allsup
Biscuits Kacey Musgraves
Creek Don’t Rise William Clark Green
A Better Man Clint Black
Keep the Wolves Away Uncle Lucius
Make You Mine High Valley
Rye Whiskey Punch Brothers
Me and Bobby McGee Janis Joplin
New Year’s Day Charlie Robison
American Tobacco Company BJ Barham
Hurt Johnny Cash
Rumorville Brandon Rhyder

Album Premiere: Kirby Brown’s Out of Exile 2

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

After some four years without a release, singer-songwriter Kirby Brown is playing some catch up this year. Out of Exile–a trilogy of three-song EPs–finds the rootsy Brown exploring the human condition in the rawest of ways. As a writer, Brown’s voice has grown and matured. There’s a calm, ripened cadence as he dives into his storytelling.

Always a student of the greats, Brown and company–the ever soaring Texas Gentlemen–roam through the countryside of the American songbook with ease. Pedal steel, keys, and organ warm Brown’s lonesome ballads and intimate journal entries.

“These stories are not just mine, but really are just versions of what I think we all experience,” says Brown. “We all struggle after the same things, wrestle with the same questions.”

It may be a shared struggle, but the reason it bridges the gap is because of Brown’s genuine look inward. He’s honest with himself long before he’s honest with us.

With 1 released this past Fall, Out of Exile 2 finds its’ way out today–which you can purchase here–or get a preview of 2 below. In addition, we caught up with Brown earlier this week to talk about the Out of Exile trilogy, recording at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, and The Texas Gentlemen.

New Slang: You’re releasing this new collection of music in three song bursts. Out of Exile 1 came out in the fall. 2 is out now. Why’d you decide to break them up into EPs rather than a conventional full-length?

Kirby Brown: As an artist, I still believe in making albums–full statements, the flow of track to track, etc. On the other hand, I’ve been sensing a need to get innovative with release strategy in order to keep engaged with our hypothetical audience. Three 3-song EPs seemed like a good way to get a conversation started after not releasing anything for four years. When they’re all out, I’ll put those nine songs out, plus a few more in their original, intended form–as a body of narrative that belong together.

NS: 1 kicks off with a little more of a playful tone with “Joni” and “Little Red Hen,” which has a little bit of that “In Spite of Ourselves” John Prine vibe. This second bunch, they’re a more of an serious bunch. I’m guessing songs weren’t just thrown together in three song sets randomly.

KB: You are correct–and I appreciate your noticing that. To my first point, the purpose of the trilogy of EPs is to get a dialogue going. With any conversation, you start a little more light-hearted and move into your more “serious” subject matter as that evolves. If I’m succeeding as a writer, I’m finding a way to engage both of those sensibilities: the easily accessible and the fun as well as the more introspective and contemplative.

NS: “Paint Horse” feels like it’s very southwestern driven. There’s a Southern California country groove with that pedal steel just dancing on top. Was that originally what you were pushing for when you started writing it or did that feel come into it much later?

KB: “Paint Horse” was the first song we tracked when we started these recording sessions. I don’t know that we had any preconceived notions of what we were going for, except to follow the songs where they naturally led us. That said, the vibe of this track absolutely informed how we thought about the rest of the songs we recorded–especially the ballads. Given our environs there in Muscle Shoals on the Tennessee River, we really wanted to chase that muddy, underwater feeling into the rest of what we did. I hope that comes across in the entire collection of songs.

NS: That regret and lonesomeness really carries into “Sweet Shame.” It’s almost like an exhale. You’re a lot more introspective and a bit pensive on the 2 closer. 

KB: I am really proud of that song. I don’t know that I’ve ever done much better lyrically than that second verse:

You’re hanging me up just like a common thief.
If anything will lead you to Calvary,/
It’s the love you can give that no one will receive/
And Eternity is all you can hope for./
You’re holding my heart just like a cigarette;/
At the end of it , you’re dragging what’s left out.
I’m sorry I’m not quite immaculate,/
Or as delicate, as you think./

I wrote that at a time that I felt like I had been used and abused–or to use a familiar equine analogy: “rode hard and put away wet.” The way the recording came across–especially with those Gospel-inspired harmonies that Leon [Bridges] and Tyesha Chaunte did–really felt like letting go. Sometimes it hurts; sometimes you’re not good enough and neither are they. But that’s okay. At least you gave it a shot.

NS: You recorded these down in Muscle Shoals at FAME with Beau Bedford and The Texas Gentlemen backing you up. You’ve known these guys for a while now. How loose were the recording sessions? Did you already kind of have solid ideas for what you wanted or did y’all experiment and figure it out while down at FAME?

KB: The recording sessions were very loose. Lots of laughter, lots of whiskey. We were tracking everything almost completely live. Beau and I had rented a car and driven from NYC to Muscle Shoals while the rest of the guys had journeyed from Texas on their own. We hadn’t all been together in the room with these songs before we arrived in Muscle Shoals, so there was a sense of these songs being born in the moment. But, as you mentioned, having been making music and doing life with these guys for a very long time, it all came together very quickly and naturally.

NS: The whole Texas Gents crew and Bedford are starting to really get that recognition from others outside the DFW and Texas bubbles now. There’s a lot of folks associated, part-timers, songwriters, etc with the Texas Gentlemen now. Why do you think it’s now that the notoriety is coming and things are picking up steam?

KB: I don’t know exactly what it is or where it came from, but praise God for whatever is happening! Having been one of the first five or six guys in the Fraternal Order of Texas Gentlemen, I couldn’t be more grateful to see the success and growth there. We realized eight years ago that there was something special going on and we felt it deserved a little more credit than it got in those early years. I think that’s because our little family is the “real thing”–like living water for the musical soul. We call each other, we party together, we pray for each other, we practice together. And we have an expansive group text thread that is constantly buzzing with something good. I think the kind of authenticity the group espouses is something everyone is attracted to.

As with a tree, it may take some time to see the growth–but eventually you’ve got a monstrous, beautiful thing in your back yard. At that point, if you’re like me, you just try to enjoy lying in the shade.

January Exchange: Texas Country Music (& Other Americana Stories)

Evan Felker of Turnpike Troubadours

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s Note: Jeff Dennis is a singer-songwriter in Lubbock, Texas. As one of my good friends, we typically talk about music on a daily basis. While it’s commonly either through text message or on Monday Nights at The Blue Light, we’ve decided to make the exchanges of ideas and commentary into a monthly piece. Here’s our first official one. Follow Dennis on Twitter here.

Mooney: It’s 2017. That basically means for the last 20ish years, Red Dirt and Texas Country has been in the lexicon. I know. Most people are probably going to argue that The Great Divide, Robert Earl Keen, Bob Childers, Tom Skinner, Jerry Jeff Walker, etc all made records and music before then. And while true, I think we can all agree that the genres and scene weren’t really a bankable commodity until we were in a Post-Ragweed & Green world. This is going the long way around to get to saying, the last Galleywinter piece had some great points about the evolution of this scene–really how that first wave of folks are getting old. There really isn’t a pretty way to say it. Hell, it’s strange how even just 20 years ago, the difference between Texas Country and Red Dirt was tangible and more concrete. Now, people just use Texas Country as a catchall. In some cases, it’s like a more offensive and blander version of being called Americana. Anyways, Brad Beheler says the last true innovators of the scene were Turnpike and Bingham. I’d agree (you know, because the Cobb crew isn’t a part of this scene the way a lot of people desperately want it to be). Innovative. Who’ll be the next? Who’s actually doing it now?

Dennis: What Pat Green proved, followed soon after by Ragweed, was that Texas (& Red Dirt) music was a business model in and of itself. JJW, REK, & Great Divide built up their craft and then ultimately got signed and subsequently established themselves nationally. PG proved that you could sell 100,000 records out of the back of your van, and build up a following in Texas & surrounding states that was a good living (soon to be a better living than many label deals, which started to dry up around the same time). I think that movement was very exciting, as reflected in the Beheler piece. What Pat did was really turn Texas into a product that music fans bought in large numbers. You can still make a buck off writing the next “Texas” song, but it seems fewer artists are taking that route and more bands are playing the TX/OK circuit while working to avoid the explicit “Texas Country” label. I think bands like Shane Smith & the Saints, Strangetowne, John Baumann, & Grady Spencer & the Work have brought new ideas to the scene, yet they all go in their own direction. But perhaps that’s the world we live in–where the 22-year-olds grew up listening to about every genre and so they’re more likely to be drawn to something different rather than judging whether something is “Texas” enough for their tastes.

Mooney: That’s the beauty and the curse of the whole thing, isn’t it? Most see that “Texas Country” engulfed Red Dirt pretty early on. But what they might not realize is how Texas Country essentially swallowed up the all other smaller genre labels happening in and around Texas as well. Bands playing folk, blues, alt-country, rock & roll, etc all gradually became known as Texas Country–or they decided they’d rather take their chances known as “Americana.” And that’s where all the exciting material really does happen. It’s the on the fringes of “Texas Country” where all the fresh, cutting edge stuff is being made. It’s why the likes of Paul Cauthen, Red Shahan, Courtney Patton, Jonathan Tyler, Wilkerson, Jamie Wilson, Jonny Burke types (and the ones you listed) are cutting edge for one reason or another. They’re fringe characters who are only associated with the label of “Texas Country.” They’re not bound to label and haven’t let TC dictate what they’re going to do next. Those folks are getting outside of Texas and playing. Now, obviously part of why Turnpike, Bingham, Reckless Kelly, Hayes, Musgraves etc are more well-known nationally is because they’re talented, but it’s also because they didn’t get consumed with the Weekend Warrior Texas circuit. 

I’m rambling now. Question: We agree that chasing the easy buck of writing a Texas song has gotten cliché and lazy. Even still, I think it’s a bit of like a right of passage for some of these Texas songwriters–if Gary P. Nunn has “London Homesick Blues,” by god, I’ve gotta have one too. OK. So if that’s the Texas songwriter trope, but’s the Oklahoma songwriter trope?

This songwriter kills fascists.

Dennis: Such a great question. I think Oklahoma songwriters get a certificate from the estate of Woody Guthrie that charges them with not writing cliché songs, or else we’d have “Red Dirt, Red State, Redneck” and “I Fought the Law (and Lawton PD won).” Maybe Oklahomans resent Texan’s grandiose ideas about their state? Or maybe they just decided as long as everyone gets to write a verse to “Boys from Oklahoma,” that would suffice. Of course, there are plenty of songs about Oklahoma, but there is a warmth to their mention in a John Moreland, John Fullbright, or Turnpike song that feels less cheap than your typical Texas song. What differs about those three is of course, Fullbright & Moreland didn’t use the Texas scene as a vehicle to notoriety, whereas Turnpike did, and has arguably changed the scene more than any band the past 10 years. Geographically, the major venues in Oklahoma are not more than a few hours apart, compared to some absurdly long distances in Texas that I’m sure your cousin has posted about in a Facebook meme. Whereas just about every city in Texas has a “Texas country” venue, the Folk/Americana scene doesn’t have much critical mass beyond Austin/Dallas/Houston/(Marfa). Most Austin Americana artists never play Lubbock or other smaller cities, and it’s really hard for a Lubbock band to get a show in Austin. And if you finally do get that gig at North Austin Discount Tire, no one comes out. I think it’s easier for an artist in OKC or Tulsa to focus on those larger urban areas and work the Midwest and Nashville (plus Austin), whereas in Texas there’s a $300 gig to be found in every town above 10,000 people. You take the money and play what they want to hear instead of trying to win over those crowds with your sad experimental Americana.

Mooney: I think the Woody Guthrie thing is the real root of Oklahoma’s songwriting integrity. The Woody and Bob Wills lineage is something they covet and take pride in. Which, you’d think Texans would take pride in the Woody and Wills (God I hope no one writes a song with that as the title) heritage just as much as Oklahomans since both have Texas ties. What you get though is only a few mentions of Woody’s New Year’s resolutions and Bob Wills Day every year. On the OK side, there’s the Woody Guthrie Folk Fest and what not. 

Now this is going to sound like Texan exceptionalism at its’ finest. But I think it may play into why this is. Texas just has too many great classic songwriters. It’s Willie, Guy, Townes, Kristofferson, Shaver, etc. They transcend Texas. They’re, in many ways, larger than life personas. Oklahoma songwriters on the other hand, they feel more like the common man. They’re small town and closer to the bone. I think the Fullbright, McClure, Boland, Canada, Felker, Moreland, Millsap, Bryon White, etc of the world cling onto their own a little tighter than a lot of the bigger Texan stars do to their heroes.

Dennis: Texceptionalism: “we’re the biggest (Alaska doesn’t count), and the best, and we’d never live anywhere else (and have never been anywhere else)” mentality. Turns out there’s a huge music market for telling people how great Texas is. And even Guy, Willie, Waylon, etc, sang about Texas. Yet, Texas Country sort of took a turn when it started singing songs about people singing songs about Texas (“Ol’ Guy Clark can be like a coat from the cold”). I’m sure there’s bad music in Oklahoma, and maybe those people just don’t hit our radar as much. There’s seven times more people in Texas than in Oklahoma and so many more venues. Maybe it just feels like we’re overloaded with guys singing about drinking Lone Star while watching the Cowboys in their Nocona boots because of proximity.

So are the worst elements of “Texas Country” just another form of bro country?

Mooney: Exactly. People don’t want to admit that Texas Country contributed to Bro Country just as much as the Nashville machine did. It’s mainly because–in a strange, bizzaro world way–Bro Country is a form of Outlaw Country. Kind of like how Nu Metal (Korn, Limp Bizkit) wouldn’t have come along without Grunge. Kevin Fowler and Granger Smith have more than dabbled in Bro Country.

I said it back when Guy passed away last year. Guy Clark wrote songs about Texas without ever pandering to the idea of songs about Texas being a commodity. I get that everyone isn’t a Guy Clark–or even wants to be for that matter–but that’s really the whole point, isn’t it? All the most successful Oklahoma guys deep down wish they could be the modern Woody, Wills, Leon, Childers, or McClure. The most successful Texas guys all just want to copy REK’s singalong anthems and tattered rasp.

Songwriting Royalty

Dennis: (Did you mean to say Granger has Dibbled in Bro Country?)

Honestly that speaks to a key point of music. It’s to entertain people and to fulfill them in some way they seek. People don’t go out on Friday night looking to hear “The Randall Knife.” They generally go out to let loose and have a good time, and so bands generally meet them where they are. The people we’ve discussed who push the envelope can broaden the musical horizons of the mainstream, but that just moves the boundaries. And I think that’s what makes it hard to predict the next big thing. Who knew the intro to Baumann’s “Bay City Blues” would resonate so much on radio? I would have told you ahead of time that it was just too far out there for Texas radio. Some of us get addicted to trying to find that next game changer, because after they change things, it’s never the same. You can only read Bukowski the first time once. The beauty of the game changer is, they can’t just be weird for the sake of weird, because novelty acts typically don’t change things. It’s part calculation of stepping a foot outside the mainstream, part luck, and a whole lot of work to convince people what you’re doing is worthwhile. To me, that’s why when everyone agrees on who is going to be the next Isbell, Sturgill, or Stapleton, it’s probably the case that person isn’t going to be the next one. Now everyone has influences, but Turnpike wasn’t the next Bingham, they were just the Turnpike Troubadours. If you think you’re the next Turnpike, turn around and go the other direction.

Mooney: Agreed. There’s not an algorithm to predict who is “next.” It’s kind of like evolution, right? Like somehow we went down this path: Jerry Jeff Walker–>Robert Earl Keen–>Pat Green–>Randy Rogers Band –>Some Kid, Somewhere. I’m sure there’s some steps missing in there if you want to get technical. And it doesn’t mean they didn’t find other influences along the way. But one way or another, that’s an evolutionary pattern. It doesn’t mean Rogers is ripping anyone off. It just means, in a way, we’ve seen this before. I don’t think you can say that about a Turnpike. That’s the original model. But now, you’re seeing a class of bands who you could say are the Turnpike 2.0s in Shane Smith & Flatland. (Note: With Jerry Jeff, it also branched out into a Todd Snider path. Jonny Burke seems to be the next evolutionary step down that way.)

There’s really only one major problem with this though. You can get a few steps away from the innovating pioneer and it can be a lost cause. Easiest example of that is the vocal techniques in the line of Jerry Jeff to RRB. JJW and REK naturally sound that way because they’re not traditionally great singers. What happens a few years from now when some kid is trying to do his Randy Rogers impression and just sounds like a nasally yelper because he’s faking it? I guess what I’m saying is, at some point, our T. Rex is going to end up a chicken.

The Great Gonzo

Dennis: So now we’ve stumbled upon something most people in the TX/OK scene don’t talk a lot about–and that is the fact that part of what makes it a scene for the common man/woman is you don’t have to have a Nashville caliber voice. A select few, perhaps Jason Boland or Randall King, have the vocal tone/range of a Nashville vocalist, but otherwise, most of the vocalists are distinct and have developed their own vocal style, often not one with the technical capabilities of a trained singer. My family listened to Conway Twitty, Glen Campbell, up to George Strait. To them, any voice that didn’t meet those standards wasn’t good music. In fact, they often claimed not to be able to understand the words of said artists. Having limits on vocal range can lead to different innovations. I remember hearing that Townes supposedly said, re: people covering his songs that Don Williams, e.g., can sing his songs however he wants, but Townes himself would sing them how they were supposed to sound (wish I had a source for that). This is also why your incredibly talented high school friend who moved to Nashville never made it big. In a city filled to the brim with the best voices in the country, singing other people’s songs, you’re up against a thousand others doing the same thing. In TX/OK, we get people with a personally tailored sound. Even if Pat Green or Randy Rogers isn’t the greatest singer ever, they found a way to connect with people, which ties back to an earlier point. Music is about connecting with your audience, and a lot of guys in Texas have found a way to make a living playing original music, independent of record labels, because they figured out how to connect with people using the skills they have.

For the sake of the song

Mooney: Excellent point. This is a semi-connected observation. We’ve talked about these “Watershed Years” for some folks. I’ve thrown out that basically each year, a band or artist has a breakthrough. Once they’ve broken through, it goes to the whole “You’re only able to read Bukowski the first time once” thing. You’ve graduated to another level. You’re not watersheding twice–You may innovate more than once, but you’re not having to constantly break on through more than really that first time. (There’s other ways to get to that level, but I’m not going to go through that now.) Typically, it’s a record that does it for you. We’ll go with:

2010: Ryan Bingham Crazy Heart mainly, Junky Star
2011: Hayes Carll KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories)
2012: Turnpike Troubadours Goodbye Normal Street & John Fullbright From The Ground Up
2013: Jason Isbell Southeastern & Kacey Musgraves Same Trailer Different Park
2014: Sturgill Simpson Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
2015: Chris Stapleton Traveller
2016: Lori McKenna The Bird & the Rifle and Margo Price Medwest Farmer’s Daughter

Those folks all, for the most part tapped into and perfected whatever specific thing they did well in those years. And for the most part, they all have transcendent vocals. They may not be right on par with Whitley, Strait, Campbell, Dolly, etc but they are, for the most part, within a few steps. Question: How much of their success is tied to them having Top 40 Nashville-Lite voices? Is that just a prerequisite one must have to achieve success with the masses?

Dennis: Personally, I see a mix of both pure & cultivated vocalists in that list. Hayes Carll has maximized the utility of his voice, whereas Sturgill seems to have all the tools of the best vocalists, but his challenge was figuring out how to rein it in. Neither one would be interesting to me if they were singing “Huntin, Fishin’ & Loving Everyday” (Side note: It annoys me that Luke Bryan abbreviates this is as “HFE”), but “Beaumont” and “Pan Bowl” can damn near bring me to tears. Still. 

Men & Vintage Neon Signs

Mooney: That’s probably the right answer. They’re all playing with loaded decks. We’ve already said it a handful of times–that it’s difficult to next to impossible to foresee who the next innovator and/or Watershed Year winner. But staying on the sidelines isn’t really fun. Speculating and predicting is where the fun is. Who’s your Starting Five when it comes to “Most Likely to be the next innovator and/or Watershed Year winner?”

Picks have to currently meet two out of the three following qualifiers: Less than 20K Facebook likes, less than 10K on Twitter, and/or less than 50K plays on Spotify.

I’m going in no particular order: 1) John Moreland, 2) Red Shahan, 3) Paul Cauthen, 4) Colter Wall, 5) Kaitlin Butts five years from now.

Moreland is about as safe a pick as there is out there. Right now, he’s in that Isbell Here We Rest spot. Red and Cauthen are both guys I’ve been high on for about ever. If asked five years ago, they’d have both been on my list then too. Wall kind of has that movie boost in the same way Bingham got with Crazy Heart. And Butts, her first record is filled with Musgraves-esque quirks, but I think she’s finding her own path soon enough.

Course, we’ll both be wrong and it’ll end up being some virtually unknown chopping wood in Eastern Oklahoma or Western Arkansas. 

Dennis: Or one of us will end up being the guy who predicted a 2016 Cubs World Series in his 1993 year book.

So it seems we’re talking watershed beyond the Texas/Red Dirt scene (which is an entirely different prediction), and I’m going to purposely try not to duplicate yours (except Moreland). Further, your watershed list is a mix of people we knew about for 10 years before their breakout (Isbell) and people who rocketed up very quickly (Sturgill). Should I include Sam Outlaw just to see if I catch a mouthful of fire from a certain Houston music writer? Probably not. I still don’t get California country post-Dwight. I’m not including any bands here, because if I do, they will break up within a year.

1) John Baumann, 2) Lydia Loveless, 3) Cory Branan, 4) Parker Millsap, 5) John Moreland

I have one artist I would love to predict publicly, but this person is so new they don’t have a record out yet, and I don’t think it’s appropriate to mention them. I’m letting New Slang know who it is, just one name, and that’s my Hail Mary pass.

And our collective pick: Someone backed by and/or connected to The Texas Gentlemen.

Mooney: So that’s either Quaker City Night Hawks, Kirby Brown, Cauthen, Jonathan Tyler, Larry Gee, K. Phillips, Dovetail, Wesley Geiger, The Misteries, Rise & Shine, Bad Mountain, and/or Kris Kristofferson.

Texas Gentlemen

Song Premiere: Croy and the Boys’ “Leavings The Last Thing”

coreybaum1 by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Croy and the Boys is another band in the long line of honky-tonk aficionados hailing from Austin. On Hey Come Back, their debut release,  is a blend of traditional honky-tonk ramblers, cosmic country ballads, and conjunto Tex-Mex that’s both as refreshing as it is a nod to the likes of pioneers Jerry Jeff Walker, Gram Parsons, and the like.

On the closing number, “Leavings The Last Thing,” lead vocalist and chief lyricist Corey Baum channels the classic Gary P. Nunn song “The Last Thing I Needed The First Thing This Morning” (popularized by Willie Nelson) with a smooth, revealing lines while legendary accordion player Joel Guzman adds a punch of Tex-Mex flair on the confessional.

“This song took us the longest to finish because Adrain Quesada (producer) and I were dead set on finding a more traditional conjunto style button accordion player, which can be harder to come by than piano accordion players,” says Baum. “We eventually managed to convince the legendary Joel Guzman to come in and lay it down and it was well worth the wait.”

Listen to “Leavings The Last Thing” below. Hey Come Back is available on iTunes here.

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

 

Album Premiere: Austin Meade’s Heartbreak Coming

Austin Meadeby: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Austin Meade’s Heartbreak Coming, his third release in as many years, arrives this Friday (Preorder it on iTunes here).

The Texas songwriter hones in on specifics–storylines and sound in particular–on the five-track EP. Where previous efforts may have found Meade wanting to go off in as many directions, Heartbreak Coming finds him controlling those temptations. Throughout, he sticks to not just what feels most comfortable, but also what works best.

In many respects, Meade’s foundational sound is built upon the many days and nights of spinning Ryan Adams’ records. Heartbreak Coming certainly finds its base line nestled somewhere between Adams’ alt-country guitar-driven Cold Roses and the dark, bleak affairs of 29‘s folk storytelling. With Jay Saldana and Elijah Ford at the producing helm, the two make a formidable combination on the strong third efforts from Meade.

Opener “Born With a Broken Heart” sets itself up as a nice, windows down anthem. Armed with its’ Jayhawks-ian chorus and driving guitars, the song feels more encompassing and rosy than the song’s true core. At the center, it’s Meade detailing a breakup and/or missed connection to a close friend–perhaps even rehashing the details to himself. Still, you feel the sweet combination of cool breeze and the warmth of the sun’s rays on the summer anthem.

The reflective “Meant For More” lays out some of Meade’s best detailing to date. The opening lines about old white houses, rusted yield signs, and splintering fence posts pop up and come to life on Meade’s canvas. Here, we feel the addictive hardships of life on the road and the weekend warrior realities of band life. Meade’s wallflower observations of bar life are spot on throughout while his inner thoughts provide insightful optimism.

Closing the EP is “Written in Stone,” perhaps the strongest track on Heartbreak Coming. There’s a sparse arrangement that’s built on cold drums, thin piano, and shimmering cameos of guitar lines that pierce and plunge as often and as deep as Meade’s conceding lines on defeat, heartbreak and grief. Love is hell.

Exclusively listen to Meade’s Heartbreak Coming below. Preorder it on iTunes here. Heartbreak Coming is officially available Friday, June 03.