Don't Mess With Texas (Music)
I think I first really got in to Texas Music when I lived in England.
I'd always been a fan of Willie, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and guys like that...but there's was nothing really organized about them. They were just artists from Texas who made music their way, put it out there, and it found an audience. And, of course, Asleep At The Wheel was doing their own thing, reminding us that Bob Wills was still the King.
Guys like Jack Ingram, Robert Earl Keen, and Pat Green were the next generation, and they seemed to have a handle on developing Texas as its own market and, in turn, their music found an audience outside of Texas--bringing recognition to "Texas Music" is its own "thing"...almost it's own genre of music.
But when I lived in England, thanks to the internet and iTunes, I was discovering Aaron Watson, Cory Morrow, Roger Creager, Brandon Rhyder, and Josh Grider. The world of Texas Music was opening up to me.
And it seemed like the music of the Lone Star State was a nice "overlay" onto my music library. As big as the state itself, I discovered, its music allowed for a wide variety of styles and tastes. And, with reference to my blog from last week, it was interesting. I kept exploring deeper and found really cool artists breaking through in Texas. Guys like James Lann, Eli Young Band, Randy Rogers Band, Wade Bowen, Derryl Perry.
Texas Music had me.
And then I moved to Nashville.
Once in Nashville, I realized that Texas Music was tightening its grip on me. The more I listened to country radio here, the more I liked what it wasn't playing. I wanted "real" music. I wanted music that could be a little rough around the edges I wanted music that put the song first--sometimes at the expense of vocals and production.
To me, Texas Music is to Country music what Grunge was to Rock music in the mid-80s: a rebellion against the mainstream, cultured, Top 40 sound. Texas Music sort of "bubbles under the surface" of Country, and every once in a while, a country Nirvana or Soundgarden breaks through and influences was Top 40 country radio is doing. Look at Aaron Watson, Cody Jinks, and Cody Johnson now...all Texas artists with a more traditional sound, all signed to co-operative deals with Nashville labels but with creative control of what they release. I think those Texas artists WILL have the impact on country radio like Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice In Chains did on rock radio.
Now don't get me wrong. There are plenty of artists in Nashville making music like they do in Texas, except here in Nashville those artists are typically categorized as Americana artists. And Texas/Red Dirt Music is a sort of sub-genre of American Music too.
Red Dirt? Did I just bring Red Dirt into the equation? Yeah. That's why Texas Music and Red Dirt Music often come together--and although I've yet to see a perfect distinction between Texas and Red Dirt, Wikipedia sort of defines it best: "Red Dirt is a music genre that gets its name from the color of soil found in Oklahoma. Stillwater, Oklahoma, is considered to be the center of red dirt music; there is also a separate Texas red dirt subgenre. Outlaw country legends Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson have been associated with the distinctive Texas sound, while the late Oklahoma singer-songwriter Bob Childers is widely recognized as the Father of Oklahoma red dirt music. At one time, the distinction between the two genres was sonically obvious, but by 2008, that gap had diminished."
Discover some of the artists I've mentioned here. Discover Cody Canada, Reckless Kelly, Micky and The Motorcars, Kyle Park, American Aquarium, The Texas Gentlemen, Giovannie & The Hired Guns, Dustin Schaefer, Dustin Sonnier, Holly Tucker, Shea Abshire & the Nighthowlers, Darrin Morris Band...and the list goes on!
Texas Music can be as traditional as George Strait and as alternative as American Aquarium. I like it all!
PS I'm married to a Texas singer/songwriter. Her name is Jo-Leah and, as a songwriter, she's had several songs on the Texas Regional Radio chart, most recently with Austin duo Moonlight Social.