Two weeks back, Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark passed away at the age of 74. The Monahans native was singer-songwriter personified. His lasting impact on the what it was and is to be a songwriter from Texas is immeasurable. Last Monday, we sat up a couple of microphones in the pool room at The Blue Light and roughly recorded a handful of songwriters doing their favorite Clark ballads. There’s a little hints of ambiance picked up on the microphones from Songwriter Night going on the other side of the wall. In addition, we asked some of our favorite Lubbock songwriters to send in covers. It’s not meant to be perfect renditions or studio cuts of the songs–though, that wouldn’t be a bad idea either. They’re, at times, a little sloppy, a little rough or rushed, but the spirit of the singer-songwriter runs through each one of them. This is Part 2 of The Lubbock Does Guy Clark Podcast. For Part 1 and more Guy Clark covers by Lubbock (and surrounding area songwriters) listen to last week’s episode. The tracklist for this episode goes as follows: 01) “Anyhow, I Love You” by Charlie Shafter, 02) “Boats to Build” by Ross Cooper, 03) “The Carpenter” by Benton Leachman, 04) “Rita Ballou” by Wade Parks, 05) “The Cape” by Hayden Huse, 06) “That Old Time Feeling” by Dave Martinez, 07) “Heartbroke” by Stephen St. Clair, 08) “Broken Hearted People” by Zach Coffey, 09) “Rain in Durango” by Bryan Wheeler, 10) “Tornado Time in Texas” by Kenneth O’Meara, 11) “Stuff That Works” by Charlie Stout, and 12) “The Randall Knife” by Andy Hedges.
Last week, Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark passed away at the age of 74. The Monahans native was singer-songwriter personified. His lasting impact on the what it was and is to be a songwriter from Texas is immeasurable. This past Monday, we sat up a couple of microphones in the pool room at The Blue Light and roughly recorded a handful of songwriters doing their favorite Clark ballads. There’s a little hints of ambiance picked up on the microphones from Songwriter Night going on the other side of the wall. It’s not meant to be perfect renditions or studio cuts of the songs–though, that wouldn’t be a bad idea either. They’re, at times, a little sloppy, a little rough or rushed, but the spirit of the singer-songwriter runs through each one of them. The tracklist for this episode goes as follows: 01) “Texas Cookin'” by Randall King, 02) “Homegrown Tomatoes” by Mark Erickson, 03) “She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” by Zoe Carter, 04) “All She Wants Is You” by Dan Patterson, 05) “LA Freeway” by Gerald Salzarulo, 06) “She’s Crazy For Leavin'” by Parker Morrow, 07) “Hell Bent on a Heartache” by Jeff Dennis, 08) “Magnolia Wind” by Ben Mckenzie, 09) “Water Under the Bridge” by Tanner Castle, 10) “Die Tryin'” by Bristen Phillips, 11) “Dublin Blues” by Ronnie Eaton, and 12) “Out in the Parking Lot” by Cleto Cordero.
Ft. Worth via Lubbock singer-songwriter Grady Spencerreleased his latest album, his strongest so far, The Line Between, a few weeks back. Before an album release show in Lubbock, we sat down with the growing artist to discuss the making of and inspiration behind the hearty album. During our lengthy conversation we cover a varying array of topics ranging from how Lubbock is handling its’ fertile crop of rising songwriters and artists, the different philosophical interpretations of Jason Isbell’s songwriting, Spencer’s own evolution as a songwriter and the influence of songwriters such as Bruce Springsteen, Adam Hood, John Fullbright, and Oliver & Chris Wood (The Wood Brothers) have had on his craft.
A couple of years back, Lubbock songwriter Randall King released his debut album, Old Dirt Road. It was an uneven collection of 10 tracks that went back and forth between neo-traditional country callbacks to typical Texas country singer-songwriter tunes. Its best moments were just as high as any we’ve seen on a debut record in Lubbock. But, it was still a rough work in progress record from King. More than anything, Old Dirt Road was King getting his foot in the door and having something to work off.
It takes more time than most realize to develop and find their sound. While his Lubbock contemporaries have seen plenty of success with their own albums, King’s been sitting back and searching for that sound, which he’s ultimately found with his upcoming Another Bullet, a tightly-wound five-tracker built around his last single, the guitar-chugging “The Problem.”
Now King’s path from Old Dirt Road to Another Bullet isn’t an outright jump to something totally foreign or anything. But his fine tuning and focus on neo-traditional country ballads and honky-tonk homages has paid dividends. At just five songs, it never hits a lull or dragged down by filler tunes nor does it ever feel like a stop-gap collection just to buy time for an upcoming full-length album.
The slow burn of “Ain’t Waiting on You” reminds you of late ’80s and early ’90s country radio ballads by Keith Whitley (“I’m Over You”) and another King, early George Strait (“Chill of an Early Fall”). There’s a dose of melancholy weaved in that channels the two’s slower, lonesome moments.
“Another Bullet” is perhaps King’s best moment as a songwriter. It still rests in his ’90s country world of slick, wallowing pedal steel and smart hooks. But, it also lives in the realm of cowboy folk and acoustic singer-songwriter circles. It’d work just as well as a bare bones piece. With hints of West Texas dust and Ryan Bingham grit, King transforms into the cowboy on a shrinking range.
“Hard Livin’ Ilene” finds King and company–in this case, Cleto Cordero of Flatland Cavalry joins the fray–revving and ready to go. On the honky-tonk rambler, King and Cordero give us a tour of the trailer park and King’s crumbling Airstream and relationship. As they’d say, the world’s gone to hell since Ilene left.
Another Bullet is officially released this coming Friday, May 20. In addition, King and company will be playing an Album Release show at The Blue Light on Friday. Exclusively stream Another Bullet below.
Like many of his West Texas contemporaries, Daniel Markham has often been able to tap into the isolating, yet calm lonesomeness of The Panhandle. Whether it be Thrift Store Cowboys and Amanda Shires of the last decade, Terry Allen and The Flatlanders of the late ’70s, or Buddy Holly and Wink-native Roy Orbison of the late ’50s, they all the ability to capture the parting winds of the flatlands and the blistering sun of the West Texas deserts. It was engrained in their sound–becoming signature for each in their own shades.
The now Denton-based Markham, a decade in as a songwriter and musician, presents his third solo full-length album, Disintegrator. Third. In ways, that’s a misleading description. In reality, it marks his 12th release–following Waiting to Derail’s self-titled, One Wolf’s One Wolf I and One Wolf II: Secret of the Wolf, Larry Legion and Forest of Swords under the Larry Legion persona, solo works Demonstrations, Hexagons, Ruined My Life, Pretty Bitchin’, and the collaborative efforts of Smoke Paint with Tony Ferraro and Harmony in Hell with Claire Morales.
Though looking at an assortment of 12 albums and EPs can be overwhelming, it’s also necessary to fully understand Markham’s trek and path as an artist.
It’s here where Markham separates himself from not only his Panhandle counterparts, but from the majority of songwriters in general, outside the likes of Conor Oberst or Ryan Adams. With such a high release rate, one would assume a slip in quality, a loss of focus, or a disinterest that comes with oversaturation.
Contrary to that notion, Markham’s Disintegrator finds him sharp and zeroing in on the sound and voice he’s been seeking from the outset. Though he’s never fully settled down as a specific kind of songwriter or band, his transparent, effective melodies have been a constant. Following the likes of Alex Chilton, Elliott Smith, and Chris Isaak, they’re as right as rain throughout.
Undoubtedly, Markham’s sound isn’t solely based on the open spaces and long, empty highways of West Texas–or even realized by Markham until well into his career–but, like many others, they crept in after a lifetime of living in the area.
Markham’s roots and admiration of the likes of R.E.M., Big Star, Centro-Matic, Jason Molina, and Vic Chesnutt all find their way in. It’s part of his music equation. He often wears these influences on his sleeve rather than hide and pretend they didn’t seep in along the way.
Though all of them trace their origins to other regions of the US, Markham’s search for them is, still in some form, a result of growing up in Rotan, Texas. That hunt for something from the outside, it too comes from West Texas roots, even if only by proxy.
The vast majority of Disintegrator leaves as quickly as it comes. Except for the final two tracks, songs come and go in under three minutes. It creates a longing for songs as they pass. They never overstay their welcome or become too repetitive.
Standout “Disintegrator,” in ways, feels like Markham tip-toeing in a lo-fi version of dream-pop. Maybe the fading dream of a dram of dream-pop. It sets the initial high bar for the 10 songs to follow.
Much like most of Markham’s work, the greatest qualities within the album come through its subtleties. It’s the haunting pedal of “Slayer Tapes & AM Radio,” the Born in the USA Springsteenesque synth line of “Land of Men,” and the T. Rex hop of “Zelda” that push the album over the top.
In many ways, Disintegrator feels like Markham is driving on endless highway or stuck in the darkest hours of night. Very little light makes its’ way in. When it does, it’s only the flash of a flame. There’s a slight sense of restlessness that only teases out on certain lines and phrases. Much like a Springsteen’s Nebraska or Elliott Smith’s From a Basement on the Hill, Disintegrator finds Markham pacing around with these songs.
Disintegrator is officially released tomorrow, Friday, May 06. You can pre-order the album (as well as Markham back catalog) here. Before though, exclusively preview the album in full below.
This week, we catch up with Dallas singer-songwriter Troy Cartwright. After releasing an EP (Bull Run) and a full-length (Troy Cartwright) in the last couple years, Cartwright seems poised to rise as a voice and songwriter within the Americana and Texas music worlds with his upcoming album, What Happened Was. On this week’s episode, we discuss the making of the album, the ranking of Ryan Adams albums, and the genius qualities within the music of Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton. At the end, he plays “Busted,” a new track from the upcoming What Happened Was.
Lubbock country-rocker outfit No Dry County released The Night Before–their first full-length–roughly a year a back. The 12-track album displayed a band who had found a thought out, concise central theme and vibe after years of experimenting and testing their way through packed dive bars and rough honky-tonks on their ever search for the right pieces and places.
The Night Before was a genuine account of life on the road–the highest of highs and the lowest of lows–a band finds on the open, lonesome highway. More than anything, you found an earnest five-piece looking to push themselves as far out as possible without falling off the proverbial cliff. You have to keep the home fires burning somehow. You can’t let their glimmer disappear completely. “Till the Wheels Fall Off” captures that anxious hesitation of losing touch with what, and more importantly, who are left home.
“I ended up writing that song for my wife,” says lead vocalist Trent Langford. “It was about four or five months before our wedding and I was questioning her decision-making skills based o her acceptance of my proposal. I remember thinking that her parents couldn’t have been overjoyed when she brought a musician home–which led to the line ‘I ain’t the one you mama prayed for’–but it ended up being a love song admitting that I’m incapable of being what she deserves, but that I’m in it for the long haul.”
This summer, NDC and Oklahoma’s Chance Anderson Band are teaming up for a 23-date co-headline tour–including The Blue Light this Saturday, April 30. We caught up with Langford earliest this week with five questions about their Red River Revival Tour with Anderson, The Night Before, and where the band goes from here.
Watch the new lyric video for No Dry County’s newest single, “Till The Wheels Fall Off” above.
New Slang: It’s been a little over a year since the release of The Night Before. That record really captured the “NDC sound” that you guys had been searching for. Has that turned into confidence for you and the band when it comes to new songwriting?
Trent Langford: I do think in the process of making the last album we found some vibes we hadn’t captured before and a lot of that has to do with the producers we worked with in Jay Saldana, Josh Serrato and Alan Crossland. They were able to pull certain nuances out of the band that we really latched on to. That, paired with the continued maturation of this group, the consistency of having the same guys working together creatively over four years has played a huge role in establishing a sound.
NS: You guys have really been a champion of Panhandle Music–establishing it as a way to not only describe your sound, but to describe what’s been coming out of the region. So much of The Night Before is about the struggles and temptations of life on the road. In there though, there’s a lot of longing for home and family. Is describing and finding a sense of home the natural progression–whether that’s your real flatland roots or figurative state of mind
TL: I’m not sure we made a conscious decision for the material to have any specific theme. We did however want the storytelling to be brutally honest to what we were seeing in our own lives, as well as within our scene and society in general. A good majority of that album was written on a six-week tour of the east coast, which was pretty rough living and I think writing within that atmosphere naturally led to a longing for what we left in the Panhandle.
NS: You went up to Turkey, Texas a few weeks back to work on new material and get ready for this Red River Revival Tour. How’d that charge the batteries for you guys?
TL: It really was refreshing. Bristen [Phillips] and I have some deep roots in Turkey and spent a lot of time there growing up so it’s always fun when we can get back. It’s tough to get significant writing done when we’re playing 3-4 shows a week. Plus it’s hard block out distractions (and keep from going to Blue Light) when we’re in Lubbock, so we like to find somewhere away from everything, without cell service and unplug for a while. We locked ourselves in a room at The Lumberyard for about 36 hours and did a lot of constructive arguing. We liked what we came up with, so we added six of those new songs to the set to try out on this tour. We’ll see if they have any legs or I guess its back to Turkey.
NS: The Red River Revival Tour with Chance Anderson Band kicked off last week. It covers places you’ve played before, but also ventures into a lot of uncharted territory. Where are you most excited to get to?
TL: I get excited to play new markets, especially college towns, check out the foodie joints and do some sight-seeing. The cool part about this tour is about a third are places we’ve never been, a third are places Chance has never played and the rest we’ve both been playing a long time. I’m sure we’ll find some new favorite spots along the way but aside from our hometown shows at The Blue Light and Wormy Dog, I’m looking forward to getting back to Denver and Nashville. Both places have really unique scenes and rarely disappoint.
NS: It’s a lot of time on the road. You binge watching any shows? Taking some books? How are you filling the time on the actual road?
TL: Binge watching Homeland, The Blacklist and some CNN documentaries. Reading The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom and The Coward by Kyle Bullock. Playing golf when at all possible.
This week’s episode is with two great American songwriters of the new generation: William Clark Green and BJ Barham of American Aquarium. Green and Barham are cut from with same cloth. They write from personal experiences that transcend their own bubbles and relate to people in the most intimate of ways. There’s a grit and edge to their songs that cut straight to the core. We pulled Green and Barham away for an hour a few Fridays back to record the episode in the midst of the circus that was Green’s Street Party at The Blue Light. We cover a handful of topics ranging from their early struggles as musicians, their alma maters (North Carolina State & Texas Tech University), road stories, and lazy radio interview questions.
Last Fall, Zoe Carter won The Blue Light Fall Singer-Songwriter competition. In many ways, it was a testament to Carter’s persistence and continuing growth as a songwriter and performer as it was natural talent. Her win wasn’t just because she had two great songs and a great performance that night–that was certainly part of that–but it was also built and earned on the Mondays when no one was watching (And, I’d add she still goes to nearly every Monday).
Adding her name to the list of Songwriter winners hasn’t changed the Lubbock songwriter’s foundation and philosophy on how to write, but there certainly has been a boost of confidence in Carter’s presence. It’s not everything, but it is something.
Fast forward a few months and Carter is releasing her debut self-titled EP. Recorded at Route 1 Acuff Studios with Alan Crossland at the helm, the six-tracker guides its’ way smoothly from start to finish without snags of monotony or drivel.
Part of Carter’s charm is her grasp of the English language. She doesn’t settle for common and overused words. Rarely does it feel forced or aloof. While “Barroom Muse” does slightly feel like a writing exercise turn song, she doesn’t spend too much time trying to force square pegs in round holes.
“Crosby County Blues” is Carter’s glowing moment on the EP. It’s where her casual country folk blends in perfectly with Laurel Canyon ’70s emotion and West Texas dust and landscape. It feels as close to Susan Gibson or Wade Parks as anyone has ventured in recent memory. Musically, the fiddle and guitar twang puts her right in step with Ryan Bingham’s early tune “Roadhouse Gypsy.” It’s a dusty, windswept song. Lines like “I’ve gotta bottle in my hand and some real bad news” are delivered perfectly with Carter’s warm quivering voice. It lets the sad sinking feeling ease its’ way in.
For the most part, the EP is intimate bedroom folk that traverses into diary highlights ever so often. Zoe Carter is just that. There’s not any moments where she steers off that course in search of a pandering radio ballad or “I’m just one of the guys, y’all. See? I drink too!” party anthem attempts. It’s Carter doing Carter in her own distinct Carter way.
Exclusively stream Carter’s debut EP below. Her CD release show is this upcoming Wednesday, April 20 at The Blue Light. Zoe Carter is officially released this coming Friday, April 22.
Buddy Holly’s statue stares off into the distance. A block over on the street that bears his name, William Clark Green is having a street show party out in front of The Blue Light. Storms are brooding off in the distance. Armed with his colossal Stratocaster, Holly acts as a warning to rain clouds and thunderheads as if saying “None shall pass.” Holly, the patron saint of Lubbock Music.
Green and company–a clan consisting of American Aquarium, Red Shahan, and Flatland Cavalry–start the day off with confidence, but a concerned eye glued to doppler radar and local weather reports.
Starting at 8 am, an imposing stage is being raised in the intersection of Buddy Holly and 18th. Cones, street barriers, trolleys of beer, signs, flags, trash cans, BBQ smoking on the side, speakers and amps, makeshift bars, guitars and cases, chairs and tables, cables and cash registers, buckets of t-shirts, koozies, CDs, vinyl, buck whiskey bottles, and a whole of burn extract begin taking shape into something recognizing a day festival of music. A colony of Blue Light staff come in and out the The Blue Light like a colony of ants out of a mound.
Inside in pool room, Green and BJ Barham of American Aquarium are finishing up a podcast episode with us. They bounce cordial–but sincere–lines of reverence off one another before letting loose a little and diving deep into music conversation. We hit record.
A line forms. Doors won’t be officially open until 7 pm, but there they form a line snaking around the barriers and going down the far sidewalk in front of Triple J’s. You can hear an echo when you walk into Blue Light still. It’s a calm before the eventual storm of people who will crowd the bar. Get a beer and shot while you still can.
At 7:15 sharp, Flatland drummer Jason Albers begins pounding a beat. One by one, Flatland comes out adding more to Albers’ hammer downs.
So it goes.
Below is a section of photographs taken throughout the day. For more, check out New Slang’s Flickr page here.