Tag Archives: Dalton Domino

The Best Releases of 2017 So Far

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Like any kind of list, this one too is incomplete. No one is ever able to listen to everything they should. If they tell you they have, they’re lying.

Two weeks into June, here’s 40 albums and EPs that 1) I listened to,  2) I really liked, and 3) were released by Friday, June 16. The amount of music released these past six months is virtually impossible to keep up with–though, I guess iTunes probably has a rough estimation somewhere–which means I’m already going to apologize for not including some that I haven’t had the time to properly dive into and soak up.

These rankings? They’re really just rough estimations. They all have a +/- of 3 or so. Don’t get too hung up. We’ll go ahead and break each of these albums up bullet points–Three Things I Like and One I Don’t.

Listen along and follow the Top 50 Spotify Playlist below.

 

15. From A Room: Volume 1
Chris Stapleton

  • Ultimately, what makes Chris Stapleton a successful artist is his uncanny ability to deliver songs that are sing-alongable without losing much of their dignity or integrity. Much of From A Room is replicable within a chorus. You’re singing or at least humming along within seconds.
  • Despite having one of the largest song catalogs in the modern era, From A Room is split into two volumes with nine songs theoretically on each. And it’s not just any room; it’s A Room for good reason. It’s RCA Studio A in Nashville, Tenn–a room that’s been used to construct much of what we think of as good and timeless in the Golden Age of Country music.
  • “Up To No Good Livin'” feels like a prequel of sorts to Traveller‘s “Nobody to Blame” in both story and in style. The narrator in both throws out cliché lines about being untrustworthy and the aftermath of that untrustworthiness. And even though Stapleton does throw out cliché expressions like fastballs, they fit the context and limits of the songs well.
  • “Last Thing I Needed, First Thing This Morning” is one hell of a heartbreaker. But, Stapleton doesn’t have as much restraint as Gary P. Nunn or Willie Nelson–mainly because he’s a better vocalist than both–to fully make the song as heartbreaking as its meant to be. It’s OK. But meh. Also, “Them Stems” is kind of a dumb song that feels like a wasted spot for such an accomplished writer–I get drug songs are needed too, but hell, Traveller‘s “Might As Well Get Stoned” was at least in a groove.

14. Canyons of my Mind
Andrew Combs

  • Andrew Combs continues to push his sonic palette with Canyons. There’s darker territory and tones explored with a lush foundation of elegant strings, soft piano, and delicately layered melodies that blend effortlessly with his velvety, warm vocal delivery.
  • With songs such as “Blood Hunters,” “Dirty Rain,” and the jangly “Bourgeois King,” Combs all but conquers subjects previously unexplored in-depth on prior albums. With his sights set on political, humanitarian, and environmental concerns, Combs doesn’t hold back. On “Dirty Rain,” he paints dystopian destruction and crisis as blue and misery as possible while still keeping his sharp, beautiful vocabulary.
  • “Silk Flowers,” “Hazel,” and “What It Means To You”–a semi-duet with co-writer Caitlin Rose–shows Combs’ strongest suit as an artist is still delivering heartbroken, country ballads in the same vein as Mickey Newbury and Kris Kristofferson. His melancholy vocal delivery perfectly fits his turn of phrases.
  •  While Canyons does feel personal and has Combs going down darker routes on the map in subject and sonically, it doesn’t have the gut punches gloom of Worried Man or fit as seamlessly as All These Dreams.

13. Adios
Cory Branan

  • Lead single “Imogene” finds Cory Branan delivering one hell of a tongue-in-cheek heartbreakers. On the surface, Branan is writing Imogene off–he couldn’t have broken her heart or done her wrong–he didn’t even try. And that’s what makes it so heartbreaking on Imogene’s end. Being dismissed with a “I never tried” is right up there on the heartbreak power rankings–especially if you know deep down that they did.
  • Branan is a genre-bender. Punk tinges here. Countryfied rock there. Singer-Songwriter balladry here again. On Adios, picking out those subtleties becomes a game. It’s the Tom Waits piano on “Cold Blue Moonlight” that morphs into bar blues guitar hero. It’s the Born to Run-era  brass of “Blacksburg” that elevates the rambler into an anthemic rush. “Just Another Nightmare in America” plays to Branan’s pessimistic outlook with a punk-infused attitude and a Ramones worthy chorus chant to boot.
  • Branan’s heartbreak and humor go hand-in-hand. They play off one another. It’s not necessarily always heartbreak in the classic sense–down in the dumps and self-deprecating. His humor isn’t knee-slapping or excessive either. The best example of Branan’s wry humor goes back to “Imogene” with the lines “You could say that I’m a no-account ne’er-do-well, roustabout, detestable, itinerant, execrable degenerate–fair enough.”
  • At 14 tracks long, Branan’s Adios takes a 2000s approach to record making and length. It lags on at times and probably would more well-rounded at 10 or 11 songs.

12. Harry Styles
Harry Styles

  • Like Justin Timberlake, Harry Styles always had the most raw talent in his boy band group. And like Justified, Styles’ solo debut goes off into numerous directions with promising success. At times, it’s strange Art-Rock like late ’70s solo Peter Gabriel, ’90s Britpop Rock like Blur and Oasis (mostly Oasis), blue-eyed British Soul-Pop like George Michael, and even at times, reminiscent of the sad folk balladry of Ryan Adams or George Harrison.
  • The David Bowie cosmic tinges of “Sign of the Times” has melodramatic cliffhanger crescendos that are part “The Funeral” by Band of Horses and part “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Oasis.
  • “Two Ghosts,” “Ever Since New York,” and “From the Dining Table” show off Styles singer-songwriter side that show he’s already more developed as a storyteller than many of his contemporaries.
  • Other than “Sign of the Times”–and maybe “Meet Me in the Hallway” and “Carolina”–there’s not a bona-fide radio hit. There’s less flare to the album that what most will expect. It’s more mellow than trying to chase One Direction radio success. “Kiwi” (and “Woman” to a lesser extent) both feel like strange additions to the album’s vibe and tracklist order. “Woman” isn’t necessarily as bad as “Kiwi,” but nevertheless, feels awkward at best within the context of the album.

11. Furnace
Dead Man Winter

  • Dead Man Winter–the moniker used by bluegrass band Trampled By Turtles lead vocalist David Simonett–is a rootsy, isolated cabin of a record. After a divorce, Simmonett was searching for closure and therapy. In many respects, these songs are Simonett working his way through, coming out on the other side with those wounds scarred over and healing. The obvious comparison would be Bon Iver’s debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago, with its’ cathartic songs of heartache and woe.
  • Simonett keeps the writing honest, blunt, and straight to the point. On “Red Wing, Blue Wing,” lines flow like late night drunken confessions–“I’m full of charm and I’m full of whiskey and I’m full of shit most the time”–come delivered casual and matter of fact. “I Remember This Place Bigger” is a sobering followup that has Simonett recalling tidbits of a fading memory.
  • While “Red Wing, Blue Wing,” “I Remember This Place Bigger,” and “The Same Town” all have Tom Petty Americana streaks running through them, Furnace shines brightest on tracks where you feel like a fly Simonett’s wall. On “This House Is On Fire,” “Cardinal,” and “Weight of the World,” you’re catching one side of telephone calls. Simonett pulls you into his world and state of mind.

10. Colter Wall
Colter Wall

  • At 21, Colter Wall is an absolutist. He’s as earnest and devoted to the idea of being a great storyteller and singer-songwriter as he is to the craft of actual songwriting. That youthful fervor is the fire of Colter Wall. That flame remains throughout making the album faithful to storytelling in the traditions of country and folk. He doesn’t concede or compromise.
  • Lyrically, you almost see Wall’s growth in real time. What I mean by that is you see him trying different styles. “Bald Butte” and “Me and Big Dave” go into full storyteller mode with little resembling a chorus. You’re not meant to singalong; you’re meant to listen. On the flip side, “Motorcycle” and “Thirteen Silver Dollars” to an extent are almost exclusively chorus worthy and just begging you to join in.
  • Wall at times reminds you of a young Johnny Cash. His vocals are as large and booming–Paul Cauthen comes to mind as a rivaling bellow. And while the raw talent is certainly there, Wall too knows how to hold back. On murder ballad “Kate McCannon,” it’s even intimidating.
  • At various points, you wish Wall would develop tales a little more. While “Kate McCannon” is certainly a standout narrative, Wall barely goes in deep with the details. It ends abruptly without telling us anything we didn’t know with the beginning verse. As perfect as it opens up with the first handful of verses, it leaves you suddenly and cold without much being resolved.

09. Out of Exile Trilogy
Kirby Brown

  • Kirby Brown’s Out of Exile EPs really begin with Part 1 being released last Fall with 2 and 3 being delivered these last few months.
  • “Little Red Hen” and “Gimme a Week” in particular show Brown’s keen sense of humor in the same vein as John Prine, Kris Kristofferson, and Roger Miller. There’s a down home casualness that’s endearing in Brown’s “aww shucks” delivery.
  • “Paint Horse,” “Sweet Shame” and “Broken Bell” capture Brown’s pensive lonesomeness. He’s at his reflective best with composed, heartfelt regret of “Broken Bell.”
  • At nine songs total and in three-song increments, the only real flaw for Out of Exile is that right when you feel you’re picking up any kind of real momentum, the EP is over. Of course, on the flip side, it means Brown is giving you just enough to keep you hooked for another EP installment.

08. Middle Kids
Middle Kids

  • Everything stars with “Edge of Town” when it comes to Australia’s Middle Kids. It’s a sugary, windows down, wind blowing through your hair summer anthem with multiple singalong hooks. Even as nostalgic and melancholy as “Edge of Town” is at times, it’s still a rush when vocalist Hannah Joy really belts it out and when that ear candy of a slide guitar comes racing by. Also, I feel like it may be influenced/about Stephen King’s It–though, that’s all speculative on my part at this point.
  • Part of Middle Kids’ charm is their smart, sharp pop sense. Like “Edge of Town,” “Your Love,” “Never Start,” and “Fire In Your Eyes” are all loaded with hooks and choruses that beg to be shouted. They all build up to these soaring crests before crashing down in organized chaos. They’re the prime moments in which Joy really shines as a frontwoman shifting from cool and calm into raw, unhinged vulnerability and emotion. Songs end with an exhale.
  • There’s something very familiar with Middle Kids. There’s a mid-2000s nostalgic glow with the band’s debut EP. They capture a sense of suburbia, breakout, and discovering heartbreak similar to Local Natives, Ra Ra Riot, The Shins, and Rilo Kiley.
  • At six songs long, Middle Kids is just enough long enough to keep you appeased as we wait for their full-length debut release–something they’re currently in the process of working on. Still, a projected release date can’t come soon enough.

07. Big Bad Luv
John Moreland

  • Moreland’s greatest gift as a lyricist is his uncanny ability to paint ample, vivid images while never being too wordy. His lines are stark, bare, and purposeful. He rids his songs of useless words or lines that may bog down or get in the way of the narrative. A shining example is with the album’s namesake highlighted in lead single “Sallisaw Blue” with “There’s a neon sign that says ‘Big Bad Luv’ and a noose hanging down from the heaven’s above.” Another is from the acoustic “No Glory in Regret,” with the opening lines “Did you hear the devil laughing from the ambulance passing? Or was that just my troubled mind? Don’t you wanna shake the ground and tear heaven down?”
  • While Big Bad Luv is certainly more robust and hearty in sound than the bare-esque bones of High on Tulsa Heat or the nearly all acoustic In The Throes, it’s a sensible step into Moreland perhaps stepping back into a full band setting. Still, Moreland and company know their strengths–never overpowering Moreland’s booming vocals or getting in the way of his emotional words of wisdom. Dobro, Wurlitzer, piano, and organ all have practical appearances throughout, often warming the foundation for Moreland on heartfelt songs like “Old Wounds,” “Love Is Not an Answer,” “It Don’t Suit Me (Like Before),” and album closing highlight “Latchkey Kid.”
  • Even more so than even Jason Isbell, Moreland is Americana’s most intimate songwriter. Songs feel as though only you and him are in the room. They’re one on one conversations. “Latchkey Kid”,” “No Glory in Regret,” and “Slow Down Easy” are personal entries that tug on every emotional string. While Moreland’s been known for heart-aching rootsy balladry, Big Bad Luv isn’t another collection of heartbreakers. Still, he’s as heartfelt and sincere as ever.
  • This isn’t even a complaint. But as good and successful as Moreland is as a solo artist, I wouldn’t mind seeing or hearing more of his punk-rock roots. Endless Oklahoma Sky by John Moreland and The Black Gold Band and Everything the Hard Way by John Moreland & The Dust Bowl Souls are two hidden gems that have Moreland delivering Gaslight Anthemesque punk-tinged and beer soaked anthems.

06. Way Out West
Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives

  • Way Out West isn’t meant to be consumed in little nuggets. It’s meant to be taken in when you have time to sit, listen, and think. It’s as much of an instrumental score and escape as it is a lyrical exercise for Marty Stuart. “Mojave,” “El Fantasma Del Toro,” “Torpedo,” etc are as integral to the magic and mythos of Way Out West as “Way Out West” or “Whole Lotta Highway.”
  • Stuart and company do a lot of blending on Way Out West. Their guitars are paint brushes warping, welding, and merging Spaghetti Western, Surf Rock, Rockabilly, Mariachi, Western,  Psychedelic, and Country. It’s just as Joshua Tree burnout hippie desert rat as it is Marty Robbins’ trail songs.
  • There’s even hints of Lee Hazelwood (and Nancy Sinatra) eccentric sun-baked pop on tunes like the trippy mirage-inducing “Way Out West.” The slow burner gives Stuart and company the opportunity to throw out layers of full harmonies that echo down the canyon walls.
  • For some, the journey Stuart and company are on is just going to be a bridge too far. Those expecting a dozen truck-driving anthems like the rambling “Whole Lotta Highway” are going to be disappointed by all the instrumental pit stops. Still, it’s one of the most beautiful sounding albums released in years.

05. Corners
Dalton Domino

  • The artistic maturity between Dalton Domino’s 1806 and Corners is exponential. Spurred on by spurn ex-lovers and an honest and stone cold attempt at sobriety has made Domino a bold, clearheaded songwriter. Rather than delivering an album of paint-by-number Texas Country tropes–something that would have been easier and probably gained much more success in the short run–Corners has Domino pushing his own limits as an artist. Corners wasn’t easy. Domino returned to the drawing board a handful of times returning with new songs that were better and more well-rounded.
  • Domino wears his influences on his sleeve. Songwriters Travis Meadows, Tony Lane, Jack Ingram, Sturgill Simpson, and Red Shahan all provided artistic inspiration. You hear Shahan on “Sister,” Lane on “Rain,” and maybe most notably, Simpson on the album’s sprawling, twisting bookends, “The River” and “Monster.”
  • “Rain” and “Mine Again (I’d Be a Fool)” are vulnerable compositions that show Domino isn’t just the loud, confident everyman of “July” or 1806’s “Killing Floor” and “Dallas.” In ways, they’re even more vulnerable and bold than “The River” or “Monster,” which could easily just be written off by the casual fan. But “Rain” and “Mine Again (I’d Be a Fool)” are almost certain to be considered for radio single release. They challenge the current status quo of what a prototypical “Texas Country Radio” single is with their refined, polished, and cultured sound.
  • The only real drawback and concern for Corners is on whether the album is replicable on a nightly basis. Producers Nick Jay and Jay Saldana helped create an ornate, rich sonic world for Domino and company to exist in. So much of Domino’s live show is based on a–at times, sloppy–raw live energy that relies heavily on spur-of-the-moment spontaneous decision-making. It’s quite the juxtaposition next to the calculated and prepped Corners.

04. Spades and Roses
Caroline Spence

  • Caroline Spence has a feathery, whispery, and gentle vocal delivery. It’s delicate, yet demanding. For long stretches of Spades and Roses, she pulls you in with road stories and diary entry confessions. Like a Wildflowers, a Nebraska, or a 1000 Kisses, Spades is tightly wound in its’ own world of dreamy piano, fleeting harmonies, and even while sparse at times, still rich with warmth.
  • While Spence is armed with a delicate delivery, she’s a sharp and honest lyricist. “You Don’t Look so Good (Cocaine),” “Southern Accidents,” and “Goodbye Bygones” all have heart-wrenching images that cut to the bone, are honest but cold, or leave you teary-eyed and alone.
  • “Heart of Somebody” and “Slow Dancer” wrap around you like a thick quilt or a hearty fire with lines about real love after being calloused and reserved by previous lovers.
  • At times, Spades and Roses can be too sleepy–which, it’s not like Spence advertised it being a party starter.

03. Proving Grounds
John Baumann

  • After his first three releases (West Texas Vernacular, High Plains Alchemy, and Departures)–a trio of storytellers in which he morphed into multiple character vignettes and landscape sketches, John Baumann finally ventures into telling his own story on Proving Grounds. A family’s impact on an individual is immeasurable. You see a Baumann’s father’s handprints and guidance on John’s personality and character throughout with songs like “Here I Come,” “Pontiacs,” and none more so than on the crisp, refreshing, and redeeming “Old Stone Church.”
  • Ever the growing artist, Baumann has always set a high bar for himself as a lyricist, storyteller, and songwriter. Proving Grounds finds Baumann maturing and confident. Songs breathe. He’s comfortable with sprawling instrumentals (“Pontiacs”) and realizing that, ever so often, sometimes the silence speaks too (“Lonely in Bars” and “Old Stone Church”).
  • Guy Clark wrote the best songs about Texas. They were just never just about Texas. Texas was the climate, the setting, the rust, the dust, the language, and the mood. Where previous work maybe relied too much on specific regions, Proving Grounds never settles down anywhere for too long. It criss crosses back and forth across the state using it more so as a canvas backdrop than ever a full-blown sketch. “Here I Come,” “Holding It Down,” and “Heavy Head” do it best with lines about East Texas Rust, West Texas Dust, The Flatlanders, Terry Allen, and more.
  • At times, Proving Grounds dips its toes into Texas Radio territory. There’s certainly nothing wrong with testing the waters and trying to push into new markets. And while there’s nothing too egregious or ever a decision to curb a song and trying too hard to shoehorn into being Texas Country pop radio worthy, you do wonder if a song like “Love #1” would be “better” without the “ooohs” in the chorus. “The Trouble with Drinkin’,” an Aaron Lee Tasjan cover, isn’t a bad song–or a bad cover. It could eventually turn into Baumann’s “Whiskey River” or “Bloody Mary Morning,” but it does come across as the weakest song on a spectacular album.

02. The Nashville Sound
Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit

  • Jason Isbell is still the king of the craft. Songs are tightly wound with familiar expressions, descriptive analogies, and lines that are sharp, poignant, and never wasted. Whether it’s the wry sense of humor on “Last of My Kind” with lines like “Everybody clapping on the one and the three” or the raw and direct “Last year was a son of a bitch for nearly everyone we know” of the soaring “Hope of the High Road,” Isbell rarely holds back or dishonest.
  • The sobering and weighty “If We Were Vampires.” Isbell’s vocals have a gradually growing quiver that are real, raw, and capture a moment that’s as authentic as it is genuine.
  • Isbell isn’t just honest with you, the audience. He’s honest with himself that often lingers with self-deprecation and holding himself accountable. This all culminates on “White Man’s World”–specifically with the verse” I’m a white man looking in a black man’s eyes. Wishing I’d never been one of the guys who pretended not to hear another white man’s joke. Oh, the times ain’t forgotten.” That’s what sets Isbell apart from the pack.
  • The only real complaints of The Nashville Sound is every once in a while–typically on larger, anthemic songs (“Hope of the High Road,” “Cumberland Gap”)–Isbell’s vocals can get lost within the mix.

01. DAMN.
Kendrick Lamar

  • Kendrick Lamar is the king. Still, even after plunging deep and head first into the avant-garde, Lamar continues being hungry and never settled with previous achievements. DAMN. is just the next link in what has become one of the longest winning streaks in modern music. Lamar has cultivated an unrivaled artistic freedom and expression while maintaining a pulse on what’s relevant and significant in today’s world on both a macro and micro level–and in the pop culture, political, and socio-economical realms.
  • Lamar really started this narrative, open forum, and discussion with 2011’s Section.80. With each concept album released since–good kid, m.A.A.d. city, To Pimp a Butterfly, and untitled unmastered– Lamar challenged his audience to keep up with the next theory, thought, and wrinkle in the next chapter as a Corner Philosopher. Again, Lamar is constantly telling two stories as once. One that’s in the moment and one that fits within the whole.
  • DAMN. closer “Duckworth” is one of Lamar’s finest to date. It’s an example Lamar’s prowess as a rapper who can shift gears with his delivery. As a street tale, it’s a microcosm for Lamar’s entire catalog. At its core, “Duckworth” shows how every decision, no matter how insignificant or seemingly trivial, is consequential and creates waves in the grand scheme. DAMN. is, in many ways, an ouroboros of an album. It’s ends where it began. It’s whole and complete.
  • For the novice listener, Lamar can be too complex, raw, dense, or coarse. At times, he’s uncompromising and uninterested in success in terms of radio. While still having more pop sensibilities than most, Lamar will not be confused with the laid-back G-Funk era of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg or the anthemic heights of some of his modern contemporaries.

35 Other Albums Liked:

50. Culture by Migos
49. In Mind by Real Estate
48. This Old Dog by Mac Demarco
47. Graveyard Whistling by Old 97’s
46. FUTURE by Future
45. God’s Problem Child by Willie Nelson
44. The World We Built by The Wild Reeds
43. Drunk by Thundercat
42. Near To the Wild Heart of Life by Japandroids
41. Highway Queen by Nikki Lane
40. Pilot by Greg Vanderpool
39. Green by Kody West
38. & I’m Fine Today by Susto
37. Halloween by Ruston Kelly
36. Prisoner by Ryan Adams
35. The Navigator by Hurray For the Riff Raff
34. The Native by Vandoliers
33. Pure Comedy by Father John Misty
32. Duende by The Band of Heathens
31. Along Alone Tonight by Jonny Burke
30. Felony Blues by Jaime Wyatt
29. More Life by Drake
28. Process by Sampha
27. The World’s Best American Band by White Reaper
26. Starfire on the Mountain by Starfire on the Mountain
25. Stars by Michael O’Neal
24. The Order of Time by Valerie June
23. Bruce Robison & The Back Porch Band by Bruce Robison
22. Jason Eady by Jason Eady
21. Run the Jewels 3 by Run the Jewels
20. This Tall to Ride by Robyn Ludwick
19. Close Ties by Rodney Crowell
18. Dirty Wonder by K. Phillips
17. Life Without Sound by Cloud Nothings
16. Hot Thoughts by Spoon

Other albums/EPs that are probably/possibly great and worth listening to:

  • Capacity by Big Thief
  • The Spark by The Builders and The Butchers
  • Not Even Happiness by Julie Byrne
  • Adios by Glen Campbell
  • Ghosts On The Car Radio by Slaid Cleaves
  • Kids In The Street Justin Townes Earle
  • So You Wannabe an Outlaw by Steve Earle
  • Pleasure by Feist
  • HNDRXX by Future
  • You Only Live 2wice by Freddie Gibbs
  • Humanz by Gorillaz
  • Why Don’t We Duet in the Road by JP Harris
  • Native by Clayton Landua
  • Forever and Then Some by Lillie Mae
  • Marfa by Marfa
  • Emperor of Sand by Mastodon
  • Brand New Day by The Mavericks
  • Sad Clowns & Hillbillies by John Mellencamp
  • This Highway by Zephaniah Ohora
  • Til the Goin’ Gets Gone by Lindi Ortega
  • Heartless by Pallbearer
  • No Shape by Perfume Genius
  • Ti Amo by Phoenix
  • Wrangled by Angeleena Presley
  • Swimming Alone by Liz Rose
  • South Texas Suite by Whitney Rose
  • I Got Your Medicine by Shinyribs
  • Neva Left by Snoop Dogg
  • Note of Blues by Son Volt
  • Odessa by Jeremy Steding
  • Trophy by Sunny Sweeney
  • Blue Notes by Jeff Whitehead

Albums & EPs That Look Promising and Will Most Likely Be Released in the Second Half of 2017 (Or Soon After):

  • Until My Voice Goes Out by Josh Abbott Band
  • TBA by The Americans
  • Everything Now by Arcade Fire
  • Land of Doubt by Sam Baker
  • TBA by Jason Boland & The Stragglers
  • TBA by Wade Bowen
  • TBA by Leon Bridges
  • TBA by Paul Cauthen
  • We Rode the Wild Horses by Ross Cooper
  • Purgatory  by Tyler Childers
  • Dear Tommy by Chromatics
  • TBA by Ben Danaher
  • Crack Up by Fleet Foxes
  • Good People by Josh Grider
  • Painted Ruins by Grizzly Bear
  • Something to Tell You by HAIM
  • Tell the Devil I’m Getting There as Fast as I Can by Ray Wylie Hubbard
  • At Home in the Big Lonesome by Drew Kennedy
  • TBA by Chris King
  • TBA by LCD Soundsystem
  • TBA by Mike & The Moonpies
  • Sleep Well Beast by The National
  • TBA by Quaker City Night Hawks
  • Villains by Queens of the Stone Age
  • OKONOTOK by Radiohead
  • Lust For Life by Lana Del Rey
  • TBA by Charlie Shafter
  • TBA by Red Shahan
  • TBA by Bruce Springsteen
  • Big Fish Theory by Vince Staples
  • From A Room: Volume 2 by Chris Stapleton
  • TBA by Texas Gentlemen
  • TBA by Turnpike Troubadours
  • TBA by Shania Twain
  • TBA by Alex Williams
  • TBA by Vampire Weekend
  • A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs
  • Turbo Grafx 16 by Kanye West
  • TBA by Wolf Parade

Panhandle Releases Report: Week 1/2

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

With EPs like SPiVEY’s Chief’s Hideout and Sugarwitch’s Fancy Practice sneaking their way into the final weeks of 2016, these first 13 days of 2017 has mainly been Panhandle artists and bands gearing up for the year with songwriters Davis Alan, Cody Jasper, Delbert McClinton, and Hayden Pedigo all releasing preview single(s) for larger releases in the coming weeks and months.

Below, we’ve highlighted what’s caught our ears so far. For an always updated Spotify playlist of music released this year, click here.

“Searching for Gold”
Davis Alan

“Searching for Gold” is the most recent preview of Davis Alan’s upcoming album, Bad Luck Story. The Stephenville-to-Lubbock transplant has been working with a Who’s Who of Texas musicians on the project, including guitarist/producer Josh Serrato behind the board. While still certainly green, at this juncture in his early career, Alan’s strength as a songwriter is his ability to deliver a hook–something “Searching for Gold” and first single, “The Flood” have in spades.

Panhandle Rambles
Cody Jasper

Just a few days back, Amarillo singer-songwriter Cody Jasper uploaded a handful of songs onto his Soundcloud. It’s safe to say they’ll all eventually make their way onto Jasper’s sophomore record–something he’ll be finishing up before Summer 2017. While there’s still that rock flair we’ve grown to expect from Jasper (“Panhandle Pearls” and the slow burning groover “Along For the Ride”), there’s certainly a down home country feel to tunes like “Good Day” and “Jesus Drank Wine.” With previously shared songs “Love is Overrated” and “Panhandle Ramblin'” in the can, Jasper’s next release looks and sounds promising. We’ve conveniently thrown the lot into a playlist below.

“Don’t Do It,” “Like Lovin’ Used to Be,” and “Doin’ What You Do”
Delbert McClinton

Long time country-blues-rock pioneer Delbert McClinton has released three singles–“Don’t Do It,” “Like Lovin’ Used to Be,” and “Doin’ What You Do”–to preview his upcoming full-length record, Prick of the Litterdue out January 27. This being his 19th studio record finds McClinton venturing down a bluesy jazz road. “Like Lovin’ Used to Be” is easily one of McClinton’s smoothest and laid back tunes. The newest of the three, “Doin’ What You Do,” takes McClinton’s signature voice and wailing harmonica and throws it on one of his most beautifully arranged and sleek-grooved tunes in years.

4VR
Hayden Pedigo

Earlier this week, Amarillo guitarist Hayden Pedigo released a two-track surprise in 4VR. Described by Pedigo as a tribute to Vini Reilly and The Durutti Column, the English songwriter’s band. As you’d expect, the two demoesque instrumental recordings are heavily influenced by the dream pop landscapes laid down by the post punk outfit.

Chief’s Hideout
SPiVEY

For Chief’s Hideout, Lubbock folktronica singer-songwriter (Ryan) SPiVEY took to the Colorado wilderness. Recorded at a family cabin over the course of four days, Chief’s Hideout gains an added boost from the natural reverb evoked from the secluded cabin’s walls. Spivey and co-producer David Wilkinson tapped into warm, haunting echoes and howls. Chief’s Hideout feels more layered and full than Spivey’s debut, the still excellent Lungs, Heart, & Hands. It’s neither too convoluted or wrapped up in itself for the sake of pompous vain. Spivey’s songwriting has room to breathe. Throughout, he shows that his lyricism would shine through in any style, none better than the lonesome roaming of “No Reason.”

Fancy Practice
Sugarwitch

Four-piece Lubbock rockabilly outfit Sugarwitch released Fancy Practice in the last week’s of 2015. Much like their ’14 full-length I’m Sorry, Mom, Fancy Practice‘s strengths are vocalist and chief lyricist Jessica Robinson’s sense of humor and scorching howl–that’s, at times gravelly, and at times, a full on growl. Plenty of jumping bass lines litter the five-track EP. Guitarist Brian Duhan’s guitar doesn’t come in guns a-blazing like it did on I’m Sorry, Mom.  Instead, he comes in with sharper, Spaghetti Westernesque lines that burn far longer.

 

Other Notes of Interest

  • Texas singer-songwriter Grant Gilbert has announced his debut EP, Lost in Translation, will be out January 25th. Preorder here.
  • Earlier this week, Dalton Domino announced Corners, his follow-up to 2015’s breakout debut 1806, will be officially released April 28th.
  • Cowboy Songster Andy Hedges has recently announced Cowboy Recitations, a collection of spoken word cowboy poems has collected over the years. While the album hasn’t made its’ way to iTunes just yet, you can find the record on Hedges’ website here.
  • Speaking of Hedges, he has also recently launched Cowboy Crossroads, a podcast that’ll feature interviews with cowboy poets, songsters, storytellers, songwriters, collaborators, and well, cowboys. Subscribe on iTunes here.
  • William Clark Green has slowly, but surely sharing songs that’ll be included on his TBD fifth studio album, tentatively slated for a late 2017/early 2018 release. Songs like “She Loves Horses,” a co-write with Jay Clementi and Trent Willmon, and “Drunk Again,” a co-write with Brandon Adams (and myself providing cigarette and beer runs), making their way into acoustic sets as of late, it’s “My Mother” that’s found most notoriety so far. Watch an acoustic rendition of the tune recorded recently at Billy Bob’s below.

Panhandle Music 2016: Top Releases

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

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.

Listen/Follow below.

Top 25 Panhandle Releases of 2016

Top 50 Panhandle Songs of 2016

Top 25 Panhandle Releases

25. Welcome to Babylon
Jim Dixon

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
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
Shotgun Rider

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
Judiciary

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
Wade Bowen

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
Cooder Graw

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
Derek Bohl

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
Susan Gibson

Despite only being six songs long, Susan Gibson still covers a lot of ground on Remember Who You Areher 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”

16. Strange
The Numerators

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”

14. Villain
The Forty-Eight

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
Tori Vasquez

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
Andy Hedges

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
Natalie Schlabs

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

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
Randall King

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
Charlie Stout

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
Keegan McInroe

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”

04. Disintegrator
Daniel Markham

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
Amanda Shires

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

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
Flatland Cavalry

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”

Reissues

Juarez/Lubbock (on Everything)
Terry Allen

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

Dalton Domino’s Dustbowl Sweet 16: Round 2

DustbowlR2by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

After eight hard fought match-ups in Round 1 of our Sweet 16 Artist Tournament, songwriters Ben McKenzie, Jamie Weston, Skylar Hamilton, Zach Coffey, Kody West, Eddie Saenz, Austin McManus, and Denny Herrin moved on.

Much like the First Round, the Second Round will be three days of voting. Again, here’s a playlist of the eight artists who moved on.

BWMcKenzie01) Ben McKenzie
Stillwater, OK

 

BWWeston08) Jamie Weston
Austin, TX

 

 

BWHamilton13) Skylar Hamilton
San Antonio, TX

 

BWCoffey12) Zach Coffey
Ft. Worth, TX

BWWest02) Kody West
Denton, TX

 

BWSaenz10) Eddie Saenz
Nashville, TN

BWMcManus03) Austin McManus
Lubbock, TX

 

BWHerrin06) Denny Herrin
Austin, TX

 


Dalton Domino’s Dustbowl Sweet 16: Round 1

image1by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

For the next three days (Tuesday, August 23-Thursday, August 25), Round 1 of the Sweet 16 Tournament will open for voting. You can vote and share using the Votion bracket below. In addition, we’ve provided a playlist and more information on each of the 16 songwriters and artists.

BWMcKenzie01) Ben McKenzie
Stillwater, OK

 

 

BWWestly16) Bubba Westly
Boling, TX

BWWeston08) Jamie Weston
Austin, TX

BWBaxley09) Kirk Baxley
Austin, TX

BWAlan04) Davis Alan
Stephenville, TX

BWHamilton13) Skylar Hamilton
San Antonio, TX

 

BWKay05) Elaina Kay
Wichita Falls, TX

BWCoffey12) Zach Coffey
Ft. Worth, TX

BWWest02) Kody West
Denton, TX

BWDarlene15) Jackie Darlene
Ft. Worth, TX

BWSlu07) Gander Slu
Denton, TX

BWSaenz10) Eddie Saenz
Nashville, TN

BWMcManus03) Austin McManus
Lubbock, TX

BWHolder14) Billy Holder
Gatesville, TX

BWHerrin06) Denny Herrin
Austin, TX

BWJasper11) Cody Jasper
Amarillo, TX

 


Dalton Domino’s Dustbowl & Sweet 16 Announced

image1by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

A few months back, Texas singer-songwriter announced that he was creating a one day fall festival called Dustbowl. Hot off the heels of a successful Drinko–a day festival back in May–he announced that Dustbowl would be very much the same, except happening in the fall, Wednesday, October 12 to be exact.  Dustbowl will be happening in Lubbock at The Blue Light.

Playing this year’s Dustbowl will be: Six Market Blvd., Sean McConnell, Willis Alan Ramsey, Adam Hood, Jason Eady, Ben Hussey, Kaitlin Butts, Travis Meadows, John D. Hale, Courtney Patton, Charlie Stout, Brandon Adams, Jonny Burke, Randall King, Koe Wetzel, Gerald Salzarulo, Isaac Hoskins, Brad God, Eddie Esler, Pedro Ramirez, Hunter Hutchinson, Cody Riley, Breelan Angel, and Sarah Hobbs–with a couple more headliners to be announced the week prior to the event.

You can currently purchase presale tickets for $25 here.

Sweet16Finished

In addition, Domino has announced that there will be one play-in spot added to the bill via a Sweet 16 tournament bracket featuring some of Texas and Oklahoma’s up and coming singer-songwriters and artists. The Sweet 16 Bracket will be curated right here on New Slang and feature the following songwriters: Davis Alan, Kirk Baxley, Zach Coffey, Jackie Darlene, Skylar Hamilton, Denny Herrin, Billy Holder, Elaina Kay, Cody Jasper, Ben McKenzie, Austin McManus, Eddie Saenz, Gander Slu, Kody West, Bubba Westly, and Jamie Weston.

Much like an NCAA Basketball tournament, each songwriter will be pitted up against each other in one on one match-ups. Each round will have voting open to the public for three days. After those three days, the winner of each match-up, be decided by popular vote, will move on to the next round.

Below is a schedule for the Sweet 16 bracket.

First Round: Tuesday-Thursday (August 23-25)
Second Round: Friday-Sunday (August 26-28)
Semi-Finals: Monday-Wednesday (August 29-31)
Finals: Thursday-Saturday (September 01-03)

Starting tomorrow morning, we’ll announce the first round match-ups. Note: Seeding and match-ups for the tournament have all determined at random and Seed numbers have no weighted value.