Tag Archives: Thrift Store Cowboys

Throwback Thursday: Windfarm Vol. 1

by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

“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, One Wolf, and Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward.

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.

Early show poster for Lubbock show. By Dirk Fowler.

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.

Los Lobos.

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

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

Goodbye Normal Street: Scoreboard Watching in Lubbock, Texas

Humble Folksby: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

“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.