by: Thomas D. Mooney
“Read almost any article about Lubbock musicians and it is hard to avoid cliché lines about the desolate dusty plains of the area or the rich heritage of West Texas music. While both of those factors may influence the new music produced by Lubbock’s original musicians, it is clear these influences do not manifest themselves in a uniform way. That is, there is no definitive West Texas “Sound,” which may be the reason for consistently innovative music being produced in the area. This compilation provides a look at the diversity of Lubbock’s original music. These are all the bands that either have ties to the Lubbock music scene, or currently call Lubbock home. Some of these artists have moved on to larger markets, while some use Lubbock as a home base for regional and national touring. Still others use Lubbock as a place to refine their sound and live show in preparation for more widespread attention. The original music scene in Lubbock remains small, which is why you may see any number of these musicians sitting on stage with another on any given night. You often hear that if you can build a fan base in Lubbock, you can make fans anywhere, as the market is small, and support for original music is not always easy to come by. We hope this compilation will increase your awareness of the diverse local music scene that West Texas has to offer.”–Jeff Dennis
In 2007, Jeff Dennis wrote that for a small, now out-of-print compilation that showcased that window of music being made in and around Lubbock. It was called Windfarm, Volume 1. While Dennis did write the liner notes and inspire the Windfarm name, the compilation was largely the brain child of singer-songwriter Andy Martinez, one time leader of alternative country rockers, Burn the Wagon.
NOTE: You can listen to Windfarm Volume 1 above on Soundcloud except for Charlie Shafter’s “Medicine Man.” Instead, listen to it here.
I don’t want to say 2007 was the only year something like this could have been put together that captured an era. But really, 2007 was the only year in which this specific list of songs could have come together and held some form of relevancy for the period.
The bands and artists–Thrift Store Cowboys, Dirty Charley Band, One Wolf, Lesley Sawyer, Jake Unruh, Anthony Garcia, Sleepy Horses, Jeremy Nail, Burn the Wagon, Daniel Molina, Chaffin-Poelings, Amanda Shires, Charlie Shafter Band, Andy Martinez, and Waiting to Derail–all were coming off albums that were released in the window of 2005 to 2008. In many respects, Thrift Store Cowboys, Burn the Wagon, Shafter, and Waiting to Derail/One Wolf (Daniel Markham lead bands) were all hitting their stride individually and collectively.
Still, you could argue that songwriters like Shafter, Markham, Garcia (now vocalist/guitarist for Lubbock duo Outlier), and Shires especially, wouldn’t become the artists they wanted to become until years later.
Yet, 10 years later, it’s fair to say only a handful of current Lubbock music fans–and musicians for that matter–would recognize more than a handful of names. It almost feels like a relic from the past.
This isn’t even a pretentious take either. It’s the reality that while a decade isn’t that long of a period of time, it’s also an eternity in most music scenes. Bands and artists get covered by the sands of time. Good bands. Great songwriters. They’re sometimes left in the moment. A new fad comes along. Life catches up. Etc.
Thrift Store Cowboys would release one more album, 2010’s excellent Light Fighter, before going on an unannounced and infinite hiatus (The last Thrift Store Cowboys show with three or more core members was January 26th, 2014 at The Blue Light during Daniel Fluitt’s going away party).
One Wolf would too release one more album in 2010–One Wolf II: Secret of the Wolf–before calling it quits. Markham would eventually move to Denton and release more than his fair share of albums and EPs since while other members would go onto being members of Brandon Adams & The Sad Bastards, The Numerators, and Rattlesnake Milk among others.
Shires went on to release another four solo albums since ’07 while contributing to numerous other albums from the likes of Jason Isbell, American Aquarium, Justin Townes Earle, and Todd Snider.
Nail and Garcia (again, through Outlier) have released albums in the last year. Shafter just finished recording his fourth studio album just weeks ago.
While Burn the Wagon would only release a self-titled EP and album (Born in Blood), Martinez would release two solo pieces, Race the Buzzard Home and Lies Romance Blood. Fellow Burn the Wagoner Jake Unruh would record an album called The Curse–though, that still hasn’t ever officially been released.
Again, bands who you thought were on the rise, they ultimately fold shop and move on.
Read the liner notes again. Had I said that was written anywhere from ’57 to yesterday, you’d probably say it’s a fair and accurate assessment of Panhandle Music. The tracklist would almost certainly be different. But the message, what Lubbock and Panhandle Music essentially is–and what it isn’t for that matter–would be all the same.
That’s what I find most interesting. These 15 weren’t largely influenced by the artists and musicians who came before them. Yet, they almost certainly come to some of the same conclusions that Terry Allen, The Flatlanders, The Maines Brothers, Bob Livingston, etc all came to in the late ’70s and ’80s. That same sad, isolating echo and the constant howls of the wind that effected Buddy Holly, Sonny Curtis, Mac Davis, Waylon Jennings, etc, they all materialized in that mid-aughts bunch claiming Lubbock. It visits them all the same.
As Dennis says in the liner notes, you’d see these folks share the stage with one another and often show up on each other’s records. It’s a web with connections going in every direction. For example, Amanda Shires played in Thrift Store Cowboys, played on the Martinez solo records (Race the Buzzard Home & Lies Romance Blood) as well as being the primary artist on her song “Keep it Close.”
While modern Lubbock is highly influenced by Texas singer-songwriters with a country edge, just a decade back, it was much more of an alternative country and indie town. There was a punk edge and grit–not only in sound and style, but also in terms of a more DiY attitude.
Bands like Old 97s, Lucero, Whiskeytown, Son Volt, Drive-By Trucks, The Bottle Rockets, Alejandro Escovedo, as well as contemporaries like Cory Branan, Glossary, Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward, Monahans, DeVotchKa, Centro-matric, Whiskey Folk Ramblers, Deadman, Eleven Hundred Springs, The Lusitania, and many others were all highly influential in how they developed.
It’s almost as though they were influenced by college rock radio, record shop conversations, and dive bar circuits just as much as the clichéd lines of dusty plains and heritage rich with music and art.
Windfarm is a Polaroid. It’s a glimpse into the not too distant past. But, more than anything, Windfarm serves as a reminder that it can all be gone in an instant. Things are constantly changing. They fade away only to be unearthed once again decades later–if at all.
Hell, it took Terry Allen some 37 years to be as highly regarded and appreciated by folks other than die-hard songwriters, art aficionados, record collectors, and Panhandle fanatics. Even then, I wonder just how many fully appreciate his life’s work and aren’t just jumping on the wagon because it’s en vogue.
And that’s what’s perhaps the strangest thing about Lubbock Music, albeit, you could probably say the same about music from any region. They say you’re never a prophet in your own home town. Just ask Natalie Maines, Joe Ely, Waylon Jennings, the aforementioned Allen, Bob Livingston, or Lloyd Maines.
When I say TSC, One Wolf, Burn the Wagon, Sleepy Horses, etc were all hitting their stride and representing a high water marks of Lubbock Music, circa mid-00s, it’s not necessarily accurate to say they were fully appreciated or supported by the Lubbock market the way, say a William Clark Green, Josh Abbott, or Flatland Cavalry are now.
In part, that’s because Green, Abbott, Flatland, and any other applicable example found a larger audience quicker. It shouldn’t come to any surprise that there’s more people in Lubbock who identify as Texas Country or Texas Music fans than who identify as alternative country or indie rock fans.
But, a larger part is because those three (and others) have found an audience outside of Lubbock. They were called great artists by the masses in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Austin (and since it’s 2017, Spotify, Apple Music, etc). They were crowned as Next Big Things elsewhere.
I’d argue that artistically, the music of 2007’s Windfarm was both richer and more diverse than it even is now.
Outside of perhaps Buddy Holly, Terry Allen, The Supernatural Family Band (Tom X Hancock), Cary Swinney, or the king of outsider music, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, Thrift Store Cowboys has been the most progressive outfit to ever make music in the Panhandle.
But I digress.
Nothing is certain, but I wouldn’t be surprised if TSC–or any other on Windfarm (or say, a Brandon Adams, Wade Parks, Estelline, Colin Gilmore, Doctor Skoob, etc for that matter)–rises from obscurity, much like Allen’s ascension these last few years.
You won’t be able to find Windfarm digitally anywhere. No Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, etc (Though, there are currently TWO physical copies for sale on Amazon). But, except for four of them (“Black Yodel #1,” “It’s All Wearing Thin,” “Woman at the Well,” and “Common Man’s Son”), they’re available on the albums they originally appeared on. I’ve gone ahead and linked them below. Otherwise, you’ll have to fall into some luck at Ralph’s Records
or bargain bins at Hastings.
As of 2017, there hasn’t been a Windfarm Volume 2.
Windfarm Volume 1 Tracklist
01. “Dirtied Your Knees” Thrift Store Cowboys
02. “Black Yodel #1” Dirty Charley Band
03. “Haunted” One Wolf
04. “Four In the Morning” Lesley Sawyer
05. “It’s All Wearing Thin” Jake Unruh
06. “Woman at the Well” Anthony Garcia
07. “Down (Heart Will Break Your Fall)” Sleepy Horses
08. “California” Jeremy Nail
09. “Ride the River” Burn the Wagon
10. “Common Man’s Son” Daniel Molina
11. “She Already Knows” Chaffin-Poelings
12. “Keep it Close” Amanda Shires
13. “Medicine Man” Charlie Shafter Band
14. “Born in Blood” Andy Martinez
15. “Streetsigns in a Junkyard” Waiting to Derail