Gone Country: Texas Country Part I – The Basics
A weekly column about all things country.Posted by Melissa Daniels
Texas Country Part I: The Basics
Alright folks… I have a confession to make: this whole idea of Texas Country is a new one to me. Although it’s been around since the 1960s, Texas Country music is something that I was recently introduced to by a friend. You know how it goes; once you’re exposed to something new, it suddenly pops up everywhere… well, that has been my recent experience with this sub-genre. Not really knowing much about it, I’ve decided to spend the next several weeks completely immersing myself in all that is music from a state I’ve taught myself to hate; and no, it’s not because all my exes live there (although that would be an easy conclusion to make).
After hearing a little hype about Texas Country, I had to figure out what the heck these people were talking about. It’s not only anti-Nashville in the same sense that hippies are anti-corporate, but the music itself is a fuse between neo-traditional country music and outlaw music. Now you’re probably thinking, “Mel, you lost me at Texas Country, so how the heck do you think I’m following you now with all these other weird names. Isn’t all country music the same?” No, my friends. No, it’s not.
Think of Texas Country as following the typical musical roots of country music, heavy on the acoustic guitar with some slide up in there as well, but with a real gritty, don’t-mess-with-me attitude. It’s the workingman’s music. No glitz and glam here. In the 1960s, artists like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings introduced a new kind of country tune called Outlaw music. It’s development was a reaction to the the softer side of honky tonk that was being birthed out of Nashville. Johnny Cash, himself, is considered part of this movement. According to the Outlaws, the Nashville sound stripped masculinity out of the country racket. It then became the mission of the Outlaws to debunk the formulaic sounds that Nashville was producing; to bring back more of the blood, sweat and tears that is everyday life and translate that back into the music.
Having said that, I’d say the Texas sound, in the lyrical sense, is absolutely Outlaw, but in some of the stuff I’ve listened to over the past week, it does have some slight melodic tendencies that push towards mainstream country music. For argument’s sake, and for lack of a desire to piss off any outlaws, we’ll call those neo-traditional roots.
So far in my Texas Country journey, I’ve uncovered a basic definition and some other things that point to the genre, including the fact that not all artists are from Texas. Quite a few hail from Oklahoma, specifically, as well as other states around the Mid-west and South. Apparently, you don’t have to be from Texas to sing Texas Country. Who knew?! There are also separate music charts for the genre: the Texas Music Chart & Texas Regional Radio Report. Both track radio play. The state of Texas has adopted the genre to the extent that some country radio stations will simply incorporate Texas Country, while there are a handful of others that strictly play Texas Country only.
Like I mentioned before, I’m just starting out on this Texas discovery, and to date, I’ve dove into the Josh Abbott Band, Reckless Kelley, The Lost Trailers, and the Casey Donahew Band. I’ve solicited a list of favorites from a few friends who spent time living in the Lone Star State and who, themselves, fell in love with rough lyrics and down home sound. But I am definitely open to suggestions and have quite a lot more to learn. You best believe I’ll be tackling the Texas Country music charts in the next few weeks.
Of what I’ve heard so far, I’m really digging the un-idealized lyrics; although the Casey Donahew Band may be a little too redneck for me. Lot’s of talk about living in a double wide, and calling themselves “white trash.” Maybe I don’t feel it because I don’t resonate with it in any sense, but nevertheless, I’ve heard more good than bad.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be embarking on a Texas Country discovery tour. I’ll be checking out the music, uncovering the best places to listen live, getting a feel for the female vocalists out there, and just seeing what else I can get myself into. If you’ve got suggestions on who I should check out, feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below!
Until next week, here’s one that I’m really enjoying right now: “I’ll Sing About Mine” by the Josh Abbott Band. It essentially explains what Texas Country is all about.