by: Thomas D. Mooney
After a year in which the likes of William Clark Green, Red Shahan, Ryan Culwell, and Strangetowne all released monster records, coming into 2016 felt as though it simply could not live up to such a standard left by 2015. And while the sheer number of albums, EPs, and one-off singles did go down, the release of albums like Flatland Cavalry’s Humble Folks, Randall King’s Another Bullet, Grady Spencer & The Work’s The Line Between, and several others made sure 2016’s top releases shined just as bright as 2015’s record class.
Below, you’ll find our 2016 countdowns–Top 25 Releases (Full Lengths & Extended Plays) and Top 50 Songs–as well as other notable releases and reissues that were released in 2016.
Note: Records/EPs released in the waning days of the December are considered the following years’ releases. Lubbock outfits Spivey and Sugarwitch respectively released excellent EPs in Chief’s Hideout and Fancy Practice these past few weeks.
Top 25 Panhandle Releases of 2016
Top 50 Panhandle Songs of 2016
Top 25 Panhandle Releases
25. Welcome to Babylon
The brightest moments on Jim Dixon’s latest EP are when he and guitarist/co-producer Brian McRae are kicking up the West Texas dust. Tracks like “Unlucky Horses” find Dixon and McRae fiddling around in the West Texas and Eastern New Mexico heat. There’s subtle Spaghetti Western nods that feel like worn and rugged. On “She Hates My Guitar,” Dixon feels more at home than on any previous material released. While the song was written about and for fellow Lubbock songwriter Danny Cadra and his young daughter, there’s plenty of Dixon’s own personal life within the intimate ballad.
Key Tracks: “Unlucky Horses,” “She Hates My Guitar”
24. Gypsy Jane & The Travelers
Gypsy Jane & The Travelers
On their self-titled debut, Gypsy Jane & The Travelers navigate through various genre styles all the while never straying too far from the a gypsy jazz foundation. While more traditional folk moments, Tex-Mex hints, and rockabilly nods all happen throughout, it’s that identifiable gypsy jazz progression and tones that drive the record forward. Songs like “Stars,” “Stop & Smell the Roses,” and standout “Woe” feel just as rooted in Los Lobos, Ry Cooder, or Chingon as much as some like Django Reinhardt.
Key Tracks: “Stars,” “Torn Sails,” “Woe”
23. Zoe Carter
Part of Zoe Carter’s charm is her grasp of the English language. She doesn’t settle for common and overused words. Rarely does it feel forced or aloof. For the most part, the EP is intimate bedroom folk that traverses into diary highlights ever so often. Zoe Carter is just that. There’s not any moments where she steers off that course in search of a pandering radio ballad or “I’m just one of the guys, y’all. See? I drink too!” party anthem attempts. It’s Carter doing Carter in her own distinct way.
Key Tracks: “24,” “Crosby County Blues”
22. Panhandle+Whirl Wind+Sunlight EPs
After releasing their debut self-titled EP in 2015, Panhandle band Shotgun Rider amped up the ante with three EPs–Panhandle, Whirl Wind, and Sunlight–all released in 2016. In many respects, it kept the band’s name floating around every few months with newer, fresher material. Over the course of the 13 tracks, the band recirculates through bar drama and honky-tonk heartache that’d rival Urban Cowboy. Logan Samford time and again shows off a strong vocal delivery hitting highs on catchy choruses that feel as polished as Nashville hits without ever fully diving head first and become too shiny.
Key Tracks: “Here and Gone,” “Mess I’m In,” “Sunlight”
21. The Axis of Equality
Despite being only some 11-minutes-and-change long, Judiciary’s The Axis of Equality lingers on. It’s just good old fashioned hardcore aggression being taken head on by the Lubbock four-piece. Still, there’s more to Judiciary’s sound than just a hardcore influence. Even when songs hover around the three-minute length, there’s no doubt they could easily have gone a more sludge or doom metal route and lengthened the songs into eternity due to their strong, piercing guitar riffs. The Axis of Equality bookends “The Axis of Equality” and “Silent Vice” reveal that fusion guitar wielding merger.
Key Tracks: “March of the Abuser,” “Silent Vice”
20. Then Sings My Soul…Songs for My Mother
After the massive releases of Wade Bowen and Hold My Beer Vol. 1 (with Randy Rogers) in ’14 and ’15, Bowen’s Then Sings My Soul…Songs for My Mother, in many respects, flew under the radar in 2016. What started out as a collection of traditional gospel songs Bowen went and recorded as a gift for his mother, Then Sings My Soul was originally never going to be released to the public. Despite not being the usual Bowen release, Then Sings My Soul is a nice fresh breath of air and exhale for the songwriter. For the most part, Bowen takes the 12 tracks of Then Sings My Soul and plays it on the straight and narrow without ever venturing too far from the original interpretations of the traditional. In this case, it’s not needed, but rather, inviting.
Key Tracks: “Just over in the Glory Land,” “Farther Along,” “Old Rugged Cross”
19. Love to Live By
After a six-year hiatus, Amarillo’s loud country pioneers Cooder Graw began playing shows again back in 2012. After a handful of once-a-month gigs, folks began asking if and when new material would once again start circulating from lead vocalist and chief songwriter Matt Martindale and company. Fast-forward four years and it’s just now that the band has released Love to Live By. They’re maybe not as “loud” as they once were circa 2000, but Martindale’s storytelling has aged well–much like Robert Earl Keen’s later material. Tracks like “Hello From Hell” and “Mexican Blues” have just as many Tex-Mex textures as they have West Texas space. Still, “Virginia Slims & Little Kings” show there’s still plenty of room for those vintage crashing rock licks.
Key Tracks: “Hello From Hell,” “Love to Live By”
18. Said & Heard
While the majority of Lubbock songwriters are venturing further and further into Americana and country veins, Derek Bohl is going against the grain. His debut EP, Said & Heard, is a bit of fresh air. His acoustic pop sensibilities lean more towards John Mayer than John Prine, John Mellencamp, or Johnny Cash. Armed with light and crisp vocals, Bohl’s able to take choruses to another stratosphere–even when the vast majority of his material is about going through some stage of heartbreak. Highlights like “It Won’t Be Easy,” “(I Can’t Sleep) Through This,” and “San Francisco” all have an intimacy about them that feel genuine to Bohl without ever feeling too specific or conversely, too cliche or trite.
Key Tracks: “It Won’t Be Easy,” “(I Can’t Sleep) Through This”
17. Remember Who You Are
Despite only being six songs long, Susan Gibson still covers a lot of ground on Remember Who You Are, her first batch of new material since 2011’s excellent album, Tightrope. EP starter “Good News” has an infectious banjo strum that lays the groundwork as Gibson traverses the tabloid and gossip reports that have flooded the news and pop culture landscapes. And while “Good News” and “Shoulda” have a smile-and-nod playfulness to them, Gibson shows that she’s still able to carve out a serious song with the best of them. The best moments of Remember Who You Are are when Gibson’s most reflective ones. It’s on “Little Piece of Heaven” and “Remember Who You Are” when Gibson’s songwriting really glows. It’s her, at times, quirky details, that really breathe life into the vivid imagery and make songs more than just memories.
Key Tracks: “Good News,” “Little Piece of Heaven,” “Remember Who You Are”
Brooklyn/Austin-via-Lubbock psych garage rockers The Numerators’ Strange finds the band fleshing out their fuzzed-induced and reverb-enhanced sound more so than ever before. There’s a balance between a laid-back slacker lo-fi sound and structured guitar wails, howls, and echoing grooves. With only roughly 16 hours to record and mix the entire album, Burgers and Sammi Rana–the two primary members of The Numerators–enlisted the help of Lubbock guitarist Andrew Chavez (Rattlesnake Milk, LaPanza, etc) and Ian Rundell (Ghetto Ghouls) to record Strange at Rundell’s Austin studio, Second Hand Taco. Rather than rushing the band, it made them hone in on a sound and vibe. That organic flow culminates on the chill-wave grooves of “The Karachi Kid” and “Lonely Wave” as well as the nostalgic surf rock and rockabilly licks of “Chencho” and “Wastoid.”
Key Tracks: “Chencho,” “The Karachi Kid,” “Bill”
15. Midnight Snack
Eddie & The Eat
For lead vocalist and lyricist Eddie Esler in particular, Midnight Snack has been a long time coming. After the breakup of his last band, the bluegrassy Turbine Toolshed and a few years roaming solo, The EAT gave him some structure and the device needed to properly execute the heap of songs he’d been writing. With Midnight Snacks, The EAT takes a giant step in the right direction as they put a focus on blending subtle moments of confession and admission with rootsy backbeats and rhythms and, at times, spacey guitar licks that come rushing from the stratosphere and beyond.
Key Tracks: “Southbound,” “Flowers in December,” “Dripping Red”
Alissa Beyer is the mainstay and force within Lubbock pop-punk band The Forty-Eight. On the latest release, Villain, Beyer relies on a savvy background and experience within the pop world. Armed with her piercing vocal range, Villain soars to heights that other albums simply can’t. While the seven-track release certainly has one foot firmly planted in the pop-punk realm, Beyer continuously takes influence in other pop extremes. There’s subtle nods to ’80s drum machine beats, disco keys, and even darker tones that could pass as shadowy synth pop.
Key Tracks: “Villain,” “Fast Life,” “Pane Plane (Newer Worlds)”
13. Go Thank Yourself
After a handful of years in some sort of album purgatory, Tori Vasquez’ Go Thank Yourself finally received a proper and official release–albeit, it did get trimmed down to an extended play in the process. Still, the bite and aggression found on the full-length version (you can find it at live shows and via Vasquez’ official website). The songs that remain–“Thin Air,” “Makin’ What I Make,” “The Storm,” “Black Sheep,” and “Her Holiness is Dead”–all reveal Vasquez’ progression and growth as a singer-songwriter and performer since her 2011 debut, Let It Go. While Let It Go was a superb release, it lacked the melody and vocal experimentation that Go Thank Yourself successfully executes time and again.
Key Tracks: “Thin Air,” “The Storm,” “Black Sheep”
12. Cowboy Songster Vol. 2
As the title suggests, Cowboy Songster Vol. 2 is Andy Hedges’ second helping of old trail songs and cowboy tradition. Much like 2013’s Cowboy Songster, Hedges’ approach is deeply rooted in tradition–and keeping that tradition alive and relevant. Songs like “Ragged But Right,” “Clayton Boone,” “Get Along Little Dogies,” and “Button Willow Tree” all have origins that date back 100 years or so. He turns the page back with his acoustic interpretations that often show just how little has changed in the West Texas and Eastern New Mexico landscapes. “Into the West,” originally written by legendary cowboy poet S. Omar Barker back in the mid-1920s is a standout. You can almost hear the crackling of campfire as Hedges eases into the three-stanza piece with soft, simple guitar strumming. Like many in the tradition, the words are worn and worked. They’re lived in. The grace and maturity within the story is only matched by Hedges’ kind, relaxed delivery.
Key Tracks: “Ragged but Right,” “Into the West,” “Charlie Rutledge,” “Walkin’ Down the Line,” “Old Texas/Lonesome Road Blues”
11. Live at Gruene Hall
William Clark Green
On William Clark Green’s first live album, Live at Gruene Hall, Green decided to try and capture the standard WCG, circa 2016 show (Granted, if Jack Ingram performed “Goodnight Moon” at the end of every show). Recorded over a two-night stand at Gruene Hall, Green and company essentially did that. The bells and whistles of the record aren’t frills or add-ons; it’s what you’re typically going to hear each and every night they take the main stage. At 19 tunes long, Green plows through the hits–“Next Big Thing,” “Hanging Around,” “Old Fashioned,” “Rose Queen,” “Sympathy,” “Wishing Well,” “Ringling Road,” “She Likes the Beatles” and more–with a handful of aptly-timed cameos from Dani Flowers, Ross Cooper, Randall Clay, and the aforementioned Ingram. And while there’s plenty of rambunctious moments that amp the crowd into a frenzy, some of Live at Gruene Hall‘s best moments are when Green slows things down with the likes of “Caroline,” “Gypsy,” and best of all, “Still Think About You.”
Key Tracks: “Dead or In Jail,” “Old Fashioned,” “Gypsy,” “Still Think About You,” “Ringling Road,” “Goodnight Moon”
10. Midnight With No Stars
With Midnight With No Stars, West Texas native Natalie Schlabs released one of the year’s most underrated albums. On it, she dissects the ups and downs of your late 20s. Songs feel as intimate as whispers. Tracks like “Every Word” and “Where Am I Gonna Go” show a stark truthfulness we often save for conversations with only ourselves. Her soothing vocals enhance those honest notions. Songs like “Midnight with No Stars,” The House is Burning,” and “Throw a Spark” has Schlabs pulling back the layers of relationships. Throughout, she spends time revealing both sides of the coin. Her pop sense keeps the folk-leaning songs from ever growing tired or stale.
Key Tracks: “Drowning in the Wave,” “The House is Burning,” “Midnight With No Stars,” “Every Word”
09. Dustbowl Soul
Zac Wilkerson’s sophomore album, Dustbowl Soul, really picks up right where his self-titled debut left off. Songs like “Tell The Truth” and “The Only One” find Wilkerson delivering crunchy blues riffs that are one-part country soul and one-part MoTown era pop. He adds more to the formula this time around though. Songs like “Baby Don’t Go Crazy” and “Give Me Just a Moment” find Wilkerson and company falling in line with early country guitar picking and Western Swing movements. Still, for all of Wilkerson’s prominent outside influences–the country dustbowl and R&B soul groove–it’s when he’s at his most private, intimate, and simple where he finds his primary voice as a songwriter and vocalist. The album closing “Scar” isn’t just the best song on the album; it’s one of the best songs to be released in recent Panhandle memory.
Key Tracks: “Tell the Truth,” “Love Me Like You’re Losing Me,” “Amarillo Funk,” “Scar”
08. Another Bullet
While his Lubbock contemporaries have seen plenty of success with their own albums, Randall King has been sitting back and searching for that sound, which he’s ultimately found with his upcoming Another Bullet, a tightly-wound five-tracker built around his last single, the guitar-chugging “The Problem.” His fine tuning and focus on neo-traditional country ballads and honky-tonk homages has paid dividends. At just five songs, it never hits a lull or dragged down by filler tunes nor does it ever feel like a stop-gap collection just to buy time for an upcoming full-length album. The slow burn of “Ain’t Waiting on You” reminds you of late ’80s and early ’90s country radio ballads by Keith Whitley (“I’m Over You”) and another King, early George Strait (“Chill of an Early Fall”). There’s a dose of melancholy weaved in that channels the two’s slower, lonesome moments. “Another Bullet” is perhaps King’s best moment as a songwriter. It still rests in his ’90s country world of slick, wallowing pedal steel and smart hooks. But, it also lives in the realm of cowboy folk and acoustic singer-songwriter circles. It’d work just as well as a bare bones piece. With hints of West Texas dust and Ryan Bingham grit, King transforms into the cowboy on a shrinking range.
Key Tracks: “Ain’t Waitin’ On You,” “Another Bullet,” “Hard Livin’ Illene”
07. Dust & Wind+OKLAHOMA (Live Bootleg)+Maine Country
While yes, technically recorded and released last year, Charlie Stout’s Dust & Wind saw its’ official release this past summer. By now, you’re probably familiar with the story about how Stout drove out into the New Mexican desert and recorded at the First Presbyterian Church in the deserted town of Taiban. A less confident songwriter wouldn’t have dared to put himself out in the elements with just his guitar, a handful of microphones, and little else. But makes it work is Stout’s relentless attention to detail and the quest for writing stories that feel as rugged as they do feel genuine. OKLAHOMA, a live opening gig recording Stout documented with his iPhone 5S, makes Dust & Wind sound like a Phil Spector Wall of Sound record. But again, despite its’ rough edges and lo-fi quality, it’s because of the songs recorded that makes it worth the investment. Songs like “Downtown,” “Feels Like Home,” and “West Texas in My Eye” all make appearances with a handful of Dust & Wind tunes–as well as former Damn Quails members Kevin “Haystack” Foster” (fiddle on “The Hanging”) and Bryon White (background vocals on “West Texas In My Eye”). With the wood creaking beneath Stout’s footsteps, Stout’s truest form, a storyteller, emerges. Even with the tongue-in-cheek throwaway tunes Stout developed in the middle of the summer called Maine Country has a level of integrity. He’s of course poking fun at the idea of Texas Country. But again, the devil is in the details. He throws in references to places like Acadia, Mount Desert Island, and Frenchman’s Bay the same way Texas Country radio has made cliches about fields of bluebonnets, the Stockyards, and The Alamo.
Key Tracks: “I See Stars,” “Resurrection Day,” “Dust & Wind,” “West Texas in My Eye”
06. The Line Between+New Nail EP
Grady Spencer & The Work
Much like Grady Spencer’s catalog–Sleep, Sunday’s Ships, and The Seminole Optimist’s Club–The Line Between finds Spencer working within the realm of fat guitar lines, sharp tones, and a warm smoothness that weaves itself throughout. Though, this time around, it’s his best sounding. Sonically, it wraps around you with its pristine, natural glow. As a songwriter, Spencer is a swinging hammer. Each time, he’s hitting the proverbial nail in the board a little further down. It’s always been clear that Spencer’s main muse has been his wife, but an underlying theme has always been the blue-collar working man. While previous works found Spencer hitting his stride on first-person love ballads, but songs like “Goats” falls closer to the likes of River-era Springsteen and Songs by John Fullbright. Here, for the first real time, we see Spencer holding the short end of the stick. He’s a doomed man–not because of any character flaws–but because he’s willing to bet on himself.
Key Tracks: “Winning Wrong,” “Nothing is Bad,” “Austin,” “Goats,” “Home Remedy”
05. Uncouth Pilgrims
Plenty of songwriters end up writing about the seemingly endless road. For most of us, we’re familiar with the American ramblers of the past who either traveled to California during the Great Depression (think Woody Guthrie) and/or up towards urban centers during the Great Migration (think Mississippi Delta blues). For Keegan McInroe, most of the roaming within Uncouth Pilgrims is primarily influenced by his numerous treks across Europe in recent years. The way he ultimately conveys these European vignettes, it’s deeply rooted within the country, folk, and blues–American storytelling music. “Country Music Outlaws” rambles on like genuine country songs from the ’70s such as Willie’s “Me & Paul,” David Allan Coe’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name,” and Billy Jo Shaver’s “Honky Tonk Heroes” with McInroe filling in his own “outlaw” tales and tongue-in-cheek digs at those who claim to be bona fide outlaws and country music prophets. Songs like “I Got Trouble” and “Nikolina” play a nice gritty counter to the prototypical softness to storytelling songwriter ballads like “Tonight” and “Woody & Ruth.”
Key Tracks: “Country Music Outlaws,” “Give Me the Rain,” “Woody & Ruth,” “I Got Trouble,” “Nikolina”
Daniel Markham’s Disintegrator finds him sharp and zeroing in on the sound and voice he’s been seeking from the outset. Though he’s never fully settled down as a specific kind of songwriter or band, his transparent, effective melodies have been a constant. Following the likes of Alex Chilton, Elliott Smith, and Chris Isaak, they’re as right as rain throughout. Undoubtedly, Markham’s sound isn’t solely based on the open spaces and long, empty highways of West Texas–or even realized by Markham until well into his career–but, like many others, they crept in after a lifetime of living in the area. Markham’s roots and admiration of the likes of R.E.M., Big Star, Centro-Matic, Jason Molina, and Vic Chesnutt all find their way in. It’s part of his music equation. He often wears these influences on his sleeve rather than hide and pretend they didn’t seep in along the way. Much like most of Markham’s work, the greatest qualities within the album come through its subtleties. It’s the haunting pedal of “Slayer Tapes & AM Radio,” the Born in the USA Springsteenesque synth line of “Land of Men,” and the T. Rex hop of “Zelda” that push the album over the top.
Key Tracks: “Disintegrator,” “Slayer Tapes & AM Radio,” “Land of Men,” “Show Me What You Got”
03. My Piece of Land
On My Piece of Land, Amanda Shires’ fifth solo album, she sounds about as confident as one can get as a performer and songwriter. This go around, there’s less murder ballads than in the past. But she still has a knack for diving into the darker, murkier sides of the human condition. “Harmless” and “Pale Fire” play like confessions from a past life. Lines like “If thunder had a color” and “she lost his eagle-feathered roach clip” are rich with details. When she revisits the revealing and intimate “Mineral Wells”–first cut on 2009’s West Cross Timbers–she falls back into the moment as if it was recently written. Always a Leonard Cohen fan, Shires has often channeled the recently passed poet and songwriter with a descriptive line or two here and there. But on the closing statements for My Piece of Land, she shares her most comparable Cohen composition. “You Are My Home,” much like Cohen’s “I’m Your Man,”–a song Shires’ has done throughout her career–is decisive and sharp. And while it may be in part a homage to Cohen’s tone and technique, it undoubtedly stands independent and on its’ own credence.
Key Tracks: “Pale Fire,” “My Love (The Storm),” “When You’re Gone,” “Mineral Wells,” “You Are My Home”
02. Public Domain
Outlier–guitarist Anthony Garcia and violinist Melanie Lenau–very well could be the most talented individuals within the modern Panhandle music community. They’re undoubtedly the most versatile. After Outlier and PianoViolin in recent memory–one a hearty desert rock album and one a towering and elegant instrumental–it seemed as though anything was within the realm of possibilities for their third. In several ways, Public Domain is Outlier blending the two. As the title suggests, Public Domain is primarily traditional songs–Irish, Spanish, and Western Swing. They take on perhaps the most iconic of material with songs “Malagueña Salerosa,” “Faded Love,” “Salty Dog,” “Rocky Road to Dublin,” and others all making appearances. Time and again, the duo deliver takes that are forward and progressive, yet hold onto their traditional value. “The Wind,” one of two originals to make the cut, finds Garcia and Lenau arranging one of their greatest compositions. Musically, “The Wind” could have been an instrumental easily fitting within the confounds of PianoViolin. There’s a gentle beauty and grace in Lenau’s soft violin pieces while Garcia seamlessly transitions from acoustic guitar to piano and back again. And still, lyrically, it’d have been right at home with Outlier‘s isolating and stark desert world.
Key Tracks: “Malaguena Salerosa,” “Salty Dog,” “The Wind,” “Spancil Hill”
01. Humble Folks
On their sophomore release, their first full-length, Cleto Cordero does his best to shake the pigeonhole-typecast scenario. Still, there’s plenty of that same young & dumb love and love loss flowing on the 11-track record to feel like the growing, mature companion piece to Come May. If anything, on Humble Folks, Cordero has the room necessary to stretch out completely and expand his heartache heavy world. In addition, he adds broke-in Desert-Meets-the-Panhandle vignettes to balance the load. As much as there’s maturation in Cordero’s lyricism and a growing confidence in his West Texas drawl, Humble Folks’ love songs further the loose narrative set in Come May. Like Come May, Humble Folks opens up with “One I Want,” an airy, crisp, and light song about falling in love, before falling into regretful daydreams and callbacks. The band surrounding Cordero–Reid Dillon, Laura Jane, Jason Albers, and Jonathan Saenz–find and work out grooves that feel like old abandoned horse trails in deep West Texas. They don’t just serve the backdrop of Cordero’s character sketches, but rather, they push the narratives into dark country and folk. The closing statement on for the album is the ringing “Humble Folks.” It not only serves as nod to those who’ve helped them get here–namely, their parents and family–but possibly as a hint of where they’ll go next. The reverb in Cordero’s microphone–subtle hints of a Sturgill Simpson influence–and the sweet blend of guitars and fiddle bleeding into one another show promise of a band not finished and consumed with past–albeit, at this point, short–success of a sound tried and true. It’s not a full on kick of a door off its’ hinges, but the hinges are indeed busted.
Key Tracks: “One I Want,” “February Snow,” “Stompin’ Grounds,” “Humble Folks”
Juarez/Lubbock (on Everything)
Originally released some 35+ years ago, Terry Allen’s Juarez and Lubbock (on Everything) both received the reissue treatment earlier this year. There’s been Buddy, Waylon, Ely, Hancock, etc but Allen, more so than any of them, created the Lubbock Sound and mythos that goes along with it. In many ways, Juarez and Lubbock are polar opposites. With 21 tracks, Lubbock is still as encompassing and relevant as it was in 1979. There’s something on there that just about anyone can flock to and comprehend. Whether it’s “Amarillo Highway,” “The Great Joe Bob,” “Truckload of Art,” “New Delhi Freight Train,” “Flatland Farmer,” or anything in between, Allen’s Lubbock material has a way of revealing something within you. There’s an incredible balancing act that Allen plays within the record. It’s both a macro look at small town West Texas and a micro look at himself and how small town West Texas slowly, but surely became a part of him. Juarez on the other hand takes time to digest. Juarez is more so character and plot driven than Lubbock‘s Dubliners approach. Throughout Allen’s career as an artist and songwriter, he’d always circle back to the Juarez story and plotline. Songs like “There Oughta Be a Law Against Sunny Southern California,” “What of Alicia,” and “Four Corners” would all blossom into full band pieces later in life. But here, in their original drawn-out form, they’re still as refreshing, new, and intriguing as they were in ’75.
More on Terry Allen here.
Lay Low While Crawling or Creeping
Thrift Store Cowboys
A decade back, Thrift Store Cowboys released perhaps the best Panhandle album of the last 25 years with the gripping album Lay Low While Crawling or Creeping. Now, the band’s re-releasing (and re-mastering) the album, making the 12-track album available on vinyl. It’s not that their first two albums weren’t great–Nowhere With You and The Great American Desert–but, without any doubt or hesitation, Lay Low is the moment of arrival for the band. It’s the moment they went from a band from Lubbock, Texas to the band from Lubbock. There’s a growth and maturation in sound, style, songwriting, and storytelling. While their previous albums did hint at being more than just another alt-country band, Lay Low is where they ultimately decided to make those moments carry on throughout not just songs, but the entire length of an album. They took the cosmic, desert elements within Colt Miller’s guitar and Amanda Shires’ fiddle and followed them into the wilderness. Drummer Kris Killingsworth and bassist Clint Miller added pace and space in which everyone everyone else was able to breath. They never muddied the water or made songs too busy just because they could. Vocalist/lyricist Daniel Fluitt’s songwriting grew and expanded with every additional song. He morphed into a cast of broken and unfortunate characters that were intriguing, captivating, and who were fractured in ways we all knew too well. If he had just dipped into this on Nowhere with You and The Great American Desert, he’d be diving head first on the southern textures of Lay Low. His lyrics often become less straightforward or transparent. They’re nearly as eccentric as the Thrift Store sound of the time. It’s not that they’re difficult to understand, but your full attention is paramount. You’d see the influence of this album–and Thrift Store in general–transcend the Panhandle. While artists like Estelline, Burn the Wagon, One Wolf, The Diamond Center, Rattlesnake Milk, Charlie Shafter, and Brandon Adams would all go on and pick out specifics that’d influence them on future albums, artists like Whisky Folk Ramblers, Devotchka, Rodney Parker & The 50 Peso Reward, The Lusitania, and Dirty River Boys would all cite Thrift Store Cowboys as a significant force on their songwriting and overall sound.
Top 50 Panhandle Songs
50. “Circa Whenever” Glass Cannon Seuku EP
49. “The Greatest Demise” Slow Relics Single
48. “Trust” Jenni Dale Lord Free Whiskey
47. “Birds” Everything Is Sad Live at RUDC Studios
46. “Gravity” Dave Martinez Single
45. “Maine Man” The Mainers Maine Country Demos
44. “Learn to Sing” Dallas Owens Single
43. “Pieces” Ryan Todd Garza Single
42. “Woe” Gypsy Jane & The Travelers Gypsy Jane & The Travelers
41. “Broke Down Heart” Austin McManus Single
40. “Double Goer” Daniel Markham & Claire Morales Neighborhood Creeps
39. “Silent Vice” Judiciary The Axis of Equality
38. “Here and Gone” Shotgun Rider Panhandle EP
37. “February Snow” Flatland Cavalry Humble Folks
36. “Last Afternoon” The Goners Single
35. “Get Me Through” Dylan Price Single
34. “I Got Trouble” Keegan McInroe Uncouth Pilgrims
33. “The Karachi Kid” The Numerators Strange
32. “Tell the Truth” Zac Wilkerson Dustbowl Soul
31. “Potter County Blues” Pedro Ramirez This Time of Year
30. “I See Stars” Charlie Stout Dust & Wind
29. “Good News” Susan Gibson Remember Who You Are
28. “Darlin’ Darlin'” Ronnie Eaton & The Cold Hard Truth Killer in the Choir
27. “Hello From Hell” Cooder Graw Love to Live By
26. “She Hates My Guitar” Jim Dixon Welcome to Babylon
25. “Flowers in December” Eddie & The Eat Midnight Snack
24. “Dying Day” Phlip Coggins Single
23. “Villain” The Forty-Eight Villain
22. “Wolf Howl” Jerrod Medulla Single
21. “Crosby County Blues” Zoe Carter Zoe Carter
20. “It Won’t Be Easy” Derek Bohl Said & Heard
19. “Ain’t Waiting On You” Randall King Another Bullet
18. “Austin” Grady Spencer & The Work The Line Between
17. “Love is Overrated” Cody Jasper Single
16. “Black Sheep” Tori Vasquez Go Thank Yourself
15. “I Just Ain’t Merry This Year” Ross Cooper Single
14. “Into The West” Andy Hedges Cowboy Songster Vol. 2
13. “Resurrection Day” Charlie Stout Dust & Wind
12. “Pale Fire” Amanda Shires My Piece of Land
11. “Every Word” Natalie Schlabs Midnight With No Stars
10. “July” Dalton Domino Single
09. “Stomping Grounds” Flatland Cavalry Humble Folks
08. “Country Music Outlaws” Keegan McInroe Uncouth Pilgrims
07. “Another Bullet” Randall King Another Bullet
06. “Disintegrator” Daniel Markham Disintegrator
05. “Goats” Grady Spencer & The Work The Line Between
04. “The Wind” Outlier Public Domain
03. “Scar” Zac Wilkerson Dustbowl Soul
02. “You Are My Home” Amanda Shires My Piece of Land
01. “Humble Folks” Flatland Cavalry Humble Folks
Other Notable Panhandle Releases
Andrew Michael Akins Wilderness
Chancy Bernson Back in Time
Everything Is Sad Live at RUDC Studios
Glass Cannon Seuku
Jenni Dale Lord Band Free Whiskey
Daniel Markham & Claire Morales Neighborhood Creeps
Mood Ring Big Glow
Dan Patterson My Own Worst Enemy
Pedro Ramirez This Time of Year