The New Slang Podcast: Episode 032 The Band of Heathens

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

This week, we caught up with Gordy Quist and Ed Jurdi of The Band of Heathens. The Austin staples released their fifth studio album, Duende, this past January. The 10 songs of Duende find the quintet in a place of deep comfort and confidence. There’s a beacon of light–circling harmony vocals, aged organ & keys, and the right amount of guitar fuzz–that warms the face like sun rays in the midst of an Indian summer. This past Friday, we thankfully squeezed in a short conversation with Quist and Jurdi between their soundcheck and performance at Lubbock’s Cactus Theater.

Like The Band of Heathens on Facebook here. Follow him on Twitter here. Find Duende, their latest album, here. For more BoH’s tour dates, click here.

Like New Slang on Facebook here. Follow New Slang on Twitter at @_NewSlang and on Instagram at @_newslang.

February Exchange: Grammy’s, Sturgill Superfans, & Dumpster Fires

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 recap and rehash of the Grammy’s, Sturgill Superfans, and why country music doesn’t need saving. Follow Dennis on Twitter here.

Mooney: So did Sturgill save country music last night? 

Dennis: I didn’t realize it needed saving? It’s just a media trope that country music was ever lost or dead. People of course have a problem with the music industry label of “country,” but they have been doing whatever it takes to sell records to as many people as possible for a long time. I would argue that the layer of cheap mainstream country has to exist for the Jason Isbells & Sturgills to thrive. The Grammys are not particularly representative of the genre of country, as they don’t follow the trends of what sells (credit to Craig Vaughn for that specific idea). Not only that, they’ve tried to “fix” the issue of how to handle all of the different genres of country by dispersing artists across the labels of Country, Americana, and Folk. Sturgill’s Metamodern was a more “country” record, nominated in Americana, whereas A Sailor’s Guide, a much more experimental rock record, got the Country nomination. Ultimately, the Grammys for all Country categories are kind of train wreck. It’s like asking NFL fans to vote for the all-star team and MVP of the FIFA World Cup.

Mooney: Exactly. The trope has been around longer than even the Texas vs. Nashville one (or the Lubbock is a shitty place to live one). 

1) That’s an interesting take–that the Top 40 Mainstream layer is necessary for the innovative songwriter class to thrive. You have to have a Jason Aldean to have a Jason Isbell. Now, are you saying this because, let’s call them the “Working Class Artist” class, has to have something to work against–they have to go up against The Establishment? Does that go into the make up of an artist? You have to scratch, claw, and–to an extent–suffer to create? Or is it more so a relativity thing? To know what good music is, you must have some bad music to compare it to?

2) I shared that list of Best Country Album Grammy winner this morning. It was the last 21 winners. What’s a little funny is that the award has, for all intents and purposes, only been around since 1995. Roger Miller won two Grammy’s in ’65 & ’66, but it was discontinued until ’95 when Mary Chapin Carpenter won with Stones in the Road. Shania Twain won in ’96 with The Woman in Me. I said that the list was, for better or worse, a pretty solid representation. We can argue albums, but really, it’s a solid set overall. I guess there’s been a couple of WTF wins, but there hasn’t been a “Where are they now?” winners or true embarrassments–like they didn’t give Gretchen Wilson the award over Loretta Lynn or Alison Krauss in consecutive years. They’ve been consistent. Albeit, that also means not taking too many risks with nominations. Like you’ve said, overall the “country/roots/Americana/folk” categories are a wreck though. They treat them like the minor leagues or the Senior PGA Tour for the most part. 

Dennis: 1. I hate to say Top 40 has to exist, because that’s probably not true. In Hank Williams’ day, I don’t know that there was the level of fluff in mainstream music. But today, the reality is that no matter what the labels or radio does, it’s not as though everyone is going to abandon Bro Country and just start listening to Billy Joe Shaver and Slaid Cleaves. It’s funny because, Top 40 Country still makes quite a bit of money, both in touring and even for labels, since country fans still buy more music than most. But I think the excess that it has produced, where every damn song has somebody rolling down a window and talking to/about their “girl,” is that it has turned even more people toward a higher quality product (i.e., the growing indie/americana/roots genre).

2. I honestly didn’t know the history of the Country Music Grammy myself. It has not honored many mainstream artists. I mean, how many country music fans in 2002 or 2017 were/are listening to the Hank Williams’ Tribute? It was a cool record, but never close to mainstream. The outsiders are rewarded more in the Country music Grammys, and this year is especially disorienting, because Sturgill feels so different from the other nominees, who got a lot of airplay on country radio. I think Maren Morris would have been a lock for the award, but Sturgill became sort of an anti-hero at just the right time. That said, I think Top 40 Country radio guys woke up today not worried about putting him in the rotation any more than he already was. I don’t think the award made him “one of them.” Ironically, the CMA and ACM Awards, i.e., the country industry awards, are precisely for mainstream country. They don’t even try to give awards for Americana or Folk or anything else. Sturgill winning one of those would be the more surprising occurrence. But back to the Grammys, the Americana category, outside of the Isbell win last year, is a complete trainwreck. The nominees rarely reflect anything I would consider the forefront of Americana. I mean, take 2014, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, or Buddy Miller & Jim Lauderdale–all icons in some form–were received nominations over Southeastern by Jason Isbell. That miss is reason enough to scrap the award until they can figure out what they are doing. And let’s not forget 2012, where Linda Chorney “worked” the system by campaigning to Grammy voters, and got nominated when absolutely no one knew who she was. And guess what? That scheme is still the only reason anyone knows her name today.

Mooney: 1) I think one of the major reasons for that is people have seen the gradual decline in quality of Top 40 radio. At one point, Hank Williams was the biggest damn star in country music. Now, guys who sound like Hank Williams, they’re still around. But you have to actually go out and search for them. Reason for the decline is a two-part answer: A) Pop music has slowly integrated with Country (and every “genre” for that matter) and B) They’re not making replicas of the original anymore. They’re making copies of the last copy (which was a copy of the former copy and so on). The formula and cookie cutter mold has decayed over time. 

2) That’s why, in my opinion, Stapleton winning last year was “bigger” than Sturgill’s win this year. One major clue is iTunes. Right now (Was Monday), their top-selling Country records are Sturgill’s A Sailor’s Guide and Morris’ Hero. But let’s see which stays near the top longer (As of Friday, Maren’s Hero is 3, Sturgill’s Sailor’s Guide is 4). Virtually any day this past year, if you looked, Stapleton’s Traveller was a lock for the top spot. That’s why Top 40 ended up playing him–because a year later, he still had the top spot (Hell, right now, Traveller is still at 6). 

3) The reason the Americana/Folk/Roots Grammy’s are such a mess is because all those terms are so broad and ambiguous meanings. It’s a catch-all for anything that ranges from “old country sounding” to being Country-Lite to being a rock band from the south who has an accent to midwest alt-country kids to singer-songwriters who play solo to Northwest bands who have at least one record released by Sub Pop. No one knows what it means. American(a) music, at its’ core, is a regional music. It’s like baseball–other than the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, or Cubs (Ryan Adams, Isbell, Wilco, and whoever)–every other club relies on their regional fanbases. 

I’d challenge anyone to decipher the differences between Best American Roots, Americana, Folk–and even Country for that matter. I include Country in there for the sole reason that, an artist like Vince Gill can go from winning a Best Country Album in ’08, be nominated with The Time Jumpers for Best Country Album in ’12, and then win Best American Roots Song and be nominated for Best Americana Album in ’17. There’s no reason to think they’ve changed that much in that decade to give any credence to the switch. I mean, they’re name is The fucking Time Jumpers for a reason.

Are they just throwing old country folks in Americana for the name recognition or to appease them?

Dennis: I would argue that the old Country folks are getting those nominations simply because the Americana nominations are an afterthought. There’s very little politicking going on behind the scenes for that category. According to the Grammy voting rules, people are only supposed to vote in their area of expertise. From reading these, here is my guess at what happens.

1) First round nominations are made by members and by record companies. Fair enough. But, think about who still has a record label (who despite their decreased influence, still have a lot of power here). Rodney Crowell and Vince Gill have much stronger label ties, because they came in under the old system, whereas someone like Jason Isbell was less noticed in this realm because he self-released his record. (Although arguably still a MUCH better business decision for Southeastern to be on his own label). So that’s how we get first round nominees. 2) Now, it’s left to recording academy voters. My guess is that if you are a “country” voter in any form, they would allow you to vote in all of the categories we’ve named. A wide variety of people can be voters (Andy Wilkinson, from Lubbock, told me once that he was for a while). I am also assuming that recording academy membership trends on the older side, so when it comes to voting for the Avett Brothers vs. Bonnie Raitt, who wins?  (Spoiler Alert: Bonnie Raitt won the Americana Grammy in 2013). 

So that’s my theory. It’s like when I go into the voting booth and I vote for President, Senator, etc., and I get to the Railroad Commissioner category. I won’t say that job isn’t important, but I’ll be honest and say I don’t pay much attention to who has that job in any given year.  So who do I vote for?  Probably the name I’ve heard before (or maybe bad example, because sometimes it might be NOT to vote for the name I’ve heard of before). 

The Grammy selection & voting systems aren’t set up to deal with a music market where everything doesn’t run through the labels. If I had to choose, these should have been the Americana nominees:

The Bird & The Rifle – Lori McKenna (this was nominated)
True Sadness – The Avett Brothers (also nominated)
Midwest Farmer’s Daughter – Margo Price
Heart Like a Levee – Hiss Golden Messenger
Upland Stories – Robbie Fulks (nominated in Folk)

Suitable alternates:
Young in All The Wrong Ways – Sara Watkins
The Very Last Day – Parker Millsap

And if we’re being honest, I would rather Sturgill’s record be in this category. But I won’t begrudge him for winning the “bigger” category of Best Country Album.

Maybe they just need to add a “Has Been” or “Used to Be” Grammy?

Mooney: That’s a very sound and plausible theory. I think it goes back to all those folks being “small label.” Which again, it’s because Americana roots music is so regional. 

I want to get back onto the whole Sturgill, Stapleton, Isbell, and Cobb are going to save country music thing. Yeah, it’s the trope and agenda that music journalists and a faction of the industry wants to push. Hell, I’ve even pushed the agenda because I want those guys to succeed. I think buried underneath the politicking, the drivel, the bumper stickers, t-shirt slogans, etc is a single question that is glossed over because it’s a boring question that’s pretty much already answered. The question isn’t if Sturgill, Stapleton, Isbell, Cobb, etc going to save Country music. The real question is if people are going to continue rewarding and appreciating genuine and timeless music overall?

The answer is an overwhelming yes. E.g., look back at who has won the last 23  Grammy’s for Best Country Music Album. When we look back, we always acknowledge those who contributed real songwriting and art. No one is talking about the bubblegum pop of any genre of any era. We love having a revised history. A lot of people make it out like Townes Van Zandt was high-rolling with a five tour bus caravan, dominating the charts, and was a nationally recognized treasure during the ‘70s. That’s simply not the truth. There’s always been a group of artists who were deemed as “not country” enough. Glen Campbell, Marie Osmond, Conway Twitty, John Denver, Ronnie Millsap, Linda Ronstadt, Eddie Rabbitt, Shania Twain, Garth Brooks, etc were all called not Country enough at some point during their career.

Now, we all can agree that this generation’s batch of “not Country enough” stars are less Country than any of their predecessors, but I’ll again go back and ask if history is going to reward them. I’m just assuming they’re not even making room for Montevallo or Kill the Lights in the next 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die edition. And of course, there’s that whole thing where anyone is forcing you to listen to it–or is that the plot of the next Saw film (Do they still does these???)?

Dennis: This reminds me of that t-shirt I bought at a Texas Country show recently. It read: “NASHVILLE SUCKS (Except Isbell & Simpson & Snider & Shires & Lambchop & William Tyler & …okay, Nashville is pretty cool, but we sure wish big labels would give us more money to keep singing songs about Texas).”

But on a serious note, good music persists despite the pop flavor of the month. On the surface, every pop trend seems like kind of a joke after the trend has passed. Growing up in the ’90s, I bought into the idea that all music in the ’80s was just terrible hair metal. In fact, there was tons of great music in the ’80s, but it wasn’t making its’ way to my radio, and I didn’t have an older sibling, so I still don’t know Springsteen’s catalog that well (guilty). And absolutely, Garth & Shania were really not liked by country traditionalists. Yet their music is so tame compared to today’s Top 40 Country–plus, I think a lot of people who grew up with Garth, whether they were fans or not, sort of have a soft spot for him now (E.g., how Garth sold out five straight shows in Lubbock).

The revisionist histories of Townes & Gram Parsons really have overreached in today’s scene. Even Guy Clark, with one of the most impressive catalogs of any songwriter, was never “set for life” financially with any of his songs. They so rarely made it to radio. And in today’s music climate, songwriters make much less simply because people don’t buy music like they used to. There’s so much less artist development these days, because they just don’t have the money to see what works anymore. Instead, they find someone like Dierks Bentley, who arguably could have been a good artist and they make him a product to sell what’s left to sell in the music business–i.e., a party (on a dirt road, in an airplane, etc.). I’ll go on record saying I thought Dierks was going to be really good, but his music is just plain terrible. But he gets to be wealthy and have seven tour buses playing music no one will care about in 20 years instead of grinding it out playing “real” Country in 100 seat venues for the rest of his life, to be remembered as a valiant troubadour who never got the credit he was due. Plus, he’ll probably be in the next Saw movie.

Mooney: I’m going to go off the deep end for a second. Bare with me.

I think over the last 70+ year, we’ve seen two major movements in the music industry. If we look at the major genre labels–Rock & Roll, Hip-Hop, Electronica, Pop (formerly known as Easy Listening), R&B, Folk, Jazz, and Country–on one end, The Top 40 of each has slowly, but surely come closer together homogenizing into a singular sound while on the other end, everything has branched out further apart. There are millions of sub-genres that fall within the major genre heads these days. It’s why there’s 100 versions of Punk music.

In a lot of ways, other than Jazz, Country music was the last holdout to this Top 40 blending. They were like The North in Game of Thrones when the Targaryen’s first invaded Westeros. In Aegon’s Conquest, House Stark and The North were the last to surrender (I mean, technically Dorne never was defeated. They’re like Jazz. They just never engaged with the idea that they’d fight or kneel). 

Anyway, these two movements have been spinning in opposite directions all these years. Top 40 is just becoming one thing. It’s being tightly wound upon itself. But the diversity underneath is so rich, complex, and vast, there will always be a class of artists who are the true and real vanguard of their genres. 

Long story short, Sturgill, Stapleton, etc ARE Country Music, so there’s no need in saving it. Their music will still be heard 50 years from now. The Hunts, Bryans, FL-GA Lines of the world simply won’t.

Again, who’s winning Grammy’s? I count 8 Grammy’s for Cobb’s crew in just these last two years (2 for Cobb, 2 for Stapleton, 2 for Isbell, 1 for Sturgill, and 1 for McKenna) while there’s ZERO for those they’re supposed to be saving it from. 

Dennis: So in the end, people will keep creating interesting new things in music, even though at some point, sub-sub-sub-genres may only have 10 people who really care about them. Truly, some of my most valued musical artifacts are things like bootlegs and live mp3s from shows that aren’t available anymore. At the same time, I don’t expect anyone to care about a random live recording of Hayes Carll from 10 years ago or my CD from Lubbock’s brief experiment in post-rock, Sparks Fly Upward. And there is definitely no money to be made in these endeavors. At some point, these small musical genres return to where music was in the first place–a live or recorded tradition shared with friends and family. That said, the Grammys don’t need to chase that music down the rabbit hole.  They just need to figure out a better way to keep track of the music that is really important as opposed to giving Don Henley & Sting the Folk Grammy for an album of Tiny Tim covers.

And conversely, Top 40 gonna Top 40.

Mooney: Top 40 is gonna Top 40.

What I think is a little funny is, that of the major genre labels, it’s really only Country and Rock & Roll that feel the need to have a multiple awards for the genre. Like with Rock, there’s Metal, Rock, and Alternative. With Country, you’re essentially adding the Americana roots as the little brother. Though they categorize it as Rap, it’s technically Hip-Hop (since Rap is a vocal style, not a genre style), you don’t see Best Gangsta Rap, Best Southern, and Best Backpack Album Awards. I don’t think splitting these genres into specific sub-genres will ever work.

If I was overhauling the system, it’d look like this:

Rock, Folk, Country, Hip-Hop, R&B, Jazz, Pop, and Electronica would all have two awards each–Best Album and Best Song. Then, you’d have the Overall Awards like New Artist, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. The nominees for those Overall awards would just be the winners of the eight major Genre Categories.

I know, I’m leaving out other categories like Comedy, World, Latin, Christian, etc out, but I’m not nearly familiar enough with them (and they’re really just niche categories anyway). I’d guess having just a just two categories within each–Best Album and Best Song–would suffice though. 

I know. It kind of becomes too encompassing–something I was bitching about earlier. I admit that. But, the difference here is 1) It’s so much simpler than the current system and 2) I think there’s less politics. Granted, this probably gives the major labels more power, but hell, they already have a bunch of power and influence.

That essentially means this year, we’d have had the Best Album noms as Adele (Pop), Beyoncé (R&B), Chance the Rapper (Hip-Hop), David Bowie (Rock), Sturgill Simpson (Country), Sarah Jarosz (Folk), Gregory Porter (Jazz), and Flume (Electronica).

So yeah, Adele would still have won. Beyoncé would still have “deserved” it. Sturgill fans would still be acting like Beyoncé fans. And, we’d still be wondering who Flume was. 

Dennis: As much as it kills me, you’re probably right that the Americana category has to go. It leaves the Avett Brothers and Ryan Adams, etc without much of a category, unless they have a major hit, but that’s probably okay. Still have to figure out what falls into the Folk category (eg, would Southeastern have fit the bill, since that was definitely not a Country record?), but as long as the focus is on original new music, it’s doable.

Have to include Blues, maybe not traditional and contemporary, but since it’s either the grandpa or great-uncle to most of the other categories, it’s a meaningful distinction.

So who wins for Alt Country?

Ehh, maybe we should save that conversation for another day.

Mooney: Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah. I should probably include Blues as well as its’ own distinct category. I guess I was thinking most blues music really falls into folk in a traditional way or into Rock & Roll in a modern way. My main reason for leaving it off was because you could see people gaming the system. Take a band like The Black Keys, who are by all means, a Rock band who had definite blues elements when they first started. Who’s to say they aren’t just thrown in that category just because it’d be easier to win than in Rock. I guess they still could do that now, though.

For guys like Avett Brothers, Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell’s Southeastern, etc, I think Folk fits the bill. I know most of the time when you hear the word Folk, you automatically go into thinking Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Greenwich Village, etc. It’s kind of a stale and sterile way to describe Isbell, but so is Americana if you think about it. Maybe a better label head would be Roots-Rock Folk. 

I mean, the elephant in the room is that Sturgill’s Sailor’s Guide isn’t really Country anyway. I guess he’s addressed it a handful of times. I really don’t have a problem with him winning the Best Country Album award either, though. Again though, people are deifying him more than they deified Gram Parsons (speaking of alt country!).  

Dennis: Country was the highest profile award he could win, so I’m glad he won that one. However, it just isn’t Country by most measures. His win is the latest in the Grammy voters ongoing collective protest against Top 40 Country. 

It got him a performance, which was the biggest benefit in my mind. All the people expecting or hoping he would throw his guitar again don’t really understand who Sturgill Simpson is as an artist.

Although, in reality, I don’t know how much Grammy performances matter. His performance was strong, but it was mostly for his fans and probably didn’t go along way to attract the casual Grammy listener. Overall, I am not a big fan of Grammy performances, because I feel like they are contrived attempts at some sort of greatness. I don’t think just because Alicia Keys and Maren Morris play together, (both great artists in their own right), that I should expect that to be a life-changing event. It is just a larger version of what happens at every level of music these days, which is to suggest that every single show is going to be mind-blowing or life-altering. I don’t really like big concerts anyway, because I feel like they are essentially performances for people who don’t know that much about music–who are wowed and awed at various smoke and mirrors. There’s only so many behind the head guitar solos a person can take.

Mooney: For the record, I was one of those hoping he’d throw his guitar again. Five seconds in, I figured it wasn’t happening to that acoustic Martin though. You’re probably right. His SNL performance probably had a bigger impact than his Grammy one.

Everyone’s throwing out hot takes on the Sturgill Grammy thing. At the end of the day, Country music has their shit together more so than the Rock category. That’s where the true identity crisis is happening.

Their Best Rock Album nominations were Tell Me I’m Pretty by Cage the Elephant (winner), California by Blink-182, Magma by Gojira, Death of a Bachelor by Panic! at the Disco, and Weezer by Weezer.

Even if Ripchord by Keith Urban had won Best Country Album, I’d say it’d be better than what’s going on in that dumpster fire.

The New Slang Podcast: Episode 031 John Baumann

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

On Episode 31, we catch up with Texas singer-songwriter John Baumann. He recently announced that his next album, an 11-song full-length, will be released this Spring. Last Saturday, we sat out on the back patio of The Blue Light to talk about what’s in store for Baumann this coming year, highlights and lowlights of the NBA season, how and why Championship games in sports this year have been all comebacks, The Super Bowl Halftime show, Willie Nelson, and Garth Brooks.

Like John Baumann on Facebook here. Follow him on Twitter here.

Like New Slang on Facebook here. Follow New Slang on Twitter at @_NewSlang and on Instagram at @_newslang.

The New Slang Podcast: Episode 030 Mike Harmeier of Mike & The Moonpies

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Mike Harmeier–lead vocalist for Austin’s leading honky-tonk country storytellers Mike & The Moonpies–returns to the New Slang Podcast this week. After a hearty soundcheck, the country crooning Harmeier stepped back into the makeshift pool room studio at The Blue Light for a lengthy conversation that included pit stops on side-of-the-road attractions in Texas, the highs and lows of Far West Texas (including crime, the underwhelming Marfa Lights, why national touring acts stop in the region, etc), why booking a railroad tour would be awesome, the differences in Terry Allen and Robert Earl Keen’s versions of “Amarillo Highway,” the pop sensibilities of Prince and Michael Jackson, why HGTV’s Fixer Upper works while Flip or Flop doesn’t, reality television, and our favorite hour-long TV dramas of the last 15 years.

Mike & The Moonpies are hot off releasing Live at WinStar World Casino & Resport, a double-disc live affair where the six-piece runs through a vintage Moonpies set, circa 2016. At 23 songs long, they have plenty of room to stretch out and visit the highlights of their three studio albums and debut EP–along with honky-tonk classics like “Amos Moses,” “Pick Up the Tempo,” and “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance.”

Find Mike & The Moonpies’ latest live album, Live at WinStar World Casino & Resort here. Like Mike & The Moonpies on Facebook here. Follow him on Twitter here.

Like New Slang on Facebook here. Follow New Slang on Twitter at @_NewSlang and on Instagram at @_newslang.

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.

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.

The New Slang Podcast: Episode 029 Jacob Furr

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

On Episode 029, we catch up with Ft. Worth-based singer-songwriter Jacob Furr. Furr’s steady and calculated approach to songwriting has delivered a catalog of weighty storytellers balanced with an even keel demeanor and delivery. It’s help set him apart from the pack in a town full of rising singer-songwriters and storytelling poets. Often, calling a songwriter a “songwriter’s songwriter” comes across as a backhanded compliment at best. With Furr though, it happens to be songwriters–or, just those who pay attention to the fine detail in the craft–who are often the ones who notice the nuances and delicacy within his catalog. With the release of Sierra Madre, his latest full-length, Furr traded in folky rolling hills for towering mountains and jagged cliffs. He often comes down from the mountain after setting them ablaze with roaring, sharp guitars.

We caught up with Furr last week when he made the trek for Ft. Worth to Lubbock. Being a Texas Tech alum (and playing keys with Red Shahan), Furr’s more than familiar with the Lubbock music scene. On this episode, we dive into Lubbock music history of the last decade, thoughts on Top 10 Albums we listened to in high school and college–Bright Eyes, Elliott Smith, The Shins, The Mountain Goats, etc heavy–, why criticism isn’t always being a “hater,” the political climate in the Social Media age, and opinions on the Josh Weathers backlash (and backlash to the backlash) after he performed at President Donald Trump’s inauguration a few weeks ago.

Find Furr’s music catalog here. Like Jacob Furr on Facebook here. Follow him on Twitter here.

Like New Slang on Facebook here. Follow New Slang on Twitter at @ and on Instagram at @_newslang.

The New Slang Podcast: Episode 028 Bill Corbin & Kevin McClain of American Aquarium

For the first podcast of 2017, we welcome in Bill Corbin and Kevin McClain, the rhythm section of Americana country-rockers American Aquarium. The trials and tribulations have been well documented for the hard-working outfit. The six-piece is as sincere and earnest as the songs they’ve crafted over the years. A few weeks back, it was announced that long-time guitarists Ryan Johnson and Colin Dimeo would be leaving the band. And after 300+ days on the road for the better part of a decade, the Raleigh, North Carolina-based rockers decided that taking a break would be best. As Corbin and McClain explain, the band is taking off the rest of the year come the end of March. With only a handful of dates left on the calendar–their two-night stand Roadtrip to Raleigh, a Cayamo Cruise, and a string of European tour dates, the band is getting a well deserved rest. On this episode, we talk with Corbin and McClain about their interests–weightlifting and cycling–that keep them sane on the road, how they’ve matured as a band–as individuals and musically as a band–over the years, working with Jason Isbell on their breakout album Burn. Flicker. Die., and where they go from 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].

Locating the Lubbock Sound

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