Tag Archives: Terry Allen

Hypotheticals That Could Happen, But Probably Won’t: Part I

by: Thomas D. Mooney

I have this list. It’s a running tally of hypothetical things that I A) I think would be amazing, but B) probably won’t happen for any number of reasons. Every couple of weeks, I’ll elaborate on one. These, they’ll be music related.

Some people believe for something to happen, you must first speak it into existence. It’s probably why LaVar Ball always sounds like a loon. He’s trying oh, so desperately to speak his wishes into existence. I know. It sounds like some kind pseudo-black magic bullshit.

Hopefully, these will be more logical–than say, all three Ball kids making it into the NBA. Still, you’ll see why they’re flawed or even impractical.

This first one has been bouncing around in some form or version for a few years now. The current model is a two-parter: NOT ONE, BUT TWO TERRY ALLEN TRIBUTE ALBUMS. Why two?

You’re probably wondering, why two? Well, they’d go like this:

  1. Lubbock on Lubbock (on Everything). All 21 tracks from the1979 magnum opus recorded by Lubbock artists.
  2. Tomorrow’s Tamales: A Tribute to Terry Allen. A traditional tribute of non-Lubbock artists where songs from the Allen catalog excluding Lubbock (on Everything)–that’s the real kicker on here–are up for grabs.

Nearly everyone gets a tribute album made at some point. It’s not that it’s a boring idea or something–but with 1) Allen being the greatest overall artist to come out of Lubbock and 2) with Lubbock (on Everything) being revered by songwriters, musicians, and artists with Lubbock ties, it’s special. It’s its’ own entity. At this point in history, it truly is the Holy Grail in Lubbock Music.

To split up the album, wouldn’t do the 21-song, double-album justice. The only proper way would be to have it done as a single piece. LA socialites, Brooklyn hipsters, and Austin yuppies may disagree, but yes, Lubbock (on Everything) just means more in the Panhandle of Texas. What may be viewed as a novelty piece by the eclectic songwriting visual artist Terry Allen by others, is a series of vignettes and confessions that just hit home Flatlanders.

Men & Vintage Neon Signs

What would Lubbock on Lubbock (on Everything) look like? Glad you asked. Maybe something like this.

01) “Amarillo Highway (for Dave Hickey)” by Wade Bowen
02) “High Plains Jamboree” by Randall King
03) “The Great Joe Bob (a Regional Tragedy)” by Flatland Cavalry
04) ‘The Wolfman of Del Rio” by Brandon Adams
05) “Lubbock Woman” by Josh Abbott Band
06) “The Girl Who Danced Oklahoma” by Wade Parks
07) “Truckload of Art” Amanda Shires
08) “The Collector (And the Art Mob)” by Daniel Markham
09) “Oui ( A French Song)” by Thrift Store Cowboys
10) “Rendezvous USA” by Ross Cooper
11) “Cocktails For Three” by Benton Leachman
12) “The Beautiful Waitress” by Kenneth O’Meara
13) “High Horse Momma” by No Dry County
14) “Blue Asian Reds (for Roadrunner)” by Dalton Domino
15) “New Delhi Freight Train” by Red Shahan
16) “FFA” by Charlie Stout
17) “Flatland Farmer” by William Clark Green
18) “My Amigo” by Charlie Shafter
19) “The Pink and Black Song” by Rattlesnake Milk
20) “The Thirty Year War Waltz (for Jo Harvey)” by Hogg Maulies
21) “I Just Left Myself” by Veda Moon

Having only artists and bands from these last 15 years is paramount. Allen’s probably more relevant in Lubbock now than at any point in his musical career. These people listen.

It’s a solid mix of established (JAB, Bowen, WCG, Shires), up and comers (Flatland, King, Domino, Shahan), and Lubbock staples (Adams, Parks, Hogg Maulies, Shafter). Kenneth O’Meara, No Dry County, Rattlesnake Milk–well, practically the whole lot (we’re still slowly converting Cleto)–are diehards. They have the insight on why these songs are still as relevant in the Panhandle as the day they were written.

Tomorrow’s Tamales is much like Lubbock on Lubbock (on Everything). in concept. Artists from the modern era of music. For the most part, these folks have either covered Allen in concert, posted about Allen’s work, or folks I’ve  had conversations with about Allen. They’re not just darts thrown blindly in the dark. Though, there is a couple who I just think would sound great.

01) “Four Corners” (Juarez) by American Aquarium
02) “Wake of the Red Witch” (Bottom of the World) by Sam Baker
03) “The Heart of California” (Smokin’ The Dummy) by The Band of Heathens
04) “Flatland Boogie” (Human Remains) by John Baumann
05) “There Oughta Be a Law Against Sunny Southern California” (Juarez) by Ryan Bingham
06) “Rio Ticino” (Salivation) by Jason Boland & The Stragglers
07) “X-Mas On the Isthmus” (Salivation) by Kirby Brown
08) “Queenie’s Song (Bottom of the World) by Jonny Burke
09) “The Gift” (Bottom of the World) by Hayes Carll
10) “Gimme a Ride to Heaven Boy” (Bloodlines) by Paul Cauthen
11) “Dogwood” (Juarez) by Ryan Culwell 
12) “Boomtown Boogie” (Chippy Soundtrack) by Dirty River Boys
13) “Cortez Sail” (Juarez) by John Fullbright
14) “Gonna California” (Chippy Soundtrack) by J.P. Harris
15) “Red Bird” (Smokin’ the Dummy) by Adam Hood
16) “Ain’t No Top 40 Song” (Salivation) by Jason Isbell
17) “What of Alicia” (Juarez) by Drew Kennedy
18) “The Night Cafe” (Smokin’ the Dummy) by Nikki Lane
19) “Angels of the Wind” (Chippy Soundtrack) by Lori McKenna
20) “Roll Truck Roll” (Smokin’ the Dummy) by Mike & The Moonpies
21) “Texas Tears” (Smokin’ the Dummy) by Old 97’s
22) “Emergency Human Blood Courier” (Bottom of the World) by K. Phillips
23) “Fate With a Capital F” (Chippy Soundtrack) by Margo Price
24) “The Lubbock Tornado (I Don’t Know)” (Smokin’ the Dummy) by Quaker City Night Hawks
25) “Our Land” (Bloodlines) by Reckless Kelly
26) “La Despedida (The Parting)” (Juarez) by Shakey Graves
27) “Cantina Carlotta” (Juarez) by Shinyribs
28) “Buck Naked” (Human Remains) by Shovels & Rope
29) “Southern Comfort” (Salivation) by Sturgill Simpson
30) “Give Me the Flowers” (Salivation) by Chris Stapleton
31) “Border Palace” (Juarez) by Texas Gentlemen
32) “Room to Room” (Human Remains) by Turnpike Troubadours
33) “Gone to Texas” (Human Remains) by Jonathan Tyler 
34) “Back to Black” (Human Remains) by Jamie Lin Wilson

Yeah. I guess that ain’t too bad. It’d be a double album–very much in the same vein as the stellar Guy Clark tribute, This One’s For Him: A Tribute to Guy Clark. In either of these, you could go the route that includes Allen’s contemporaries and it’d be fine. Everyone from Joe Ely, The Maines Brothers Band, and Butch Hancock to Jerry Jeff Walker, Rodney Crowell, and Lucinda Williams would sound great here, but a cohesive coalition of this last wave of artists would be an even bigger statement. Allen’s legacy as a visual artist, songwriter, and playwright is that he’s made timeless art. It’s live and breathing. It’s as refreshing today as it was in ’79, ’89, or ’99.

While most now know Lubbock (on Everything) and Juarez, largely due to their recent reissues, Allen’s back catalog of Smokin’ the Dummy, Bloodlines, Salivation, Human Remains, the soundtrack to Chippy, Bottom of the World, Pedal Steel, etc is plum full of hidden gems, quirky ditties, rocking ramblers, and country ballads. Plenty of room for folks to spread their legs and experiment.

Probably the most intriguing choices would be Jamie Lin Wilson and Turnpike Troubadours–who could easily make both “Room to Room” and “Back to Black” into break-up ballads like their previous collaborative effort, the heart wrenching “Call a Spade a Spade.”

Folks like John Fullbright, Shinyribs, Hayes Carll, Lori McKenna, and Jonathan Tyler could stretch out into directions unlike anyone else involved. You’d want to see the piss and vinegar,  grit’n’groove flow on “Gone to Texas” by Tyler. “Cortez Sail” demands attention. As simple as it is, it’s complex with that transition. You almost have to be two artists–not necessarily two-faced–but Fullbright would be able to make an imprint with his solemn, mature delivery.

I could go on and on with reasons why whoever fits here and there. Still, as tempting it is to go on, justifying the likes of Jason Isbell, American Aquarium, Reckless Kelly, etc isn’t needed. They speak for themselves.

What’re the odds these are made? On one hand, I think it’s just a matter of time and money before someone pitches an Allen tribute. Practically everyone gets at least one tribute record one day. Hell–even getting 15 of those recorded and released would be an accomplishment of sorts. Still, Allen deserves more.

On the other, Allen’s work has only really been discovered by “the masses” these past few years. His fanbase has expanded recently, but it’s always been relatively been small in number. So maybe there’s just not been a demand. And tribute albums, in general, aren’t necessarily best sellers. They’re passion projects. It’s a matter of will. And if Tomorrow’s Tamales is a passion project, what’s Lubbock on Lubbock (on Everything)? A nerdy pipe dream passion project?

Even more likely is there ever being TWO tributes set up in such a way. There’s no way Tomorrow’s Tamales participants would want to be involved without the inclusion of some Lubbock (on Everything) songs. And who’d be telling prospective artists like Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, and Sturgill Simpson those are off-limits due to Thomas Mooney’s wishes? Not even me. Probably.

But just imagine.

Hypotheticals That Could Happen, But Probably Won’t: Part II will be out soon and will be about concept albums that should be made by various songwriters and bands.

Panhandle Music 2016: Top Releases

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.

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

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–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”


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

Terry Allen’s Lubbock (on Everything) Gets Reissued Date

Photo by Gary Krueger, 1968.
Photo by Gary Krueger, 1968.

by: Thomas D. Mooney

Earlier this year, the record label Paradise of Bachelors reissued Lubbock singer-songwriter and artist Terry Allen’s Juarez, his 1975 debut album. Now, Allen’s magnum opus sophomore album, the 21-track monolith Lubbock (On Everything) will be getting the same treatment.

Lubbock (on Everything) will officially be rereleased on Oct 14.

Much like Juarez before it, Lubbock (on Everything) will not only be available digitally, the double-album will get the deluxe treatment. According to PoB, The Deluxe 2×LP package includes tip-on gatefold jacket with lyrics, printed inner sleeves, download code, and 28 pp. book with related artwork and photos, an oral history by Allen, and essays by David Byrne, Lloyd Maines, and PoB. 2×CD edition features replica jacket, sleeves, and tipped-in 52pp. book.

You can currently order Lubbock (On Everything) here. Read our last interview with Allen on all things Lubbock (On Everything) here. Listen to the iconic opener “Amarillo Highway” below.

Interviews: Terry Allen on Lubbock (On Everything)

Photograph by Peter Ellzey
Photograph by Peter Ellzey

by: Thomas D. Mooney

This coming Thursday, February 18th, Lubbock artist-musician-writer Terry Allen will be performing his masterpiece album, Lubbock (on Everything) on Texas Tech University campus as this year’s “Lubbock Lights: Celebrating the Musical Heritage of the South Plains” guest speaker and artist. Allen and company will be performing Lubbock (on Everything) at the Student Union Building’s Allen Theatre on the Texas Tech campus.

Joining him on stage will be a star-studded lineup of individuals who either recorded the album at Caldwell Studios in 1978 or have been a vital piece of Allen’s life and music since then. They include Allen’s wife, Jo Harvey Allen, Richard Bowden, Don Caldwell, Gwen Decker, Suzanne Henley, Kenny Maines, Lloyd Maines, Alan Shinn, Curtis McBride, Terry and Jo Harvey’s sons Bukka and Bale Allen, Casey Maines, Donnie Maines, and Terri Hendrix.

Tickets for “Lubbock Lights,” which is open to the public, are $15 and available through Select-A-Seat, at (806) 770-2000 or at www.selectaseatlubbock.com. Doors will be open at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 18 with the performance beginning at 7:00 p.m.. Texas Tech University students will be admitted free with a valid ID.

We caught up with Allen to discuss the monumental album, the landscape of Lubbock music around the time, and the impact of the album all these years later.

New Slang: I’ve seen you talk about Lubbock being a scapegoat for you in your younger years. You couldn’t wait to get out of here and so you move out to Los Angeles. But then, Lubbock and the area starts to creep back into your life through your art. At the beginning, were you frustrated or even angry that despite being a thousand miles away, somehow Lubbock, in its’ own way is a major influence on your art?

Terry Allen: I think it was just a realization. After going back and forth and kind of finding my own identity out in California. We went back and forth all the time because Jo Harvey’s folks lived there. My mother lived in Amarillo. All during the ’60s and ’70s, we were pretty much burning up the road between California and Lubbock during the holidays.

But I think it was just a realization of where you come from is important. No matter where you come from, there’s a richness that can be tapped into. Part of it, it’s made you into the kind of person you are–or at least can give you the kind of heart you have for whatever work you’re doing. I think that’s what I was really coming to terms with.

I did leave with a vengeance. I did want to get out of there–big time. I remember when I first got to California and into art school, I was kind of stunned to meet people with similar circumstances from all over the country. They all couldn’t wait to get away from where they were from. It was kind of a weird, prodigal group. Self-made outcasts. I kind of learned through talking with all those people. It was realizing how different their lives were and from maybe a place you thought of as some kind of paradise, they couldn’t wait to get their ass out there. We’re all made up of these different geographies. I think it’s coming to terms with the fact that they’re important. Wherever you come from, it’s a big one in your life.

NS: With Lubbock (on Everything), I think the title, it’s often misunderstood, that it’s you exploring the various pockets of people who inhabit the Panhandle–there’s plenty of that–but the album is really more about Lubbock’s impact on everything in your life.

TA: Yeah, that’s exactly it.I think Lubbock as home. Lubbock as a place you run from. Lubbock as the world. Lubbock as the smallest dot on the planet. By the time I went back to record the record, there were so many songs that came from so many different angles. Whether it was the Vietnam War, selling in galleries and making art in that sense–there were a lot of lives that were stacked up there on the album. It just made sense to call it Lubbock (on Everything).

Also, for years, Lubbock had a billboard outside of town, their main billboard, that said “Lubbock for all reasons.” So what’s the difference?

NS: I found this old record you’d done called Live at Al’s Grand Hotel May 7th, 1971. It has two songs from Lubbock (on Everything) on there–“The Pink and Black Song” and “Truckload of Art.” How big of a time period are the songs of Lubbock (on Everything) from?

TA: I’d say the earliest come from around ’66, ’67–something like that. I’d say it was about a 10 year span. I had written a whole record before with Juarez. These though, they were songs from different angles and times. That’s one of those things you realize years later when people ask “Why don’t you do another record like Lubbock (on Everything)?” Well, you can’t. And you have no desire to. They were done at a particular time when particular things fell into place in your life and your music. It’s kind of a ridiculous thing to comprehend. The idea of repeating yourself like that, you can’t.

NS: Yeah. I think people always want that. It’s why sequels are made. But for you, it’s you really dedicating a decade of your life to a particular idea.

TA: Yeah. A lot of them were surprisingly about West Texas. They were literally surprising to me when I started putting them together. I’ve told this story a lot. Really, the first time it ever dawned on me what that country and those people really meant to me, it was when we were listening to the record for the first time. It dawned on me that I really did deeply care about that country, the stories I grew hearing, and the stories of the people I grew up around. It’s a matter of learning. It’s a learning process that continues until you’re dead–hopefully. If it doesn’t, you’re dead anyway.

NS: Yeah. Going back to that Al’s Grand Hotel record. Was that you just solo? What’s the story behind that?

TA: Yeah, it’s just me. Those tapes were lost for a long time. A friend of mine, he’d done this art installation. It was a hotel that people could actually check in. It was in conjunction to a show called Art and Technology. It was in LA and was through the LA County Museum of Art. Al Ruppersberg, he’s a very close friend of mine, he made this piece. I had done this song called “Al’s Cafe.” It was with this prior installation of a working cafe that sold art instead of food. He was like the chef and you ordered your art off a menu. So I had written that song for him and we put it out as a “Blue Plate Special,” the 45 record.

Anyways, so he wanted me to play at the opening of the hotel. At the time, I had signed with a record company called Clean Records, which was a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. They suggested cutting some of these songs live. So they brought in a piano and recorded all this stuff. I don’t think it lived up to any of their expectations. The tapes were almost immediately lost for the next 30 years [laughs]. The way they were found, Al was in New York, he went and spoke to the man who ran Clean Records at the time, a man by the name Earl McGrath. It ended up being in his closet. So we got those tapes. There’s a lot more songs on them, but I edited them down to the ones that made sense–and ones that I got from beginning to end without totally screwing up on. That’s not always the case if you listen to them. There’s a lot of screw ups [laughs]. Al got to kind of revisit that hotel through a big show he had, so we thought since he did find the tapes, it’d be a good idea to do an LP. It was very limited edition, only 500 of them made.

I had done one more record prior to that. It was a 45. I think it came out in ’66. It was a song called “Gone to California” and the other side was “Color Book.” It was A&M Records who wanted to do a record with me so we went and cut those two. It was keyboard and a guitar player by the named of Mike Deasy. They pressed about 300 of them. There was a guy floating around L.A. around the time called Hollywood Arson. He literally lit one of his fires on my stack of records. They were supposed to be promo records, but there were only about 50 that survived. As far as I was concerned, they were immediately collector’s items. They were part of the “Blue Plate Special” we did over at Al’s Cafe.

The only other recording I did prior to Juarez was for a movie called Two Lane Blacktop. I cut “Truckload of Art.” It was around that same time for Clean Records. It only came out in the movie very briefly. Like they played it on the radio. That was pretty much about the only stuff that went out into the world before ’75.

NS: Yeah. When I interviewed Lloyd Maines about the record, he had mentioned you playing “Red Bird” for a variety show called Shindig!

TA: Yeah, that was ’64. Shindig! was a show around then. I had done “Red Bird” and another song that’s long been buried thank god, called “Freedom School.” I did both those songs in a minute and a half. It was very much Chipmunked up. It’s so ridiculous that it’s funny now.

NS: Yeah [laughs]. Getting back on Lubbock (on Everything), someone once described the record to me as kind of being like Dubliners. There’s these character studies. You mentioned it earlier, being in art school with self-proclaimed outliers. What drew you to writing about these characters who are down on their luck, don’t fit in, outliers, or sometimes even just troublemakers?

TA: I think all those people, I certainly encountered them for real or in the climate of growing up there. Like “Joe Bob (The Great Joe Bob”), he’s not a real person, but he’s certainly a composite of some. I actually have drawers with newspaper clippings that people have sent me over the years of that same exact story. The football hero in high school goes to hell as soon as he gets out. It was almost an icon in a sense–the failed football star.

I don’t think you make biographies as much as you make a climate. Mostly, when a song works and sung about a character, all of that character is made in the head of the one who is listening to it. The bulk of that character is built there. We all have our private people that we have inside ourselves that we know. We know these specific, personal things about these people. You can sing a song about “The Beautiful Waitress” and I’ll have one take on it and a person from New York City, they’re going to have their own. Same with someone from East Texas or Thailand. That story though, it’s almost universal. Coming across somebody who serves you, moves you, and then you move on.

NS: One of the things I’ve thought about the record, was how it’s kind of a circle. It feels like the last song, “I Just Left Myself” directly connects to the first, “Amarillo Highway.” For me at least, it makes sense that when you’re in “I Just Left Myself,” you’re on the Amarillo Highway–that’s where the wreck of “I Just Left Myself” happens. The lines that really connect them are “The closest I’ll ever get to heaven is making speed on old 87” (“Amarillo Highway”) and “I didn’t float, I didn’t fly, I did not transcend” (“I Just Left Myself”). Was this something that was on purpose? Were they put in order specifically for that effect?

TA: I don’t think consciously they were. But one of the things I tried to do with this record, was to make it one thing. I wanted it to be something you experienced from beginning to end. I like you saying that because it was my intention. I don’t know about specifics, but the climate of those songs, I wanted it to give an atmosphere of one thing and it being made out of a lot of parts. That’s really what I meant when each person finds their own way of listening to something. I’d be the last person to tell you “No, no. That’s not the case.” I think it’s really important that people lend their own world to it and make it theirs.

NS: Yeah. Over time, I think I’ve decided that with music, even though a songwriter writes a song for some specific reason and it holds some importance to them, it’s just as important, if not more, what the listener gets out of the song, even if it’s something entirely different.

TA: Yeah. I think they can be very different. A song can come from one thing and take on a life that you never even thought about. And in some cases, some you never intended. They’re all OK–unless you’re talking with someone and they just have some moronic interpretation [laughs].

NS: [Laughs].

TA: I think the listener finishes the song. You don’t really know where one comes from. Some are more apparent because of a theme or an idea, but the actual making of a song, it’s as mysterious as a blank sheet of paper that you suddenly fill up because of an idea. It’s a very mysterious act.

NS: Lubbock (on Everything), it’s a big album. 21 songs. Was there ever any talk about making it smaller?

TA: Never. When I walked in, I had them pretty much in order. I had them in a notebook and played them pretty much in order. We shifted a few things around. I didn’t have any outtakes of song. It was pretty much planned as far as order and size. It had to be two records. I think the great thing about LPs was you had to think in terms of size. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. It’s like a book in a sense. With CDs, you’ve lost that. It’s all one thing that starts with the first and ends with the last. Or now, you know, you can just buy one song and take them out of the integrity of the single record. Which, I don’t like…but so what [laughs]?

NS: [Laughs]. When I spoke with Kenny and Lloyd about the album, they both talked about how organized you were. How you had all the songs in an order, knew what you wanted to do, and really, just all the preparation was done before pressing record.

TA: Yeah. It was kind of a perfect situation. Really, it’s just luck. Coming to Lubbock, meeting Lloyd, Kenny, and all those people–actually meeting people who could implement that. With the background I had with other musicians, it had been pretty limited. I worked with a couple on Juarez, but pretty much any time I had worked with other musicians, I had felt kind of restrained. I talk with Lloyd a lot about this. I had played with other guitar players, but it was always uncomfortable for me–which, it could be because I’m such a shitty piano player [laughs]. But when I sat down with Lloyd, it was a huge sigh of relief for me. It was finding someone who played in the same way I was thinking the song ought to be. We never really argued about anything. Lloyd, he’d get tight-assed about how some songs had to have a certain meter or rhythm or whatever. I would never paid attention to him on that. But it was such an incredible encounter with all those guys at Caldwell Studios. I think that atmosphere and those people, they lent to the feel of that record just as much as the songs. It came out of a real connection that I was just ecstatic over having because, I’d never had it before. That was a big part of it. The fact that it was in Lubbock, that was even more bizarre.

NS: Being recorded in Lubbock and with Lubbock musicians, that’s certainly an important aspect to the album. It’s significant. You said earlier that there wasn’t any outtakes. I always felt that Smokin’ the Dummy, which was your next record, it was kind of a sequel in a way. Were any of those songs written around the time of the Lubbock (on Everything) songs or were they after?

TA: With the exception of “Red Bird,” they were all written after Lubbock (on Everything). I’m not totally positive on that though. I probably had a few pieces and parts since that’s how I write. I’ll have a verse, a chorus, or a line all over the place. I know that after meeting all those guys though, I wanted to do a real upbeat kind of record. I wanted to work with Jesse [Taylor]. He had blown me away on what he did on “Flatland Farmer.” It worked out with his deal with Joe [Ely] that he could go out with me some and he could do some recording. I thought of it as more of a rock’n’roll record, even though there are songs like “Texas Tears” and other country feeling songs.

“Red Bird,” no one wanted to do that song when I sang it to them for the first time. They all thought it was too weird. I told them, “Of all the songs that are going to be on this record, that one is going to be on it.” When we recorded it, we figured out this little kind of line in the rides between the choruses. It was almost like a Dixie piece. All of a sudden, all the harmonies they were doing, they just started to work. I think to this day, it’s still everybody’s favorite song–but I’m always reluctant to say “favorite” song. It’s like picking your favorite kid or favorite this or that.

NS: When Lubbock (on Everything) was being pressed to CD, the song “High Horse Momma” was left off due to space. I’m sure you wanted it on there. But why was it ultimately that song and not something else?

TA: Yeah, that’s a good question. It really was a toss-up. I didn’t want to cut it, but there was no way it would fit. There’s a group that I just licensed Lubbock (on Everything) and Juarez to out of North Carolina called Paradise of Bachelors. It’s these guys who are doing reissues of records that they like. They’re doing these packages of the LPs with a booklet that’ll have some essays and stuff for it. Because it’s an LP, “High Horse Momma” is going to be on it. I did put “High Horse Momma” on The Silent Majority compilation. And we’re going to do it on the 18th.

NS: A lot of people who I’ve spoken with about the album, they’ve said that even though the music scene was starting to bubble up and had some songwriters and bands doing some things, that really, Lubbock (on Everything) was the tipping point. Now, we know all of them as this established group from Lubbock, but then, it’s not necessarily the case.

TA: Yeah. Joe was still living there when we recorded the album. I hadn’t met him before. I knew Jimmie [Dale Gilmore] and Butch [Hancock] from high school. They were sophomores when I was a senior, but it wasn’t because of anything to do with music. Didn’t reconnect with any of those guys until I went to record. That was the first time I met Joe and all of the Maines people. It was a whole new experience to me. And shortly after that, they were all moving to Austin. Joe was the first. Lloyd was sort of the last one. He’d been burning up the road between Lubbock and Austin so much that he just finally moved. Jimmie and Butch left. Jo Carol Pierce was another. She’s a wonderful songwriter who moved down to Austin. Anyways, it was a wonderful generation of music. They went to Austin, and of course, I’d left years before. You know, I always said, they called themselves The Flatlanders. Me, I was get my ass flat-out of there. [laughs].

NS: [Laughs].

TA: I think a lot of people left at the same time. I was living in Fresno when I cut Lubbock (on Everything). I’d come back and play gigs all the time with them. We’d play Coldwater and Stubb’s. It was funny, the first gig of The Panhandle Mystery Band that we did was in Chicago at Second City. Kenny, Curtis McBride, Lloyd, Don Caldwell, and me–I think that was all of us–anyway, Caldwell came up with us and trashed our set [laughs].

NS: [Laughs].

TA: I’m just kidding. I always just accused him of that [laughs]. Obviously Caldwell and Kenny stayed in Lubbock. When we started going out on the road, which wasn’t really until after Smokin’ the Dummy, we played a lot of museum gigs and gigs that were sponsored by museums and art galleries. It was a very bizarre audience in one sense because it was a new audience. We’d play in a nightclub one night and then in a concert hall the next. We’d do the same exact set list. It was a real interesting time. Donnie [Maines] came on after Curtis. Donnie played on everything I think after Lubbock (on Everything). He was just a monster drummer.

NS: Kenny said at that Chicago show, you kicked a pedal out of a piano.

TA: Yeah. That happened a lot in those days. I kicked a pedal in two and kicked a lot of them off. I stopped my foot pretty hard. At one time, after playing all these uprights, I had a collection of pedals I had broken off. I had tape on each one with the place and date. Usually, it was because I’d ask them to tune the piano, and going into a club, you never know what you’re going to get since it’s somebody else’s instrument. Some of them would be horrendously out of tune. I would have to stop it extra hard.

NS: Talking with folks who played on the album, they all said spoke about how playing on the album, playing shows with you, all of that had an impact on what they thought about music. It influenced their own ideas on what they could do individually. I’d assume that in the moment, you don’t see you’re having an influence on them, but looking back, do you see how your work would have some kind of influence on their future work in The Maines Brothers, solo albums, and what not?

TA: Well, I knew The Maines Brothers liked my music because they recorded a bunch of my songs. We’d play a gig were it was The Maines Brothers Band and The Panhandle Mystery Band. There were a lot more players in The Maines Brothers, but then Richard [Bowden], Kenny, Donnie, and Lloyd would play with me as The Panhandle Mystery Band.

I always thought the sounds of the two bands were very different. The way they’d do “Amarillo Highway” and the way I’d do it were different. They’d adapt really fast. I don’t really think in the way you’re talking though. I don’t really think that way. But, I’m always happy when someone records one of my songs.

NS: This upcoming show, you’ll be doing the album in full. How many times has that actually happened?

TA: I think it’s the first time. We did Juarez. A friend of mine, Cliff Westerman, who was an artist, he had a retrospective exhibition in Chicago. Cliff, he always loved Juarez. We played that then, which was the only time. The band, they played acoustic during the entire album. Juarez, it really is such a solo record, but we did a lot of minimal arrangements for the band to play. I’ve thought about re-recording it because I really liked what we did with it. But, I don’t think we’ve ever done Lubbock (on Everything) from start to finish.

NS: Were you surprised they asked you to do the entire album for this show?

TA: Yeah. Andy Wilkinson really kind of spearheaded that. I knew they’d done something like it last year. They’d been asking for several years. Don Caldwell was wanting to do a show for a long time. So it kind of worked. Caldwell had a lot to do with it, pushing the idea, him and Andy. With Tech on it, they’ve been great to work with. They’ve parlayed it into all these talks. My wife is going to talk to the Theatre Department. I think we’re both going to Monterey High School. I’m talking to an art class and a music class at Tech. I think Lloyd is in on it too. We were all laughing about the scholastic intent of Lubbock (on Everything) wasn’t really heavy [laughs]. But I love it.

Goodbye Normal Street: Scoreboard Watching in Lubbock, Texas

Humble Folksby: Thomas D. Mooney

“From a musicological point of view, that album is a watershed moment. That’s when Lubbock music grew up.” 
–Andy Wilkinson on Terry Allen’s Lubbock (on Everything) 

“Going to climb that mountain with all my friends.” 
–Cleto Cordero of Flatland Cavalry on “Devil On My Back.”

37 years ago, Terry Allen released Lubbock (on Everything). It’s widely considered the greatest, most complete piece of work in Panhandle Music history. It is the Lubbock album.

It’s not as though Allen returned to Lubbock in 1978 and declared himself king of a nonexistent scene. He didn’t create Lubbock music over the course of a double platter record. But like fellow Lubbock singer-songwriter Andy Wilkinson said about Allen, the album was a watershed moment.

It was the album that kicked everything into a higher gear. It energized a music scene that was ready to take on the world outside of Lubbock. Lubbock legends Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, The Maines Brothers, Jesse “Guitar” Taylor, David Halley, Jay Boy Adams, Mac Davis, Bob Livingston, Jo Carol Pierce, Tommy X Hancock and The Supernatural Family Band were already on the cusp of a music revolution. Lubbock (on Everything) just sped things up. It made being a Lubbock artist chic–for both those on the come up and for those who had been chiseling away for years in Hub City. In short, the making of Lubbock benefited everyone who ever claimed to be a Lubbock musician–even if for some, that was indirectly or perhaps, not asked for.

Fast forward the current age and we’re perhaps seeing another “Lubbock watershed moment” in real time with the overnight success of Flatland Cavalry’s Humble Folksan album that made it into the Top 30 selling albums overall on iTunes this past Friday. Various publications are already calling the 11-track album the best of the new year by any Texas or country act.

So is it?

Being as it’s only five days since the actual release date, we may be are rushing to judgement with even considering Humble Folks a watershed album for Lubbock. But it doesn’t mean it’s totally an unwarranted question.

If you’ve followed New Slang for any reasonable amount of time, you’re fully aware that we’ve been calling Lubbock’s music scene the most underrated and genuinely the epicenter of Texas music for essentially the last five years. That ultimately means that we’d consider the successes of songwriters and bands who have making music over the last decade in the Panhandle already worthy of a listening to. It means there’s always been a plethora of overlooked talent.

Now, obviously there will probably be a small sliver of you calling even the suggestion that Flatland’s Humble Folks more important than [insert the Lubbock album title of your liking here] preposterous and perhaps, even borderline sacrilegious.

Albums such as William Clark Green’s Rose Queen, Thrift Store Cowboys’ Lay Low While Crawling or Creeping, Cary Swinney’s Martha, Amanda Shires’ Carrying Lightning,  Brandon Adams’ Brandon Adams & The Sad Bastards,  Charlie Shafter’s 17th & Chicago, One Wolf’s One Wolf II, Josh Abbott’s Small Town Family Dream, and many, many others are all testaments to that notion. Those all could have been what busted the door down and made the collective heads of the masses turn and acknowledge what’s been going on in Lubbock in the last 15-20 years. But they ultimately didn’t–no matter if they were successful, critically acclaimed, influential, or landmark pieces of art (Side Note: In the summer, we’ll be counting down our Top 100 Lubbock Releases of the last 15 Years. It’s then when you’ll see our overall breakdown of what’s been the “best.”)

We’re not here arguing that Humble Folks is any better than Lubbock albums released by William Clark Green, Red Shahan, Daniel Markham, Amanda Shires, or Kenneth O’Meara over the last few years. We’d actually argue that all of those were vital to even get to this place. Take an album out and we’re possibly talking about Randall King or Grady Spencer’s watershed moment.

Conversely, Green, Abbott, Bowen, Thrift Store Cowboys, etc would be part of the foundation on which Flatland ultimately built upon. Without context and climate, perhaps Cordero and company’s Humble Folks isn’t even Humble Folks.

It’s important not compare Lubbock (on Everything) and Humble Folks outright. We’re not here to compare the artistic value of the albums. But rather, it’s about the climates in which they arrived. It’s about what happened directly before and ultimately, what’s to come in both the immediate and long-term future.

What hurts Humble Folks watershed case most would be time–or the lack thereof. With Lubbock, we have the luxury of now realizing Allen is a musical genius who transcended Lubbock and the state of Texas. His work not only influenced his peers within the Panhandle, but all over Texas not to mention abroad. It’s just as easy to see Allen’s influence on The Maines Brothers Band and Delbert McClinton as it is to see on Robert Earl Keen, Steve Earle, and David Byrne. Allen’s impact wasn’t just limited to those making music in days of Lubbock either. Modern contemporaries such as Ryan Bingham, Evan Felker, and Natalie Maines all find something in Allen’s work that moves them.

In 10 years, we could be seeing a whole generation of songwriters and bands claiming a Flatland influence. But we also could be calling Humble Folks an anomaly. I highly doubt it, but it’s certainly in the realm of possibilities.

The quality of the album is important. It’s what gives an album longevity. But, the quality of the album and whether it’s a watershed album aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. It’d be nice if they were, but it’s not as though we haven’t seen inferior albums spark recognition for an area, scene, or genre.

The longterm effects of Humble Folks and Flatland Cavalry as a whole won’t be fully understood for years. What is though, is the shift and turn of the tides. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The success of Flatland isn’t going to just give them heightened acclamation and notoriety. It’s going to be the Panhandle as a whole that ultimately reaps those benefits.

The true litmus test will not be just how many arrive for future Flatland shows, how many copies of Humble Folks exchange hands, and the number of articles and reviews written about them. But rather, how many show up looking for the next Next Big Thing (Hell, even acknowledging and referencing back to Green’s Ringling Road may be revealing the true watershed record.) It’ll be measured by how outsiders view Lubbock and Panhandle bands over the course of the next decade–if Lubbock goes from underrated to properly rated, to ultimately overrated.

Maybe the floodgates are open.