Burning Photographs: Hock the Horses

Photo Mar 29, 1 39 16 AMby: Thomas D. Mooney

It’s 10:16 p.m.

The Lubbock winds are blowing just strong enough gusts that the stockyards north of town are making their presence known. There’s a small group huddled together on the front patio of The Blue Light puffing on cigarettes and trading jokes for laughs and smiles. They’re blowing off the steam of the day and taking the edge off with gulps of Lone Star and long drags.

A handful on the side are one upping each other on just how their day was really the worser of the two. It’s a war of attrition and vape clouds.

The bar inside is filled with songwriters and sitting and swiveling around on the round, rotating seats that for a rim around the slightly elevated space. The step, it’s snuck up on many throughout its’ time. Tonight, it’s taking a night off on embarrassing the locals.

There’s welcoming handshakes that come in rounds by usuals. Nervous introductions and plenty of “I’m unsure if you remember me, but maybe if I make eye contact, you’ll acknowledge our previous meet-ups” stares and waves.

The sign-up sheet near the stage is slowly filling up with signatures of first timers and the usual. Blue Light Songwriter Night Host, Jerry Serrano walks up on stage, grabs his acoustic and slings it over his shoulder. He strums a few times while simultaneously checking the vocal microphone. Both gradually raise in volume and he welcomes everyone.

There’s chatter in the corners of the room as he begins playing. The warmth in his voice slowly deafen the scattered laughter and babble.

He’s been on the job as host ever since former host, Benton Leachman, surrendered his duties around the first of the year.

Serrano, he’s still figuring his way around the night–which is more than playing five songs off the top and calling people to the stage to play their songs. In many respects, it’s being the unofficial voice of the prototypical  Lubbock Songwriter. A voice of reason for those who become too full of themselves and an encouraging pat on the back when you’re in the midst of something special.

At this point, Serrano has a mental chalkboard with a plethora of ideas scratched up there on how he’s going to take the night and make it better. What’s that new wrinkle he’s going to have to bring in more. It’s somewhere jotted on that chalkboard. Now, it’s just finding it.

Charlie Stout’s name is the first one jotted down to follow Serrano’s intimate set of songs that’ll be making their way on to Serrano’s upcoming solo album.

Stout goes into “Rattlesnake–The Last Rattlesnake in West Texas.” It’s a new song he’s been working on. It’s clear he’s still chipping away on it. It’s a hell of a lot better and refined than last week’s version.

He’s played it to himself repeatedly since then. It’s now filled with a working second verse. There’s a bite to the harsh down strums. There’s kick in his heavy stomp.

It’s not finished. But he’ll play it again next week. It’ll be closer to competition, but still, maybe not finished. He’ll repeat the process until he has something of worth. He’s unafraid of letting Monday Night crowds be a part of the growth of a song.

It’s something others could take a stab at. It’s worth mentioning Stout isn’t playing just half-written songs though. He’s sharing “I See Stars” or “Feels Like Home” with untitled pieces. It’s something a few others end up doing as well–albeit, their “this is a new song” is either a trailing whisper or comes off as more of an excuse in case it’s a bomb.

Tonight’s filled with more songwriters than time. Jeff Dennis, Jim Dixon, Zoe Carter, Phlip Coggins, Cleto Cordero, Derek Bohl–folks who’ve been coming their share of Mondays are all in house. All have scribbled their names down.

There’s something to that. You’re never too big to not show up for Songwriter Nights. You owe it to yourself. You owe it to your peers. Hell, you owe it to Lubbock and Blue Light. Putting in work is part of the job–no matter if you’ve released your share of albums, you’re charting on some Texas Radio listing, or think you’re above open mic nights in a college town in late March.

Tonight, there are folks who have driven in from Midland and other towns. It’s all their first time playing at Blue Light. The young, unknown talent in the room is much like the young, unknown talent in most songwriter nights. It’s coarse and raw. But here and there, there’s something to it. There’s a line that you buy into. A chorus of worth more than the eruption of applause it gets at the songs’ end.

Stout, Dixon, Dennis, Serrano, and Carter are sitting at a row of round tables in front of the sound booth. They’re watching and listening. Every once in a while, one gets up and goes to the bar or bathroom and another Monday vet replaces them.

“I hope they don’t think we’re here to judge them,” whispers Stout.

“Yeah, but isn’t that what you’re doing?” I reply. It is–and that’s not a bad thing either.

A couple dark horses emerge out of the pack.

Dixon is jumping on stage after Carter. She’s just played three songs on electric guitar. It’s the one and only plugged-in moment of the night.

“I hope I didn’t break any unspoken rules about playing an electric on Songwriter Night,” she says as she’s leaving. Of course not. This isn’t baseball.

Dixon gives an impromptu prelude to one of his songs. It’s about frustration of a talking crowd and goes something to the effect of “shut the fuuuuuuck up, shut the fuuuuuuck up, shutthefuckup!”

Those listening, it gets a chuckle out of. Those who aren’t, it goes over their head and some just think it’s a part of the song.

“A songwriter learns so much out of playing Songwriter Nights at Blue Light and Cheatham Street,” says Stout. “Here, you learn how to play a crowd who isn’t listening. There, you learn how to play a crowd who is. After a few dozen shows at both, you’re ready for about just everything and anything.”

Cordero has been pacing the place since he arrived a few hours back. Up in the sound booth. Over in the corner. Side stage. Outside for a breather.

The Flatland Cavalry leader has a record release in four days on the very stage. It’d be understandable if he was just in for a beer and to staple some posters around the joint.

He starts off with a new tune he’s working on. Carving away he goes.

It’s 1:33 a.m.

It smells like a light rain that’ll cover town by morning. The grey haze of low hanging clouds cover the dark night sky and hidden moon. Street lights give a soft glow rather than their usual piercing glare.

New Music: Charlie Stout’s Opening Gig in Oklahoma

Charlie Stout
Charlie Stout.

by: Thomas D. Mooney

“It’s not a party starter.” 
–Charlie Stout

Lubbock singer-songwriter Charlie Stout slipped out the Opening Gig in Oklahoma live show recording on Soundcloud yesterday morning without ever mentioning it or throwing it on his jam-packed Bandcamp page.

This charming 20-minute recording is much like any acoustic Stout opening spot (though, this one is just six tracks long), this one being in an Oklahoma theater opening up for The Damn Quails. Recorded on his iPhone, the recording is full of creaks and cracking as Stout shuffles his feet back and forth during songs and banter.

At six songs long, he opens the show with three Dust & Wind songs before going into three newer songs, the tentatively-titled “Downtown,” “Home to Me,” and “West Texas in My Eye”–which features a walk on cameo by Bryon White of The Damn Quails singing harmonies.

Opening Gig isn’t necessarily a new Stout release or an essential, but it fits within a transition period within Stout’s songwriting. The first being 19th century murder ballad-centric tunes that have a flair for southern gothic themes and cowboys. and the more recent evolution of Stout’s writing, which finds him searching further for a sense of home and belonging. Songs like “Home to Me” and “West Texas in My Eye” are testaments to that shift and growth.

  1. I See Stars
  2. The Years That Go By
  3. The Hanging
  4. Downtown
  5. Home to Me
  6. West Texas in My Eye (featuring Bryon White of The Damn Quails)

Listen to Opening Gig below.

Video Premiere: Randall King’s “The Problem”

Randall King.
Randall King

by: Thomas D. Mooney

Singer-songwriter Randall King is yet another face and voice in this newest wave of songwriters who call Lubbock home. Like many, King’s cut his teeth at songwriter nights in the Panhandle the last few years. Still, King’s cut from cloth that’s a little different than his Panhandle contemporaries. While most are diving fully into Americana and various mixes of country-folk, King’s standing distinctly in neo-traditional country with a healthy dose of honky-tonk grit.

After releasing a successful debut, Old Dirt Road, in 2013,  the country crooner took the majority of the last two years to hone in on who he is as an artist and songwriter. Like many debuts, Old Dirt Road flashed glimpses of the raw potential. In King’s case, it was his classic country voice, honky-tonk attitude, and clever hook sensibilities mixed amongst the various directions Old Dirt Road went into.

Flash forward to the release of King’s newest single “The Problem,” the first from his new project, an EP titled Another Bullet, and it’s undoubtedly checks off everything you’d want in a Randall King song. Now, the chugging ear-worm neo-traditional county anthem has a proper music video to go along with it.

Watch music video premiere of “The Problem” below.


New Slang: “The Problem” has that distinct callback to late ’80s and early ’90s country radio. It starts off with that great analogy of how fixing engines isn’t like falling in love. Is that where the origins of the song came?

Randall King: When I started writing this song, it was coming off real honky-tonk country and I started out with that line, and was thinking to myself, “This is country, I’m gonna make this song as country as I can”. So in terms, yes. The line “It ain’t a diesel Cummins engine,” was the starting point to it all.

NS: It’s not jus the storytelling that’s a callback. It’s the ripping, chugging guitars and drive of the song. Were those licks always in your head when you were writing or something that developed once you shared it with the band?

RK: I actually wrote the opening guitar line as well as the rhythm of the guitars. When it goes to that halftime breakdown, I had all the parts the band would be playing in my head while I was writing it. That’s just how I write–which is why I was extremely happy to get to produce this song as well as this upcoming EP.

NS: Is “The Problem” just the tip of the spear so to speak for what the rest of the EP is going to sound or are you venturing off into other soundscapes as well?

RK: I  think, Alan Jackson, Keith Whitley, and even a little George Strait. Those are the guys I grew up listening to and have modeled myself after. The way their music was produced is a lot like what these five songs will be. It’s true country. You won’t here ’bout Fireball whiskey, dirt roads, or shaking your ass. The title of the EP is Another Bullet, which I wrote based on the dying life of the old cowboy way of living. Which, you can also take as the sound of country that’s been dying off the past few years. I am very blessed to be able to be who I am in this record and keep that traditional country sound around.

NS: You’ve been recording over with Bart Rose at Fort Worth Sound on this EP. When should we be expecting a release date? What’s been the biggest takeaway you’ve had working with Rose?

RK: Another Bullet should be out the middle of May. That’s our goal right now and we are very close to having it done. Bart is a very intelligent Engineer. He has no problem letting the artist be who they are, all while very steadily guiding and helping you achieve your goals. Young musicians looking to record, give him a shout.

NS: Last year, Panhandle Music really exploded with Dalton, Flatland, Benton, Red, No Dry County, Strangetowne, etc all releasing albums. How’d their success effect you? Was there any moments where you thought about rushing the release to get it out in ’15?

RK: Absolutely not. The last thing you ever want do is push a product that’s not ready. I wasn’t ready in ’15. RKB was undergoing a lot of changes that year and we found ourself and our momentum at the latter part of the year. I love the support that we all give each other. We all started around the same time doing the singer-songwriter nights at Blue Light, and it thrills me to see all the success that my friends and community are having in the scene.

The New Slang Podcast: Episode 002 John Baumann

John Baumann playing "asdfsa." Photograph by Thomas D. Mooney/New Slang.
John Baumann playing “Goodbye Whiskey.” Photograph by Thomas D. Mooney/New Slang.

by: Thomas D. Mooney

The second episode of The New Slang Podcast is with Texas singer-songwriter John Baumann–formerly known as John Edward Baumann. He stopped by one Saturday morning after playing a sold out show at The Blue Light the night before. On the episode, we talk about his evolution as a songwriter, his latest EP Departures, ’90s alternative rock band The Wallflowers, and our favorite dadisms. At the end, he performs the new, previously unrecorded song “Goodbye Whiskey.”

This episode is presented by The Blue Light Live and Lubbock country-roots band Flatland Cavalry‘s upcoming album, Humble Folks.

Subscribe to The New Slang Podcast on iTunes here.

Audio Player

Song Premiere: Dave Martinez’ “Gravity”

Dave Martinez. Photograph by Trace Thomas/New Slang.
Dave Martinez. Photograph by Trace Thomas/New Slang.

by: Thomas D. Mooney

The last time we heard Lubbock singer-songwriter Dave Martinez released an album, it was 2014’s lean, but strong Two Wolves, an extended play filled with five Martinez-penned acoustic ballads that was a fulfilling listen despite being over in 15 minutes.

It was built around the stark balance of Martinez’ acoustic guitar arrangements and his vocals that bounced between tender glows and timid warmth.

Two years later, the Lubbock artist is readying his next undertaking, an EP titled Panhandle Confessional. “The whole idea behind Panhandle Confessional is me describing the everyday scenes and life I’m experiencing in Lubbock, Southland, Amarillo–whatever part of the Panhandle I’m in at the time,” says Martinez.

This time around, Martinez is building an EP that’s going further into the full band sound. “I’m proud of the first EP, with its’ stripped down sound, but I’ve grown as an artist since Two Wolves,” says Martinez. “The fuller sound reflects where I’m at in my songwriting better. The challenge now is finding the balance between my solo acoustic roots and the full body sound that we found in the studio.”

To kick Panhandle Confessional off, Martinez has recorded the first single from the project titled “Gravity,” a smooth sailing country song. Recorded with Alan Crossland at Route 1, Acuff Studios, Martinez enlisted the help of fellow Lubbock musicians (and No Dry County members) Jonathan Dunlap, Dub Wood, and Matt Newsom to create the full band sound.

“Dub Wood actually came to me with the initial idea and chorus of the song,” says Martinez. “We worked it out over an afternoon. It’s basically the feeling you get as drinking progresses at a bar and you slowly realize you need to be going home alone.”

Martinez was initially set to finish Panhandle Confessional later this spring in Stephenville with Josh Serrato and Ben Hussey, but unfortunately, Martinez sliced open his hand causing some nerve damage and a surgery date.

“It’s been pretty frustrating,” Martinez admits. “I had all sorts of dates and timelines in place. As it stands with surgery coming up, that’s on a hold. Now plans are being reworked.”

Listen to “Gravity” below. “Gravity” will be released on iTunes the first of April. Go to Martinez’ Panhandle Confessional GoFundMe page here.


The New Slang Podcast: Episode 001 Evan Felker & R.C. Edwards of Turnpike Troubadours

Evan Felker of Turnpike Troubadours performing "Mockingbird." Photograph by Thomas D. Mooney/New Slang.
Evan Felker of Turnpike Troubadours performing “Mockingbird.” Photograph by Thomas D. Mooney/New Slang.

by: Thomas D. Mooney

In the first episode of The New Slang Podcast, we sat down with Turnpike Troubadours’ Evan Felker and R.C. Edwards. I picked up the two Oklahoma songwriters one afternoon before a gig in Lubbock, TX. In the interview, we discuss the origins of the band’s latest album, The Turnpike Troubadours, the songwriting process, the rise of the Oklahoman songwriter, among other various topics. At the end, Felker plays “Mockingbird,” a new song written by Felker, Edwards, and Texas singer-songwriter Jonny Burke.

This episode is presented by The Blue Light Live.

Subscribe to The New Slang Podcast on iTunes here.

Locating the Lubbock Sound

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