Deep in the Musical Heart of Texas

Don’t Mess With Texas and Its Music

“You got Bellaire class and Dallas style, Austin soul and a Luckenbach smile”
-Slaid Cleaves- “Texas Love Song”

“Greetings from Austin” Mural

If you’re a fan of country music, especially old school country, then you know that Texas is a big deal. With artists like George Strait dominating the airwaves from the 1980s through the 2010s, songs about Texas were commonly heard on the radio. And thanks to “All My Ex’s Live in Texas,” most country music fans from the past few decades can probably rattle off the names of a handful of Texas cities with ease. I’m pretty sure King George can also be credited with putting “Amarillo” on the map! Texas is also home to numerous country (and non-country) musicians including some of the most influential in the genre like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Texas itself is a musical state, it’s capital, Austin, is the “Live Music Capital of the World” and it’s home to bars and honky tonks made famous because of their musical connection, like Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth. It can be credited with birthing the Outlaw Country movement of the 1970’s and today, with the help of Oklahoma, it’s given us “Red Dirt” music. It’s the location of movies like Urban Cowboy and it’s the host of Austin City Limits. It’s because of its rich country music history that I chose Texas as my summer vacation destination. Texas also has a lot to offer outside of music- you can find rodeos, cattle drives, and BBQ there. You can float the river in New Braunfels and you can pick up a kolach from the Czech bakery in West. It’s where you go to get back to the basics of love.

Country music was definitely a central theme of my trip. Prior to heading out to the Lone Star State, I made a Spotify playlist titled, “Texas Love Songs,” the title of which can be credited to Slaid Cleaves‘ song “Texas Love Song.” As the trip planning got underway and even while I was in Texas, I was continually adding songs to this list. Even now after I’m home I’m still adding to this extensive list. On it you’ll find songs about Texas, songs that reference Texas, and songs by Texans. Even stuff that doesn’t fit this criteria has made its way onto this playlist such as songs by the Turnpike Troubadours who I thought were worth including because of their “Red Dirt” classification. While the Texas connection of some songs on this playlist may be obvious, like “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind?” others may be less so like “One Night Taco Stand,” which made me think of Austin and the numerous food trucks and taco joints in the city. And while you’re not likely to ever find me including a Blake Shelton song on a playlist, this may be the one exception, as this playlist wouldn’t be complete without “Austin.” I’ve compiled all of the top Texas songs in a Spotify playlist that you can find here.

This playlist came to life on several occasions throughout this trip. While in Dallas I played two of my favorite songs about The Big D as I walked around- Mark Chesnutt‘s “Goin’ Through the Big D” and George Strait’s “Run.” And while in Luckenbach, Texas, singing this song together with other visitors, I wasn’t feeling no pain.

The Prophets of Country Music

If the biblical holy land produced prophets known for the messages that they delivered to the masses then the same can be said of Texas producing country music prophets. Whether you credit it to divine intervention or something in the water, there’s bound to be a reason why so many musical greats hail from this state (the sheer size of it doesn’t hurt in this regard). I’m talking about people like Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt, Waylon Jennings, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joe Shaver, Robert Earl Keen, Lee Ann Womack, George Strait, Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark, Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett, Rhett Miller, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. There are modern day prophets coming out of this state as well like Cody Jinks, Kacey Musgraves, Josh Abbott, Amanda Shires, Shane Smith, Miranda Lambert, Hayes Carll, Flatland Calvary, Shakey Graves, Ryan Bingham, and Sunny Sweeney. And it’s not just country artists that are coming out of Texas as it’s also the home of musicians like Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, and Don Henley as well. That’s a whole lot of messengers all coming from one place! As Little Texas sings, “God Blessed Texas.”

Stevie Ray Vaughn State in Austin, Texas

A Country Music Pilgrimage

“Now I love the USA
And the other states
Ahh, they’re OK
Texas is the place I wanna be
And I don’t care if I ever go to Delaware anyway
‘Cause we got Stubbs, and Gruene Hall and Antone’s, and John T’s
Country Store
We’ve got Willie and Jacky Jack, Robert Earl, Pat, Cory, Charlie and me
And so many more”
-Ray Wylie Hubbard- “Screw You, We’re From Texas”

While you may not think “holy land” when you think of Texas, the amount of pilgrimage stops available to a country fan there may make you change your mind. There were several places that I put on my itinerary for this trip because of their significance in country music. Those places were John T. Floore Country Store, Gruene Hall, Antone’s, and Stubb’s. If you’re familiar with Ray Wylie Hubbard‘s song “Screw You, We’re From Texas,” then you know that he references all of these places. John T. Floore Country Store is the musical birthplace of Willie Nelson and John T. Floore (the man) is name dropped in Willie Nelson’s song “Shotgun Willie.”

Sign in front of John T. Floore Country Store in Helotes, Texas

While I didn’t stay for the performance at Stubb’s while I was there (I just ate some tasty food), I did catch a performance at Antone’s. There I had the pleasure of watching a performance by Barbara Lynn, a woman I didn’t know until that night but she’s actually a big deal having written songs recorded by both Freddy Fender and The Rolling Stones. At Gruene Hall, I listened to Bo Porter play a few songs including one about the great state of Texas called “She Likes Livin’ in Texas.”

Clockwise from the top left: Stubb’s BBQ (Austin), Gruene Hall (New Braunfels), John T. Floore Country Store (Helotes), Antone’s Nightclub (Austin)

“Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas
With Waylon and Willie and the boys
This successful life we’re livin’
Got us feuding like the Hatfields and McCoys”
-Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings- “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)”

While it was nice to check these places off my Texas bucket list, the most meaningful experience I had in Texas was in Luckenbach. As the song says, “out in Luckenbach, Texas ain’t nobody feeling no pain,” and that was definitely the case for me and everyone in the the post office/general store/bar that afternoon. With all of the singing, drinking, and joking that was taking place it was easy to forget about the real world for a couple of hours. The man performing that afternoon was Jimmy Lee Jones, a songwriter in his own right, who played some of his own songs for us and also took requests. One of his songs that he played was called “Quit Your Bitchin’,” which he got everyone to sing along to.  Jimmy Lee Jones has a reputation of his own in the music community, he was honored by the Texas Heritage Music Foundation, he’s opened for Willie’s picnics and shows on numerous occasions, and Willie Nelson has even said that “Jimmy Lee Jones is one of the best kept secrets in Texas.” Well, the secret is out now!

The artists that I requested Jimmy Lee Jones play that afternoon were Townes Van Zandt (he played “Poncho and Lefty“), Billy Joe Shaver (he played “The Devil Made Me Do It the First Time“), Roger Miller (he played “King of the Road“), and Robert Earl Keen (he played “Feeling Good Again” –  a song about the Mr. Blues bar in Bandera, TX which I had walked past earlier that same day not knowing its connection to the song!) He was accompanied on all of these songs by Dino, who played both banjo and dobro and at times the bartender Ricky even jumped in on harmonica. Together, Jimmy  Lee Jones and Dino make up his band, “Jimmy Lee Jones and A Creep at the Steel.” Some other songs that he played that afternoon included “Highwayman,” “Silver Wings,” and of course, “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love).” When I asked him if he ever covered songs by female artists and he then played a song by The Judds titled “Flies On The Butter (You Can’t Go Home Again).” Turns out he does. And would you believe me if I told you that he also played the theme song to Spongebob Squarepants?! Well, he did! This man kept all of us in stitches with his jokes including the one about how he got his football injury (the punch line: he fell off a cheerleader!) An added touch to that lovely afternoon in the back of the Luckenbach Post Office were the roosters walking around the store and bar.

Me in Luckenbach, Texas…feeling no pain. This picture was taken by Dino from “Jimmy Lee Jones and A Creep at the Steel.” (July 2018)

Here’s a video of Jimmy Lee, Dino, and a rooster singing “Whiskey River.”

Of course, my trip to the Texas did not cover all of the holy cities. Texas is a big state and I didn’t have time to cover it all. While I did see Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Dallas, and some smaller towns like Fredericksburg and Bandera (The Cowboy Capital of the World), I was unable to see places like Lubbock (home of the West Texas Walk of Fame), Amarillo, Houston, La Grange (as in the ZZ Top Song), El Paso, Laredo, Galveston, Corpus Christi, and many others.

Holy Communion

“I wish I was in Austin 
In a chilly parlor bar 
Drinkin’ Mad Dog Margaritas 
And not carin’ where you are”
-Guy Clark- “Dublin Blues”

On my first day in Austin, I made my way out to the Texas Chili Parlor bar to have a holy communion of sorts. No, I didn’t have a wafer and wine, I had a Mad Dog Margarita, a place and a drink referenced by Guy Clark in his song “Dublin Blues.” This place is the definition of a “dive bar.” And while the Mad Dog Margarita wasn’t really my style (I’m not really a margarita girl anyway), I still enjoyed the experience of living out the dream Guy Clark once had while in Dublin.

A Mad Dog Margarita at the Texas Chili Parlor

Getting the Jinks Out

“I’ve been standing on the outside for all of my life
But I like the view, I’m not gonna lie”
-Cody Jinks- “Hippies and Cowboys”

One of the things I was most looking forward to on my trip was finally getting the chance to see Cody Jinks in concert. Of all the amazing artists I’ve discovered in the past year or so, this man ranks pretty high up there. I also may have planned my trip around getting to see him in concert (I did). The concert was held at Whitewater Amphitheater in New Braunfels, which is a short drive from Austin. The openers were Ward Davis and Colter Wall. I saw Colter Wall in DC back in April at a sold out show at U Street Music Hall and was surprised that the crowd didn’t really seem to be that into him in Texas. Obviously Cody was the main attraction but I consider Colter Wall to be pretty big in the country music world right now too and thought he would have gotten more love. Maybe it was just the area where I was standing and perhaps there were some die hard Colter fans out there that night in New Braunfels after all.

At this show, I managed to work my way all the way down to the front right behind the fence. While I wasn’t front and center, I was still front, which was pretty dang cool. The best part of the night was Cody playing my favorite song of his, “Somewhere in the Middle.” A song that serves as a reminder that if you happen to find yourself in the middle- be it the middle of life, in the middle of a tough situation, or heck, even in the middle of Texas- that’s just fine! He also played his new songs “Must Be the Whiskey,” which kicked off his set, “Lifers,” and “Somewhere Between I Love You and I’m Leavin’,” which are all featured on his upcoming album Lifers, which comes out July 27th. And of course he played his classics like “I’m Not the Devil,” “David,” and “Hippies and Cowboys,” which he ended the night with.

Cody Jinks at Whitewater Amphitheater, New Braunfels, TX (July 2018)

While Cody put on a great show, some of the audience members were annoying. While I won’t go off on a tangent about that here, I do just want to ask- what is with the whistling?! My ears aren’t pierced but after that concert they might be! Geezus!

Me, at a Cody Jinks concert, wearing a Cody Jinks t-shirt, drinking Lone Star beer with a Cody Jinks koozie (July 2018)

Having A Willie Good Time

I’ll wrap this post up by saying how much I loved all of the Willie Nelson tributes found throughout Austin. From his statue downtown to the “Willie for President” mural off South Congress Avenue, this city willie loves this Red Headed Stranger. It’s almost as though he’s the patron saint of Austin. He is surely the patron saint of Outlaw Country. One mural that was really cool was outside of a dentist’s office in Austin and featured Willie, Janis Joplin, and Stevie Ray Vaughn all taking care of their teeth in the bathroom mirror. Pictures of these murals can be found below.

I also made this trip a little more Willie-centric by visiting places like Luckenbach and John T. Floore Country Store. And while John T. Floore’s may be his “musical birthplace,” I made a short detour to Abbott, Texas on my drive from Austin to Fort Worth to see his actual birthplace. There wasn’t really that much to see there but it was just a quick stop off of I-35 so I figured I might as well check it out. There doesn’t seem like much to do in Abbott but if this place gave us Willie Nelson then it’s good in my book!

A water tower in Abbott, Texas- the birthplace of Willie Nelson

Lydian Dental in Austin, Texas

“If I could I’d vote for Willie to run our government
“Good mornin’ America, how are you?” He’d say with his pigtails and a grin
He would unite the whole nation with his guitar and his song
It’s the only thing that makes perfect sense
Willie Nelson for President”
-Peter Dawson- “Willie Nelson for President”

#Nelson2020

If you read my last blog post then you already know that I’m not opposed to a Willie Nelson presidency.

Willie Nelson Statue in Austin, Texas (July 2018)

Some other cool things that happened on my trip were two-stepping at the Broken Spoke, eating a waffle shaped like Texas, and watching the Cattle Drive in Forth Worth. After all of this, I feel like a real Texan. And as a real Texan I can say, “Screw you, we’re from Texas!” and mean it! So, screw you!

Before the cows came home in Fort Worth, Texas (July 2018)

Currently listening to: Eric Church– “Desperate Man.” While Eric is not a Texan and this song is not about Texas, there is a Texas connection found in this song- it was co-written with Ray Wylie Hubbard! Ray Wylie is also found in the music video for this song, which just came out today on Amazon. Eric also released this song and announced his upcoming album of the same name while I was in Austin so this song will forever remind me of my Texas trip. I also want to take this moment to say that I will be seeing Ray Wylie Hubbard in concert on Saturday at City Winery DC and I’ll be crossing my fingers in hopes that he plays “Screw You, We’re From Texas.”

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April Concert Roundup

A Month of Firsts

April has been a crazy month- from my 28th birthday, to work events, to spending time with friends, it’s been a busy month. And in the midst of all the craziness of a wedding (not mine), a baby shower (also not mine), and birthday celebrations (those were mine), I also attended five concerts in April. This month was a month of many firsts- all five of the concerts were for artists that I’d never seen before and four of the venues were places I’d never been before. April also saw my first mechanical bull ride, first Jewish wedding, and first time taking part in Record Store Day (shout out to me for scoring the Eric Church RSD release!) With the constant busyness of life, I need to remind myself that being busy is a blessing- it means I’ve got a job, I’ve got friends, and I’ve got interests that I’m able to pursue. Interests like the many live music events that I get to attend, like the ones below!

Dom Flemons Duo- Pearl Street Warehouse (April 4th) 

April 4th, 2018 marked several firsts for me: my first time at the Wharf, my first time at Pearl Street Warehouse, my first time seeing Dom Flemons, and my first time seeing someone play the bones. Yes, the bones. It’s an actual musical instrument and Dom played them for us that night. There were also some for sale at the merchandise table. You might know Dom from his former band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops, which he was in with Rhiannon Giddens. For his CD release that night, Dom performed some tunes from his new album Black Cowboys. He also did an interview on stage for the Smithsonian (Smithsonian Folkways, maybe? I don’t remember) where he discussed some of the songs and the history behind them. This man knows his stuff and is an exceptionally talented musician and singer too!

Featured song: Caroline Chocolate Drops- “Hit ‘Em Up Style” (no, Dom didn’t play this for us that night but who doesn’t love a Blu Cantrell cover??)

Colter Wall- U Street Music Hall (April 7th) 

The devil might wear a suit and tie but Colter Wall wears deeply unbuttoned shirts. Well, at least he was at his show at U Street Music Hall on April 7th. Since I reference this song, I’ll get my complaining out of the way- Colter Wall didn’t play “The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie”!! When my friend asked him why after the show he said they were rushing him off. That’s understandable, especially since there was a 10:30 p.m. show after his. But still. How do you not perform one of your top songs?! I won’t dwell on this too much especially since he did play some of his other hits including “Sleeping on the Blacktop” and “Motorcycle.” He was also hanging around after the show by his van and agreed to take pictures with his fans (see mine below), which was cool!

Just a few quick words on Colter Wall that have nothing to do with his performance. For me, Colter’s music brings to mind the artists and songs of country past- his song “Thirteen Silver Dollars” could be inspired by Emmylou Harris, the “Queen of the Silver Dollar,” as he makes a reference to having a “belly full of baby’s bluebird wine” (if you don’t get the reference, she has a song called “Bluebird Wine.”) He also makes a “Blue Yodel No. 9” reference in this song. Then there’s “Sleeping on the Blacktop,” which, in my opinion, sounds similar to Johnny Cash’s “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.” His song “Fraulein” is also a cover song, which was written in 1957 by Lawton Williams and first sung by Bobby Helms. Townes Van Zandt also did a cover of this song. It gives me hope that there are country artists out there who are able to pull from the sounds of the past and bring them into the present. Colter Wall is definitely one of those artists.

After the show, it was brought up by one of the people that I attended the show with that his murder ballad “Kate McCannon,” one of his most famous songs, promotes violence against women. That really got me thinking. Where do we draw the line between what we support in real life and what we’re willing to accept in our music? Late last month I participated in the March for Our Lives and yet a few weeks later I’m listening to Colter Wall singing about putting three rounds into a cheating Kate McCannon. Listening to, and even liking, songs that go against my own personal beliefs is an issue I struggle with. This is especially the case with country music- a genre that often glorifies things that I do not support in my personal life. The killing of one’s spouse is not a theme reserved solely for the men though as women also kill their husbands in country songs. This led to a discussion about the songs in country music where women are the the ones killing their spouses. Songs like Garth Brooks’ “The Thunder Rolls” and the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl” being two of the first examples that came to mind. Is a woman killing her abusive husband more acceptable than a man killing his cheating wife? I won’t get into that here since this is just a concert write-up but I think a post dedicated to this topic is worth writing at some point. I’ll hopefully get around to writing that some day.

wall
Colter Wall and I (April 7, 2018)

Featured song: Colter Wall- “The Devil Wears a Suit and Tie” (because he didn’t play it that night!)

Ruby Boots- Songbyrd Music House and Record Cafe (April 10th) 

The show at Songbyrd on April 10th was super intimate. For the most part it was just Ruby Boots and her friend on stage playing guitar and electric guitar then later in the night it was just a solo Ruby Boots. No drummer, no fiddler, just Ruby and her mate (she’s Australian so I said mate). While I wish more people had come out to support her, having a small group there was nice. Ruby Boots was cracking jokes and telling stories, including one about Bill Murray. She also mentioned that she’s friends with Nikki Lane, who I love. I bet hanging out with those two would be so much fun! It was a real treat getting to hear about Ruby Boots’ personal life and the stories behind some of the songs. I’m not sure if she would have been as engaged with the crowd had there been a large group there. I also love her Australian accent! Aussies rule, mate!

One joke she made was about her new album. She told us that the album is titled Don’t Talk About It, “so don’t tell anybody!” Well, I am telling people- sorry! In addition to singing songs from Don’t Talk About It as well as some of her older songs, she also sang a Tom Petty song and even came off the stage out into the audience with her friend, leaving the guitars behind, to sing an acoustic version of Lucinda Williams’ “Jackson.”

I hope Ruby Boots had fun at Madam’s Organ after the show!

Featured song: Ruby Boots- “It’s So Cruel”

Lindi Ortega and Hugh Masterson- Union Stage (April 24th) 

There’s a great press quote that describes how Lindi Ortega should be onstage- “fun and frightening.” Though I wasn’t really scared at her show, I can understand how she earned this description as some of her songs carry dark themes. Lindi told a story about wanting to sing her song about dying and her guitar player responded with, “Which one? You’ve got six.” I think this anecdote sheds light on the “frightening” side of Lindi. However, it’s the “fun” part (and her shiny red boots) that the fans show up for. Her latest album Liberty is a spaghetti western-esque concept album which follows a character from a dark place in their life to a more happy place at the album’s end. Lindi made sure to play some of the songs from the end of the album (the happy part) to balance out her “frightening” persona. This included songs like “Lovers in Love,” “In the Clear,” and the Spanish song from the album, “Gracias a La Vida.” She also played my favorite song of hers, “Ashes.”

Lindi Ortega and I (April 24, 2018)

Her opening act was someone I had maybe heard of before but had never really listened to. Well, shame on me! Hugh Masterson was really good- not only did I enjoy hearing him sing his songs but his stories in between the songs were funny and helped to counteract the seriousness of his songs’ content. It’s all about that balance!

Featured song: Lindi Ortega- “Afraid of the Dark.” I’ll include this song here because I do like the dark stuff. As Lindi sings, “Don’t get any closer to my heart if you’re afraid of the dark.” Yeah, same.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers and Zephaniah O’Hora- Pearl Street Warehouse (April 26th) 

Sarah Shook has me all shook up, y’all! I’ll admit that before the show I was so intimidated by this chick. But seeing her on stage and hearing her talk with the audience in between every song, I’m no longer intimidated, as she seems to be really chill and friendly. Actually, the whole band seems to be. Except Kevin- he’s a prima donna (that’s an inside joke only people at the show will get. Sorry, Kevin!) Sarah and her band, the Disarmers, rocked Pearl Street Warehouse on April 26th, which happened to be the first night of their tour. Their songs have an upbeat sound that make lyrics like “I can’t cry myself to sleep so I drink myself to death/I got cocaine in my bloodstream and whiskey on my breath/Ain’t a thing that I can change to get my luck up/I guess I’m just too much of a fuck up” make you wanna get up out your seat and sing along! Her lyrics are raw with lines like “the bottle never lets me down the way you do” and “there’s a hole in my heart ain’t nothin’ here can fill/ But I just keep thinkin’ surely the whiskey will.” Though these lyrics might pack a punch, they’re also served up with a heavy dose of reality thanks to their honesty and Sarah’s delivery. She almost makes you think that you can make it up to mama by getting that “mother-heart tattoo.”

Her opener, Zephaniah O’Hora (yes, his actual name) wasn’t half bad either! I especially liked his song “High Class City Girl from the Country.” He’s from Brooklyn, which I find to be really interesting. This guy goes to show that country really is country wide!

Sarah Shook and the Disarmers (April 26, 2018)

Featured song: Sarah Shook and the Disarmers- “Dwight Yoakam” (is Dwight Yoakam really that anxious??)

Upcoming Concerts (* means tickets are already purchased) 

5/18- The Weight Band feat. members of The Band, Levon Helm Band, & Rick Danko Group at The Hamilton
*5/20- Brandi Carlile at The Anthem
*5/29- Justin Townes Earle- Solo Tour at The Birchmere
*6/1
– Margo Price and John Prine at Wolf Trap
*6/8- The Steel Woods at Jammin’ Java
*6/29- Turnpike Troubadours and Charley Crockett at Friday Cheers (Richmond, VA)
*7/21
– Ray Wylie Hubbard at City Winery
7/24- Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit at Wolf Trap
8/2– Amanda Shires and Sean Rowe at The Birchmere
10/13- Chris Stapleton’s All-American Road Show at Jiffy Lube Live

Currently listening to: Jade Bird- “Lottery.” I felt so bad for missing her set when she opened for Colter Wall so I feel it would only be right to mention her here!

New Year, New Music, New Me

Happy Almost 2018, y’all! This post is coming to ya from Nashville where I’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve! Be sure to grab your popcorn, hot cocoa, or whiskey (no judgement), and get ready for a long post! Enjoy! 

The Good, The Bad, and the 2017

It’s no secret that 2017 sucked in a lot of ways- Donald Trump was inaugurated and allowed to make decisions that affect our lives, we lost Tom Petty, Don Williams, and Troy Gentry, Donald J. Trump became president, hurricanes devastated Puerto Rico and American cities like Houston, and Donald Trump moved into the White House. BUUTTTTT, this year hasn’t been all bad, especially since this is the year that I really found myself, musically speaking.

When I think about my taste in music and (lack of) country music knowledge at the beginning of 2017 compared to the end of 2017, it’s like comparing night and day. In the latter half of this year, I really found my musical niche and refined my musical interests. I have this blog to thank for that. Had I not started writing this blog back in June, I’m not sure that I would’ve ever found some of my now favorite artists. I also never knew that I was a fan of Americana music and find myself identifying with the music from this genre more than any other these days. When I finally learned about Americana and all of the artists that are a part of the Americana family, everything clicked into place- this was the musical home I had been searching for. This is where I belonged.

2017 Finds 

While some bloggers have been making their top albums/songs lists for 2017, I didn’t want to do that. Since so much of the music I found this year has been around for a while, only focusing on the stuff from 2017 would be silly. Instead, I’m gonna focus on all of the great artists who came into my life this year.

Have you ever met someone and felt like you’ve known them your entire life? You wonder how you two went so long without meeting and now that you’ve met, you know you’ll be friends for life. Well that’s how I feel about some of the musical artists I discovered this year. I think about how much better my life would’ve been with their songs to guide me through years ago. But instead of dwelling on the past and missed years, I’ll vow to keep playing their music for the rest of my life. This includes artists like Margo Price. She has been one of my greatest finds of 2017. I’ll do an essay on her later (inspired by the book Woman Walk the Line: How the Women in Country Music Changed Our Lives), where I’ll dive deeper into how much of an inspiration she has been to me. Just as I had fallen in love with her first album, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, she released her sophomore album, All American Made in October of this year. What I love about Margo, and her most recent album in particular, is that she sings about political issues like the pay gap and the Iran-Contra Scandal (throwback to the Reagan years!). She’s outspoken about her political views and doesn’t care about losing fans because of it. The world could use more Margos and country music needs more Margos!

Even though I already knew Sturgill Simpson before this year, I didn’t really know him. One day I felt compelled to listen to A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. The rest was history. In just six short months, I managed to fall in love with and immerse myself in Sturgill’s music, see him in concert, and purchase all of his albums on vinyl. In fact, he was my top played artist of 2017, according to Spotify. If you’ve talked to me at all these past few months, I’ve probably manged to name drop him at least once. Hopefully you all were listening to me and then decided to check out “The Sturge” for yourself! What I love about him is that he makes a record when he has something to say, not just to stay relevant. He wants to make records that people will still be playing 30 years from now. You don’t make records that stand the test of time by putting out album after album with nothing of substance on them. And if I have to wait ten years for another Sturgill Simpson record, I’m happy to do it. It’ll probably be the best damn album of all time!

“I’m just trying to constantly improve and become a better artist and then hopefully make records that people—I mean it’s great if they buy them today—but I’m more interested in making records that maybe people will still talk about in 30 years. That’s the goal for me. You can go crazy if you let yourself think, “How do I remain relevant?” or you can just go and try to make great music and the fans will react to it and it takes care of itself.”
-“The Final Interview with Sturgill Simspon, According to Sturgill Simpson,” Noisey, November 30, 2017

I don’t remember what the first Jason Isbell song was that I listened to (maybe “Elephant?” or “Speed Trap Town?”) but I’m eternally grateful that the universe pointed me in his direction and had me press play. In a “Walking the Floor with Chris Shiflett” podcast interview with Jason, Chris brought up the fact that Jason is considered by some to be the “go to reference guy for songwriters in Nashville.” Just listen to one of his songs and it’s easy to see why. Though I’m glad it’s a part of my life now, I think about how useful a song like “Traveling Alone” could have been to me years ago. While Jason’s songs may not have had the opportunity to have been part of my past, they’re very much a part of my present, and I’m already making plans for them to be a part of my future. IF (please note this is both in bold and italics) I ever get married, I already know that “If We Were Vampires” will be on the playlist.

Something that the three artists mentioned above have in common is their politics. If you follow Margo Price and Jason Isbell on Twitter, you know how they feel about current events. And just last month, Sturgill Simpson decided to busk (verb; meaning to play music or otherwise perform for voluntary donations in the street or in subways) outside of the CMA Awards and talked crap about Donald Trump.

Sturgill Simpson busking outside of the CMA Awards on November 7, 2017. All donations went to the ACLU. (Picture from Rolling Stone)

Another artist that I discovered this year is Cody Jinks. According to Spotify’s calculations, Cody’s song “Loud and Heavy” was my most played song this year (Sturgill’s “Sea Stories” was second). Unlike the artists mentioned above, Cody Jinks is less Americana and more what you would consider to be actual country. To me, he’s what real country music should sound like. Instead of calling country that ventures from the mainstream terms like “alt-country,” I think we should be calling the mainstream stuff a different name. After all, they’re the ones who have done more to change the music from its original sound, not guys like Cody Jinks who have a more authentic country sound. Some people might call Cody “Texas county” or “Red Dirt” country. While “Loud and Heavy” may have been my most played song this past year, it was “Somewhere in the Middle” and its simple message that being “somewhere in the middle is just fine” that resonated most with me. And if Cody finds himself somewhere in the middle of Texas “Red Dirt” country and alt-country, well, that’s just fine!

John Prine is pretty good!” At least that’s what one of the stickers I purchased at this concert back in November says. But if you ask me, I think John Prine is really good! If writing songs is a craft like woodworking then John makes songs like the best cedar chest you’ve ever laid your eyes on. When I listen to his songs, I’m always impressed at how clever he is. In fact, one of my favorite lyrics of any song ever comes from a John Prine song. The song is “Spanish Pipedream” and the line is “I knew that topless lady had something up her sleeve.” I’ll say that line is pretty good!

While the five artists featured above really won me over this year, there were plenty more that also found their way into my heart. This year’s honorable mentions (who are not all country, not all Americana, but all pretty dang good) include: Dan Auerbach, Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett (wait! Am I also now a fan of Indie music? Who am I even?), Lori McKenna, Tyler Childers, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, Ashley Monroe, Angaleena Presley, Nikki Lane, Aaron Lee TasjanSam Outlaw, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, and Paul Cauthen.

A New Appreciation for the Old Stuff

It wasn’t just finding new artists that made this past year so exciting but it was also rediscovering artists from my past, learning more about country music legends, and gaining a deeper appreciation for the trailblazers who made all of this possible. One of those people is Jerry Reed. The man is a national treasure we should all be thankful that Jerry Reed songs exist. His songs are a surefire way to put a smile on my face. The Oak Ridge Boys are another example of feel good country music that I got into this year. And don’t forget Bobby Bare too! 2017 is also the year that I fell in love with Emmylou Harris. Her Pieces of the Sky album is the first brand new (not used from a record store) record I ever bought, which also took happened this year. Fun fact about this lady is that she was discovered in DC by Gram Parsons- at Clyde’s in Georgetown.

This year also saw my love of Waylon Jennings grow deeper as I explored more of his music. Some other classic artists that I spent time getting to know better this year include Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton. 

I’ve always loved her but this year I seemed to love Kacey Musgraves even more! Maybe it was because I realized how little credit she gets. She sings backup vocals for some of the bigger stars (Zac Brown Band’s “All the Best” and Dierks Bentley’s “Bourbon in Kentucky“) and does duets (Josh Abbot Band’s “Oh Tonight“), which is fine, but I really wish she got more credit for her solo stuff. To celebrate her, I’ve created a “A Very Kacey Playlist” on Spotify for her. She also has an album coming out early next year, Golden Hour, which I am stoked for! My appreciation and respect for Miranda Lambert also grew this year, which can be credited to her album The Weight of These Wings from 2016. There’s also been talk about a new Pistol Annies album, which can’t get here fast enough!

A Year of Concerts

This year my list of concerts attended grew substantially. Some of these concerts were for artists whose names I didn’t even know at the start of this year. People (who I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know sooner) like Ray Wylie Hubbard, John Prine, Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real, and Nikki Lane. I even attended my first all-day music festival in Camden, NJ this year when I drove up for the Outlaw Music Festival. It was there that I got to see Willie Nelson for the first time and Eric Church for the seventh time. Other concerts that I attended this year included Sturgill Simpson, two different nights on Eric Church’s “Holdin’ My Own” tour (Pittsburgh and Washington, DC), and Mashrou’ Leila (a Lebanese band that has nothing to do with the rest of this post but they’re amazing and I love them!)

One really cool thing that happened to me this year was that I won free front row seats to a John Prine and Dan Auerbach concert at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. I remember entering the contest for the tickets but I never win anything so I didn’t hold my breath on getting them. Funny thing is that the week leading up to the show I almost bit the bullet and bought a ticket for a nosebleed seat just so I could go. Well, good thing I didn’t, because a couple of days before the show, I got a call letting me know that I had won two tickets for front row seats along with a $50 merchandise voucher. Thanks to that voucher I am now the proud owner of a John Prine poster (painted to look like Ben’s Chili Bowl- a DC landmark) and The Missing Years on vinyl. I didn’t really know Dan Auberbach before that, aside from the fact that he is one half of The Black Keys, but after hearing him perform his solo stuff live, I became a fan. And how was that concert, you ask? “Pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain!” 

John Prine and Dan Auerbach at DAR Constitution Hall on November 10, 2017. (Photo from my crappy iPhone camera)

And since we’re on the topic of cool concert experiences this year, I just want to mention that at Ray Wylie Hubbard‘s concert at Hill Country BBQ in DC this past August, he mentioned the name of this blog while on stage. Now that’s pretty damn cool!

Keeping Up and Catching Up

There are some people out there that listen to every new album that comes out in its entirety and can break down each track while talking about the album as a whole. Many of those people get paid to do just that. I, however, do not. Also, that’s not me. I feel like there’s always new music coming out so I’d just stress myself out trying to do that. It also takes a while for me to really get into songs sometimes. So if it’s two months after an album has come out before I really listen to it, so be it. I’m happy being late to some parties.

With that being said, I do try and listen to some of the new stuff as it comes out when I can. Some great stuff that’s just come out is Neil Young and Promise of the Real‘s The Visitor. This album combines Lukas Nelson’s band Promise of the Real with the iconic Neil Young. The 2016 presidential election is a theme that you can hear on this album in songs like “Already Great.” Why are people trying to make America great again when, as Neil Young says, it’s already great? If I were gonna go back and rewrite my post on liberal country music, this song would definitely be on that list.

Lots of other albums came out this year that I haven’t spent as much time with as I should have- Travis Meadows‘s First Cigarette is one of them. Though I will say that “Long Live Cool” is in fact a cool song. I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for this guy because he’s the incredibly talented songwriter behind one of my all-time favorite songs- Dierks Bentley’s “Riser.” (He’s also mentioned twice in my post about Eric Church’s songwriting, “Eric Church: An Outsider, A Songwriter,” since he was a co-writer on both “Dark Side” and “Knives of New Orleans.”)

I also liked Chris Stapleton’s “From a Room: Volume 1” but admittedly haven’t given “From a Room: Volume 2” as much attention as it probably deserves. Sorry folks! The same goes for Lee Ann Womack‘s new album The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone, whose title track I love but I haven’t really ventured too far past that.

Some artists that I want to spend some more time getting to know better in the coming year are Rhiannon Giddens and Turnpike Troubadours.

Photographs and Memories

If I had to sum up 2017 in one picture, it would be this one:

(Photo from Vinyl Ranch’s Instagram)

I also just wanted an excuse to post this picture!

Looking Ahead to 2018

It’s hard to say what 2018 will hold. Only time will tell what other great artists I’ll find in the coming year. Perhaps I’ll be talking about a completely different genre of music in 365 days. Here’s to hoping that 2018 leads to many new discoveries- both musical and in general!

Here’s to also hoping that Eric Church releases some brand new music next year- that’s not asking for too much, is it?

You can find all of my favorite songs from the artists mentioned in this post on the beltwayboots Spotify account. My “Best of 2017” playlist can be found here.

Currently listening to: All of the great music that I discovered this year!

The Tracks I’m Falling For (Week of October 9, 2017)

Happy Fall to All Y’all! 

Since we’re now in the second week of October, and pumpkins and Halloween candy are everywhere, I think it’s safe to say that are definitely in the fall season, even if the weather in Washington, DC hasn’t received the memo yet. Seeing as this is my first “The Tracks I’m Playing” post this season, it makes sense to write about the songs I’m fall-ing for. Here they are!

The Tracks I’m Fall-ing For 

Paul Cauthen- “Saddle.” When I first saw Paul Cauthen (on the picture on his album cover) I thought he was Amish, or a mobster, or an Amish mobster (which is totally a thing- Amish Mafia was an actual show on the Discovery Channel which means it must be a real thing.) Come to find out he’s actually from Texas and as far as I know there are no Amish there (though there may be mobsters.) Not that any of this matters, so I’ll quit my mindless rambling. In an article from last September on “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know,” Rolling Stone recommended Paul Cauthen to people who are fans of Waylon Jennings and seeing as how Waylon is one of my faves, it makes sense that I’m also now a fan of his. In fact, Paul and Cody Jinks (another one of my recent favorites) cover Waylon’s classic “Luckenbach, Texas” here, if you want to take a listen and decide for yourself how Waylon-esque he is.

Chips off the Old Blocks

Shooter Jennings- “Outlaw You.” Aside from having the greatest Fourth of July song of all time, titled, well, “Fourth of July,” I hadn’t really listened to much (or any) Shooter Jennings. Why? Well I’m not really sure, especially considering that his dad, Waylon Jennings, is one of my all-time favorite artists (you may remember me saying this in the paragraph above.) And together with Jessi Colter, his parents are my favorite country couple of all time. It would only make sense that I would also love their son’s music and well, from what I’ve heard so far, I do. “Outlaw You” addresses the current state of country music and how many of these so-called country singers should be outlawed. They wear baseball hats but they couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat and they wear boots but they’re only from their record label’s image group. He ends the song by talking about his dad and his struggles to make it Nashville, referencing two of his records, This Time (1974) and the Wanted! The Outlaws (1976), which I very much appreciated as this is my favorite album. Like if I were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one album to listen to for eternity, it would be this one.

“Hey pretty boy in the baseball hat
You couldn’t hit country with a baseball bat
Country ain’t just about where you’re at
It’s about bein’ true to what’s inside
You say you’re an outlaw with your perfect boots
That you got from your record label’s image group
Sing another man’s song with a big drum loop
Listen, son, you ain’t got a clue
You can’t buy true, tell you what they should do
They should outlaw you”

There is one line in this song that I’m a little confused by: “Those old boys with long hair and braids (Waylon, Willie, and Tompall Glaser, obviously) stayed true to their sound and freed the slaves.” What slaves exactly, Shooter? Maybe I’m missing something here.

Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real- “Find Yourself.” The first time I ever heard a Lukas Nelson song was also the first time I ever saw Lukas Nelson perform. That performance was at the Outlaw Music Festival, which I wrote about here, this past September. Lukas and his band, Promise of the Real, played several songs from their self-titled album which just dropped in August. This song stood out to me from that performance because Lukas had the crowd join him in singing the chorus- “I hope you find yourself before I find somebody else to be my love.” I also just learned that Lady Gaga is the woman singing the backup vocals on this song! I’m a big fan of Lady Gaga (or Mother Monster, if you prefer) so I was stoked to learn that was her in the background. There are several other songs on the album that I really enjoy- “Forget About Georgia,” “Four Letter Word,” and “High Times.” Don’t be fooled by the fact that Lukas Nelson is Willie Nelson’s son because he’s got a sound that’s all his own! The hair is pretty much the same though, just needs some braids!

I’ll be seeing them in Baltimore next month and am excited to actually know the songs that they’ll be singing this time around!

Rodney Crowell, Roseanne Cash, John Paul White- “It Ain’t Over Yet.” I’ve included this song under “Chips Off the Old Blocks” because Roseanne Cash if of course the daughter of Johnny Cash. Chips off the old blocks aren’t always sons, sometimes they’re daughters! Looks like we’ve got the kids of three quarters of the Highwaymen represented this week.

On this award-winning song, Rodney Crowell is joined by his ex-wife Roseanne Cash and one half of The Civil Wars, John Paul White. I found out about this song last month after it won “Song of the Year” at the Americana Music Association Honors and Awards. Everything about this song is beautiful- from the way Rodney sings with so much truth in his voice, to Roseanne Cash and John Paul White adding their voices; from the lyrics, to the melody of Rodney’s guitar and the harmonica that comes in at the end of the song. You don’t win “Song of the Year” by not having these things!

 

I Keep on Fall-ing…

Ray Wylie Hubbard- “Lucifer and the Fallen Angels.” I can’t find a video for this song but if you go on Spotify (you can find the Beltway Boots Spotify playlist here), you can have a listen to Ray Wylie Hubbard singing about one of his favorite topics- The Devil. I wrote about Ray’s song, “Conversation with the Devil” a few months back in this post. Much like that song, which takes you through a conversation he has with the devil in a dream, in this song he is also conversing with the Lucifer, or Lou, as he’s given permission to call him, and his fallen angels after picking them up on the side of the road. Ray Wylie is heading to Nashville to get a publishing deal and Lou and the fallen angels are heading to Mobile. Along their drive, Lou tells Ray Wylie that nobody is going to want to publish his songs- he might be cool but he’s old. They also stop to pick up some Seagram’s Seven and Lou winds up robbing Nervous Charlie’s Fireworks and All-Night Liquor Store, after which he asks, “how do you think that clerk likes take your sons to work day now?” (This is why I never pick up hitchhikers!) He also tells Ray Wylie about getting thrown out of heaven and delivers the best line in the song, “it’s better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.” You got that right, Lou (if I may)!

This song is off Ray Wylie Hubbard’s latest album, Tell The Devil I’m Getting There As Fast As I Can. As I already said, this man loves singing about the devil.

Aaron Lee Tasjan- “Little Movies.” Just looking at Aaron Lee Tasjan, you might think he’s a bit eccentric with his big sunglasses and sparkly suit (as he wears in this video). This look would not fly in mainstream country but seems to work just right for him in Americana. It’s because of artists like Aaron Lee Tasjan that I now listen to Americana and have really stopped listening to mainstream country. In fact, Rolling Stone featured a story on how he’s breaking the mold in this genre. This same story also discusses how some of the material from his album Silver Tears, which features this song, was compiled while he was micro-dosing LSD. Far be it from me to judge how an artist gets their inspiration, I mean, after all, some great music has been made through the help of drugs- have you ever heard of The Beatles or Fleetwood Mac? I thought so.

Nikki Lane- “Right Time.” I’m hesitant to write that this song has gotten stuck in my head because I don’t think that’s necessarily a sign of a good song. Just because a song is catchy doesn’t mean it’s got substance. In fact, the problem with so many “hit” songs today is that they are only hits because they’re catchy and tend to get stuck in your head, not because the song actually has an important message. Thankfully, while this next lady may get stuck in my head, she’s also got something to say, so I’ve got no qualms about including her here. For example, in this song, she’s saying that “it’s always the right time to do the wrong thing.” Here’s to hoping that Nikki Lane gets stuck in my head again this week…even if she is a bad influence! 

Nikki will also be performing with Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real next month and I can’t wait to see her perform!

Amanda Shires- “You Are My Home.” Amanda won “Emerging Artist of the Year” at this year’s Americana Music Association Honors and Awards. And with songs like this, there’s no doubt that she deserved this achievement. When collecting her award, Amanda said, “Thank you to the Americana fans, because, without you, there might be no other place for me.” I’m also thankful for the Americana fans for providing a home to so many wonderful artists like Amanda Shires and her husband, Jason Isbell. These two are becoming one of my favorite couples in music right now though I doubt they’ll ever reach Waylon and Jessi status. Sorry but those are tough boots to fill!

“Your six-one frame
My address is your name
High ceilings, grand halls
Walls are just walls
You are my home”

I hope everyone enjoys listening to these songs and fall-ing in love with them like I have.

Currently listening to: John Prine- “Picture Show” featuring Tom Petty. Since many of us are still mourning the loss of Tom Petty, I thought this song made sense for this week. It’s featured on John Prine’s The Missing Years album which was released on Friday as a double LP 180 gram vinyl and features Bruce Springsteen and Bonnie Raitt in addition to Tom Petty.

Spending 61 Days in Church

Is there anything better than waking up on a Friday morning to new Church music? That’s a rhetorical question because the answer is obviously no! Normally I wouldn’t be this excited about spending 61 days in Church but in this case, I’m pretty freakin’ excited!

Eric teased us this week by letting us know that we could be expecting something this morning. With just the title, “61 Days in Church” and a promotional video to go off of, many correctly assumed it would be a collection of live recordings from his Holdin’ My Own Tour. Thirty songs are currently available on Apple Music but over time 122 recordings (!) will be released. That’s two songs per show and they’re all being released in chronological order. So far he’s included his shows from Lincoln, Sioux Falls, Grand Forks, Des Moines, Minneapolis, Green Bay,  Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, Kansas City, Tulsa, Dallas, Little Rock, Duluth (Georgia), and Birmingham. Can’t wait to hear the recordings from the two days I spent in Church in Pittsburgh and Washington, DC!

I’ve been listening to the live recordings since I woke up this morning and am pretty happy with what’s been released so far. My favorite things about the first 30 songs include: Ray Wylie Hubbard’s appearance on “Screw You, We’re from Texas,” cover songs such as The Band’s “The Weight,” the inclusion of catalogue songs that didn’t make past live albums like “Two Pink Lines” and “Where She Told Me to Go,” Eric messing up the words to his own songs (in “Faster Than My Angels Can Fly” he sings about not yielding to your soul when the devil gets weak. What?!) and of course Joanna Cotten bringing it as always on his live recordings!

I also love that the city-specific posters that were created for each show serve as the image associated with the songs from that city. I especially like the one below from his Boston show!


I am a little disappointed that he didn’t include the live recording of “Can’t Take It With You” from Philadelphia as I know he performed it there on this tour. Oh well! This collection (so far) also doesn’t include some of the fan favorites from his concerts like “These Boots” and “Pledge Allegiance to the Hag” but considering that there are still 92 songs left to be released, I wouldn’t be surprised if they made an appearance later.

According to the email from Eric Church HQ this morning, “songs included are catalogue and cover songs as well as songs inspired from events that happened while on the road.” Fingers crossed that his performance of “Rusty Cage” in Washington, DC makes the cut!

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It’s not clear how often Eric will add songs to this collection (the Facebook post on his page just says “we’ll roll out many more in the weeks ahead”) so I’ll continue to check and see when new songs have been added and try to keep you guys updated, either on here or on Twitter (follow me at beltway_boots if you’re not already.) I’m also curious to see if all 122 songs will be different or if he’ll release the same song a couple of times. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see!

What’s funny is that I almost got rid of Apple Music not too long ago but something inside of me told me to keep it. Always follow your gut instinct, y’all! Apparently mine is very in tune with Eric Church.

I also realized that every post that I’ve done in the “Brand Spankin’ New Music” category (all three of ’em) has been related to Eric Church. Maybe I should just rename it “Brand Spankin’ New Church Music.” I probably wont.

Currently listening to: Eric Church’s “61 Days in Church!” Duh!

The Tracks I’m Playing (Week of August 21, 2017)

As y’all know, there’s a solar eclipse happening today. I guess this is the universe’s way of trying to make a Monday exciting. I’m honestly scared of going blind so will probably not be going outside to watch it and will stick to watching it online. Lame, I know.

The Tracks I’m Playing

Townes Van Zandt- “Waiting Around to Die.” I know what you’re thinking and it’s probably something along the lines of, “come on, Brittany, this old song from 1968!?” Well, let me explain myself. I actually first heard this song thanks to Whitey Morgan and the 78’s who covered it on their 2015 album Sonic Ranch. However, as these things usually go, I found the original Townes Van Zandt version soon after and realized how amazing it is. So while this song may be old as dirt, it’s a classic and deserves recognition for being so. It also came in at number 31 on Rolling Stone‘s list of “40 Saddest Country Songs of All Time.” Even if the song might make you blue, I would still suggest that you go ahead and give it a listen, I mean, it’s easier than just waiting around to die!

Whitey Morgan and the 78’s- “Bad News.” Since I talked about Whitey above, it only seems fair to give him his own mention here…even if he is bad news everywhere he goes and always gettin’ in trouble and leaving them girls that hate to see him go. Slow your roll, Whitey!

Anderson East- “All On My Mind.” Though not “country” per se, this American rhythm and blues artist dates Miranda Lambert and is featured on the Southern Family album that I wrote about last week, so I see no issue with including him here. The rhythm and blues world that he’s a part of is not one that I had really tapped into before and shame on me because this guy is great and everything I’ve heard so far I really like. Take “Satisfy Me” and “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em and Forget ‘Em,” for example. Both are excellent songs!

Margo Price- “Four Years of Chances.” Whether it’s been four days, four weeks, four months, or in Margo’s case, four years, there’s a good chance that at some point you gave someone way too many chances. Hopefully you realized it before 1,461 days had passed by! My favorite thing about this song? When Margo sings the word, “chances.” She realizes she gave you several years too many of these and it can’t help but come through when she sings.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats- “I Need Never Get Old.” Like with Anderson East, I’ve been exploring artists that I typically wouldn’t have since starting this blog and Nathaniel Rateliff is one of those. His sound is influenced by folk, Americana, and vintage rhythm and blues so I guess this places him somewhere in the middle. Whatever category you choose to place him in, I’m a fan. I particularly like the saxophone and trumpet that are found in this song. If you’re a fan and haven’t seen his performance of this song on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series, I would suggest checking it out.

Sturgill Simpson- “It Ain’t All Flowers.” This song is from The Sturge’s album Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and it’s one of his many songs that I’m currently digging. I’m not 100% sure what a metamodern sound is, especially in regards to country music, but I feel like this song comes pretty close to being the epitome of what that sound might be. I’m slowly counting down the days until I see him in concert (25 days!) and making sure I’m prepared by listening to as much of him as I can. Needless to say, it’s been great!

“But it ain’t all flowers
Sometimes you gotta feel the thorns”

Thanks for the Shout Out, Mr. Hubbard!

Ray Wylie Hubbard- “Tell the Devil I’m Getting There as Fast as I Can.” Since I saw him in concert on Friday night and since his new album by the same name came out on Friday, it only makes since that Ray Wylie Hubbard is on this list. And Eric Church sings on this song, along with Lucinda Williams, so yeah, I’m including it!

Also, on Friday, August 18th at approximately 11:30 p.m., Ray Wylie Hubbard mentioned Beltway Boots while on stage at Hill Country BBQ in Washington, DC!!! I kid you not he actually mentioned “Beltway Boots” while on stage and said, “she’s supposed to be here tonight.” Well, I was definitely there and I definitely heard you mention Beltway Boots! That was pretty freakin’ awesome so thanks, Ray Wylie! I’ve finally achieved my 5 seconds of fame, y’all!

Apparently there’s no video up for this song on YouTube but if you wanna listen to it, I’ve added it to my Spotify playlist “The Tracks I’m Playing” where you can find all of the songs that I write about each week.

The Dime Store Cowgirl Birthday Girl 

And since today is this Dime Store Cowgirl’s birthday, Kacey Musgraves- “Good Ol’ Boys Club is also a track I’m playing. This is one of my favorite song of hers because it further affirms my longheld belief that trying to be a part of the good ol’ boys club just ain’t worth it! Cigars and handshakes? I appreciate ya but no thanks! Happy Birthday, Kacey!

“I don’t need a membership to validate
The hard work I put in and the dues I paid
Never been to good at just goin’ along
I guess I’ve always kind of been for the underdog”

Currently listening to: Bonnie Tyler- “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” Isn’t this what everyone is listening to today? Be sure to protect your eyes today people! I don’t want you to be singing “Blinded by the Light” when it’s all said and done.

Friends I’ve Met through (Eric) Church

I hope everyone is having a great Sunday catching up with all of their Church friends! I’ve been catching up with some of my favorite people that I’ve met through Church and wanted to introduce y’all to some of these guys. These are all friends that I’ve met through Church, or rather, in Eric Church songs. If it hadn’t been for Church, me and these friends might’ve never met!

Without further ado, let’s get the introductions started!

My Friend Danny

On Mr. Misunderstood On the Rocks Live & (Mostly) Unplugged, Eric’s live album from his shows at Red Rocks Amphitheatre last summer, he includes a version of “Mistress Named Music,” which is the “Mistress Named Music-Red Rocks Medley.” In the middle of this song, he breaks out into Bob Seger, Loggins and Messina, Little Feat, Billy Joel, and George Strait, turning this song into an almost nine minute long medley with his musical idols weaved into the middle of it. One of the songs that he sings is “Danny’s Song” by Loggins and Messina off of their Sittin’ In album. Even though Eric only sings the chorus in this song, it was enough to make me wanna find the whole song. I instantly fell in love with this song and am so thankful that Danny (and his song) are now a part of my life.

It was also in this song that I met Lowell George, Bill Payne, Roy Estrada, and Richie Hayward aka the guys of Little Feat. Together me and these guys have gone from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonapah- the places mentioned in their song “Willin‘,” which Eric also sings in this medley.

My Voodoo Queen Friend Marie Laveau 

In “Devil, Devil (Prelude: Princess of Darkness)” Eric references Bobby Bare and it was through this song that he and I first met. And as Church connections usually go, Bobby Bare then introduced me to Marie Laveau. Now I’m not one to partake in Church gossip, but if I was, Marie Laveau would definitely be at the center of it. I mean, after all, she’s a voodoo queen who casts spells on men and makes them disappear. While she may be the topic of Church gossip, we could all use a friend who possesses the power to make people disappear, so I’m keeping her around!

My Red Headed Stranger Friend

It was at Church that I met a red headed stranger from Blue Rock, Montana. Over time, this stranger and I have become quite good friends and I’m happy to say that he’s no longer a stranger (nor a redhead as he’s mostly grey these days). The friend I’m talking about is none other than Willie Nelson. His album, “Red Headed Stranger” is one that Eric rediscovers during his “Record Year,” while also getting down with some James Brown. I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t know who was Willie Nelson was but learning about his discography, and specifically about the Red Headed Stranger album, was something that came from Church. If I could offer one piece of advice for getting to know my Red Headed Stranger friend, it would be “don’t cross him [and] don’t boss him!”

Eric also sings about New Grass Revival in “Record Year.” Apparently, I had found them years ago in the form of Garth Brooks’ “Callin’ Baton Rouge” and just didn’t know it. This is one of my favorite Garth songs (the live version, especially!) but I gotta give credit where credit is due because if it weren’t for NGR this song wouldn’t exist.

For more NGR, check out “In The Middle of the Night,” which I discovered on Eric’s Spotify playlist, “Round Here Buzz.”

My Misunderstood Friends

“Now, your buddies get their rocks off on Top 40 radio
But you love your daddy’s vinyl, old-time rock and roll
Elvis Costello, Ray Wylie Hubbard, and think Jeff Tweedy
Is one bad mother”

I wrote about Ray Wylie Hubbard in my post about finding the devil through Church. Ironically, he’s been one of my favorite people I’ve met through Church. Hubbard was mentioned in “Mr. Misunderstood” along with Elvis Costello and Jeff Tweedy. Of course I knew who Elvis Costello was before Eric name dropped him in “Mr. Misunderstood,” but despite knowing who he was, I never gave him much attention, that was until Eric convinced me to give him a fair chance. The first Elvis Costello song that I really came to like was “A Good Year for the Roses.” After looking this song up, it was easy to see why I liked this song so much- it was originally a country song, first sang by George Jones. From Church to Costello to The Possum, the connections I’ve made through Church have been endless!

While I’m still not sure if Jeff Tweedy is really one bad mother, I’ve been trying my hardest to get into Wilco, which has been Tweedy’s band since 1994. One Wilco song I’ve found that I really like is “Jesus, etc.” (fitting for Church, right?) It’s been said that Eric’s “Mr. Misunderstood” resembles a 1996 song from Wilco titled, “Misunderstood” in that it “matches a touch of melody and tempo” and shares themes found in this song. If Jeff Tweedy was the inspiration behind “Mr. Misunderstood,” then I guess he really is one bad mother.

I’m happy to have Tweedy join my group of misunderstood Church friends along with Costello and Hubbard. After all, Church is supposed to be about inclusion, right?

Are You Sure Eric Done It This Way? 

Eric’s Carolina album includes the song, “Lotta Boot Left to Fill,” in which he sings, “I don’t think Waylon done it this way, And if he was here he’d say Hoss neither did Hank.” This line is inspired by a Waylon Jennings song, “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.” In these two songs, Waylon and Eric are each critical of the state of country music at the time of their writing and wonder about how their idols did things in their time. For Waylon, it was Hank Williams and for Eric it was Waylon Jennings that set the gold standard on how things should be done. I have no doubt that this song played a huge role in my love of Waylon Jennings that started years ago as it began around the same time that I saw Eric perform this song in concert back in 2011. Out of all of my Church friends, I’d have to say that Waylon and I are the closest. I mean, after all, ladies do love outlaws!

There’s already a song about about Eric’s music (Marc Leach’s “She Don’t Go To Church,” which I wrote about here) and I wouldn’t be surprised if years from now someone is singing, “Are You Sure Eric Done It This Way?”

That’s How I Got to Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bare, and Whitey Morgan

I mentioned in my post about Eric’s live performances that he often plays a song specific to the city that he’s in when he’s on tour. So when Eric performed in Southaven, Mississippi, which is just minutes outside of Memphis, it only made sense that “That’s How I Got to Memphis” was on the setlist. Originally sung by Tom T. Hall, this song has been covered by Bobby Bare, Whitey Morgan, Roseanne Cash, The Avett Brothers, Buddy Miller, and many others. I’m not sure how these guys got there, but Eric Church is how I got to Memphis. He’s also how I made some friends named Tom T. Hall, Bobby Bare, and Whitey Morgan.

Meeting Friends through Church Recommendations 

It hasn’t just been through his music that Eric has turned me on to new artists but also through his recommendations. In an interview Eric did with Bobby Bones three years ago (that I watched on YouTube in London- before I even knew who Bobby Bones was), Bobby asked what artists Eric liked and he gave the names Amos Lee and Brandy Clark. Immediately after, I gave each of these artists a listen and became fans of both. To this day, Amos Lee’s “Chill In the Air” is still one of my all-time favorite songs. I also found Brandy Clark’s “Stripes” which led me to her first album, 12 Stories. A few months later, after I had returned from London, Brandy was the opening act at an Eric Church concert that I attended and I made sure to meet her and get her autograph that night. My only regret about doing this was that I practically missed all of Dwight Yoakam’s performance while I was waiting in line to meet her. Sorry, Dwight!

Amos and Brandy are two examples of friends that I didn’t necessarily meet through Church but rather because Church recommended them to me.

Church Friends Ain’t Just for Sunday Mornings 

I knew that going to Church was good for you but I never knew it could lead to so many great friendships! Just look at all the awesome people I’ve added to my friends circle because of Church!

Though these might be my Church friends, I prefer seeing them on Friday nights, not Sunday mornings, so this coming Friday (8/18), I’ll be going to see Ray Wylie Hubbard at Hill Country BBQ in Washington, DC. Come on out if you’re in the area!

Currently listening to: Dwight Yoakam- “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere.” Sorry for missing your performance that one time, Dwight!