415 Productions Presents
LONE STAR JAM 2017 - SUNDAY
7311 Decker Ln
Austin, TX, 78724
Doors 12:00 PM (event ends at 10:00 PM)
This event is all ages
LONE STAR JAM 2017
Lone Star Jam, in its 10th year, is the largest Texas Country Music Festival in Central Texas. The event spans 2 days and features 20 of the best Red Dirt and Texas Country Bands.
The Front Row VIP Experience includes:
Private Viewing Area Directly In Front Of Each Stage
Access To VIP Tent
Restrooms Located In VIP Tent
Lone Star Jam T-Shirt
Lone Star Jam Koozie
Exclusive Artist Meet And Greets
PRIVATE BAR WITH:
VIP Tent Will Include Tables & Chairs
Josh Abbott Band
When Josh Abbott Band recorded "Ghosts" for its fourth album, Front Row Seat, Abbott expected to redo the vocals. The final chorus had some technical imperfections, and he figured he could improve on the performance once his heart settled down. Producer Dwight Baker, one-half of the Austin-based duo The Wind and The Wave, wouldn't let Abbott retouch it.
"I was actually crying my eyes out during that last chorus, and that's why there's a couple of notes in the beginning of that section that don't really explode like normal," Abbott says. "Dwight was like, 'We're keeping that. That's real.'"
Real is the operative word for Front Row Seat, a 16-track song cycle that represents the most ambitious and emotionally challenging project yet for JAB, a highly melodic six-piece ensemble that's managed to keep a foot in both the Texas music scene and the national country world. The band won four times during the inaugural Texas Regional Radio Awards behind an upbeat brand of country that still leans on classic instrumentation – particularly banjo and fiddle – to effect a raucous, roof-raising attitude.
The band has lobbed three singles onto the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart – including "Oh, Tonight," the first charted track to feature Grammy-winning Kacey Musgraves – and nabbed a Top 10 album with the 2012 release Small Town Family Dreams and reached No. 12 with the 2014 EP Tuesday Night.
But Front Row Seat steps beyond the band's honky-tonk inclinations for a more personal journey as the album traverses the emotional course of Abbott's first marriage and subsequent divorce. It was not his original intention to depict his private life in a public way, but as he wrote the songs for Front Row Seat, beginning before the split actually occurred, he naturally mined his emotional life for a set of songs that were profoundly honest and revealing. It was only as they began recording the material at Baker's Matchbox Studios outside of Austin, that they realized they had the germ of a tangible plot.
"We started looking at the music we'd done and had a whole bunch of other songs that we really loved and we were like, 'Man, we could put this together and make a really neat story out of it," fiddler Preston Wait recalls. "Especially with the song 'Front Row Seat,' we basically just made it kind of like you're watching a movie and it's your front row seat to this life."
Owing to that silver-screen character, JAB employed screenwriting technique by assembling the project with the five elements of plot structure: the exposition, or beginning; an inciting incident; the climax; a falling action (in this case, a breakup); and the resolution.
The story begins with "While I'm Young," in which a college-aged Abbott lives a typically carefree existence, spending much of his discretionary income in bars and living for the moment, an ideal that's captured authoritatively in the anthemic "Live It While You Got It." As the album progresses, he meets a woman who commands his attention for more than one evening, finding himself by track 7, "Crazy Things," mulling what it is that would make a woman who's dang-near perfect fall for someone so flawed.
By the time the album concludes, his once-ideal relationship has turned sour, and the two are no longer one. The fracture becomes apparent through the resignation of "Born To Break Your Heart," and he discovers in "Ghosts" that all the memories that once lived with such passion and revelry continue to haunt his memory, taunting him with whispers of a past he can never reclaim. As Front Row Seat closes with "Anonymity," Abbott sings a spare dirge with acoustic guitar and fiddle, fantasizing that he could return to the start of the relationship and live it out right.
"When you're moving on from somebody, even once you've accepted it, you just feel alone," Abbott observes. "That's the reason the acoustic track ends the album."
Even though Front Row Seat represents an ode to a failed relationship, it also marks what Abbott expects to be the beginning of a new phase for JAB. One of Texas' best party bands, the group evolved heavily in the process of making the album. The players fully committed to a darker sound and gave even more prominence to Wait's fiddle and Austin Davis' banjo, highlighting the trad-country elements in the lineup while still infusing the influence of multiple genres in its sonic drama.
"When you get to the end of this album, you see a band that grew up before your eyes – like literally front to back, a band that sonically changed," Abbott says. "You never want to make the same album multiple times, and you never want to sound the same your entire career. You know, you look at The Beatles and you look at all these other great bands, they tweaked their sound over time, and I think you're gonna start to see us do that a little bit more."
While JAB is truly a group, the name is centered on Abbott – the lead singer, primary songwriter and band namesake – with good reason. He is a determined force of nature, and his ability to lead – to, in essence, turn something small into something much bigger – has been a hallmark of the band since its inception.
That start came in the mid-2000s when Abbott and frat brother Davis showed up for a few informal gigs at the Blue Light Live in Lubbock, Texas.
"We played two open-mic nights, and we had two songs, no band. Just him and me," Davis recalls. "I walk in the back, and Josh is talking to the owner and the manager about doing a live record there. And I'm thinking, 'We don't even have a band.' His thing was, 'We'll get to that later.' He's always thought that way. I've played in other bands but never saw anybody else with that kind of confidence."
Wait and drummer Edward Villanueva showed up a year and a half later, and in short time, JAB's first single – "Taste," self-released on Pretty Damn Tough Records – found a home on Texas radio stations. Bass player James Hertless and lead guitarist Caleb Keeter came on board circa 2010, and the lineup has stabilized for the past five years.
"Any movie you see about a band, it's like five or six kids that are best friends," Wait says. "Growing up, that's kind of what you think it's gonna be like. I found that in this group."
The friendship is built on constant touring. Texas alone keeps the band steadily employed, but Abbott and crew have built a wider concert base that includes such iconic venues as Nashville's Exit/In, Chicago's Joe's Bar, Washington D.C.'s 9:30 Club, Denver's Grizzly Rose and Los Angeles' Troubadour. The audience has grown in part because of the singability and relatability of the Abbott Band's material, which has always held something of an everyman appeal.
As personal as Front Row Seat is, the album has a ring of familiarity. Nearly everyone has messed up a relationship or had their heart broken. It's practically a rite of passage, and Abbott's willingness to tear down the walls and bare his heart lifts the project to a new level of connection with the band's growing audience.
"I know there's going to be a natural reflection on me and how the album mirrors my life," Abbott concedes. "But I'd like to think that this is really a story that is so common that everyone relates to it and that it's not just about me. Hopefully people can listen to it and feel like it's about them."
It's about the band, too. Villanueva used a bigger drum kit in recording Front Row Seat, laying a little more power underneath. And Wait and Davis take a more prominent role in the sound, heightening the country and bluegrass sides of the group without harming its modern texture.
"When we come up with parts, it's difficult because it's not standard bluegrass, like Flatt & Scruggs," says Davis. "You've got to do something different. It pushes you to try and make something new."
There's certainly plenty new in Front Row Seat for Josh Abbott Band. The ethereal lyrics in "Autumn" and "Anonymity" are a starting place as Abbott's songwriting challenges country's tendency toward literal interpretations and storylines. The band also works for the first time with Carly Pearce, who provides a powerhouse female presence on "Wasn't That Drunk." Assembling the project as a concept album with a distinct storyline is another new approach for JAB. The tormented lead single, "Amnesia" – with its snarling guitar solo and artsy, unsettling intro – is yet another new technique.
Those wrinkles in JAB's development demonstrate the band's willingness to explore new turf, tapping musical character that might have gone unexpressed in its earlier projects. But people don't build character during the easy times. It comes when they're tested by the hurts and pitfalls that accompany any successfully lived life. Abbott, as the leader of the band, is emerging from one of his toughest tests to date. He and the band used an ultra-honest approach to the hard times to take the next step as it moves into its future.
"The whole band embraced this project and really committed to not only make it sound incredible but sound different and better," Abbott says. "It's more mature than anything we've done in the past."
More mature because it's so honest. And so real.
Casey Donahew Band
If you build it, they will come. This might be the mantra of one of the greatest baseball movies of all time, '"Field Of Dreams," but it's also a pretty accurate description of the career of Texas music sensation Casey Donahew.
The Burleson native, (with the help of his wife Melinda,) has painstakingly carved out an impressive niche for himself on the country music scene over the past decade, attracting a solid base of loyal fans who flock to his legendary live shows. Building his career from the ground up one show at a time, he's managed to perform on countless stages night after night in front of thousands, topped the Texas music charts several times, released four albums independently to critical acclaim, and forged a path all his own through the music scene without the aid or muscle of a major record label or power-suit management company. And the release of his latest CD, "Double Wide Dream," may just push him to heights he never could have imagined when he first plugged in on stage at the Thirsty Armadillo bar back in Fort Worth's Stockyards in the Fall of 2002, and began constructing his own field of musical dreams.
Though he seems like a born natural when it comes to performing, Casey actually fell into music gradually. He grew up on a farm the first few years of his life and quickly grew to love riding and team roping, a sport he still enjoys today. His grandfather, who loved to play and sing, gave Casey his first guitar growing up, but it wasn't until college at Texas A&M that he first began to teach himself to play and really focused on writing songs. A big fan of 80's and 90's country, Casey had always admired the storytelling in the songs of that period, and when a wild-eyed Oklahoma boy named Garth Brooks began swinging from the rafters and employing all sorts of crazy, rock show antics during his concerts, Casey was immediately hooked.
"I've just always liked the country songs from the 80's," says Casey. "It seems like a time when there was a lot of great songwriting going on, and I just enjoy people who can tell a story with a song. And I've always been a big Garth Brooks fan, since the beginning. First there was George Strait, and then here came this guy from Oklahoma, Garth Brooks. And you'd see George standing there playing guitar, but then Garth comes along running all over the stage, playing guitar and singing all these songs that he wrote. And the thing I was always most enamored with about Garth was that he wrote most of those songs. He was just one of those guys who did it all. And he started in Stillwater, not too far from the Red Dirt scene. You could really take a lot of Garth Brooks songs and put 'em on a record of mine, and I think it would fit right in."
It was during his college days that Casey also discovered another rowdy artist who was forging his own path across the Lonestar state in a big way, Pat Green. When his fraternity hired Pat to play one of their parties back in those early days, Casey was instantly inspired by Pat's way with a song and his ability to connect with an audience. "Pat Green was really the guy who started it all for me in college. He just did a great job connecting with fans, and later on when we started playing, we really tried to mirror how he did that. He was one of those guys who I thought was a great entertainer, and really told stories that people wanted to hear and could relate to, and I think that's what made him so popular."
Transferring to the University of Texas/Arlington, Casey began traveling around with his girlfriend/future wife Melinda to catch shows by Pat, Randy Rogers, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and other acts who were bubbling up just above the surface on the burgeoning Texas music scene at the time. And it wasn't long before he was testing the waters himself, playing a regular acoustic gig at Fort Worth bar the Thirsty Armadillo, trying out the songs he'd been writing since high school.
"I had moved back and was going to UTA, and just started following some of those guys around," he recalls. "We'd go see guys like Randy play at the Thirsty Armadillo when he was just starting out and the scene was just barely beginning to go anywhere out here. Pat was selling Billy Bob's out, and we'd go see him, and Ragweed was just starting to break in that timeframe too.
I had also discovered Matchbox 20 during that time, and I don't know what it was exactly, maybe the timing of that first CD when it came out it, but that whole record just speaks to me. It's one of those records I still listen to...something about the way he writes songs translates to the way I felt in life at the time, and it still does. And that's something you try to capture and recreate and hopefully through your writing you help people through hard times or get people through situations in life. I don't know if there was ever a specific point where I said, 'Hey I'm gonna do this for a living,' but I just enjoyed writing songs and playing. It was a way to get my feet wet -- and I learned a lot playing at the Armadillo. And it was a way into the industry and to see how other people did it, and we learned a lot of stuff in those first couple of years."
Within a few years Casey had conquered the small club circuit and was packing out larger places like the Fort Worth Horseman's Club. He released his first independent CD, "Lost Days," (which included the autobiographical nod to his home turf, "Stockyards,") and the song quickly became a huge hit for the new band, even among fans who had never visited the Texas city. "Stockyards is one of those songs we started out with. I've been to a lot of places, and I've never been anywhere quite like the North side of Fort Worth. Its just one of those places…I grew up in all those bars, and there's such a history down there and it's something I think everyone can relate to. It's weird, it seems like we go far from Fort Worth and people still sing that song, it's one of those things people relate to -- everyone's got their own Stockyards if you will, their own place they grew up that they remember going to the bars and running the streets and getting into trouble, I guess."
Around this time, with his wife Melinda spearheading management and booking for the band, Casey impressed the owners of Billy Bob's enough to land a gig playing the legendary club where he'd attended so many shows as a fan himself. Within two years of his first show there, Casey was drawing nearly 4000 eager fans, and he's never looked back since.
In 2006 he released a second self-titled CD that included "White Trash Story," a raucous, redneck story tune that instantly became a fan favorite. He followed that up with a live CD recorded at Bostock's, (the Stephenville bar that gave Casey one of his first big breaks), then returned to the studio in 2009 to make, "Moving On," a project described as "rattling, rolling and rumbling like a youthful Robert Earl Keen fronting Reckless Kelly. That project sold an impressive 32,000 copies thanks to his growing legion of fans, as word spread like wildfire among the college crowd about this underground indie sensation. The fans have always been foremost on Casey's mind as he built his career, and he makes his music with them in mind. For Casey, it's never been about accolades, or awards, or even major label attention or fawning. It's simply about the music. And his fans recognize and appreciate that. Taking a page from the live performance playbook of one of his heroes, Pat Green, Casey fuses genuine, honest lyrics with a contagious, take-no-prisoners energy onstage, making sure everyone is along for the ride -- which, more often than not, is a wild one.
"I think we definitely make music for our fans…we don't worry about much else except making the fans happy and making ourselves happy, and we've been real lucky and fortunate in that I think we came along and started this band at a time when social media was really kind of starting to get some legs. And that really made it possible for a band that really didn't have a lot of radio support to thrive and succeed…you know we were able to keep people interested and with social media they were able to share it with their friends in such a fast way that it really spread the music to a large group of people quicker than it could have ever before."
His latest studio CD, "Double Wide Dream," is pretty much right in the wheelhouse of Casey's previous three…the songs contemplate all the highs and lows of real life, from the heartaches to the belly laughs and everything in between, and the CD is packed full of that unbridled, can-do indie spirit that has rocket-powered his entire career right from the start. From the straight-shooting, hilarity of the leadoff single, "Double Wide Dream," a redneck's declaration of love for his hot mess of a wife, to the heartfelt twist of "Give You A Ring," and the hotter-than-a-jalapeno, Texas-tinged smoker, "One Star Flag," the tunes on this new CD cover a broad range of material and emotions and showcase a maturity that can only be achieved through lots of living, loving, and losing -- things Casey has no doubt done his fair share of throughout his life and his budding career. And though he can work his way through a tearjerker with the best of 'em, for Casey, every song doesn't have to be brain surgery -- it's OK to laugh and have a good time and let your hair down, as in the case of the hilarious title track, or "White Trash Story II - The Deuce," a continuation of the tune that has become a fan sensation and instant singalong during his shows.
"Hopefully I've grown as a songwriter over the past few years, but I don't try to get too carried away with it, I don't want to try to be too serious about everything. "Double Wide Dream" is one of those songs that's just really fun. Those are songs that provide a little comic relief, and I want people to get out and jump up and down and have fun. Not every song has to change your life, there also has to be entertainment in the world. And I like to think we provide entertainment with those songs. And, I still think of myself as a redneck…I live in the country, I like to be outdoors, and shoot guns, and hunt, and drive trucks, so those are things we write about. This album is really not too far from what we've been doing from day one, just a continuation of it, really."
With the release of what will likely be his biggest album to date, Casey is gearing up for his biggest year ever, playing to packed houses throughout Texas and the Midwest. He's come a long, long way since those early days on that Armadillo stage, and he still loves to thrill crowds both big and small. But given the choice -- he'll take the flamethrower approach every time.
"I'm a Bon Jovi fan, and he's got a documentary called "When We Were Beautiful" that kind of captures Bon Jovi on a completely different level than anyone I even know. But a lot of the things he thinks about the music business translate, and it's crazy to see somebody who has the success he does have the same kind of anxieties and worries about his music that I think the common musician does. And he had a great quote in that. He's played lots of little intimate shows, but the shows he loves, are the huge ones. You know he says he'd like to play the desert and sell it out. That's always stuck with me…I don't want to play a small place, I want to play the desert and sell it out!"
And though his dream may soon grow much, much larger than a double wide, and reach heights even he couldn't have imagined, Casey is quite content with all he's accomplished thus far in this little career that could. "I don't see anyone coming to make a deal where we're gonna change what we do. I'm not sure how far we have left to go, hopefully forever, but you know nothing lasts forever, so I'm always mindful of that and prepared that one day this ride could be over. And I'm pretty proud of everything we've accomplished. I hope there's more, but if it were over tomorrow, I could look at my wife and say I was really proud of everything we've accomplished. I'm really excited about this record. I think the songs on here are great, and are a big step forward, and the fans, whatever their expectations are, I hope we blow em away!"
In the fall of 2010, thirteen years to the day after launching his career at Stubb's Barbecue in Lubbock, Texas, Wade Bowen started recording this self-titled album, his first for a major country label. Those years had seen Bowen rise from collegiate greenhorn to the top of the Texas music and Red Dirt circuit. His colleagues and friends the Randy Rogers Band, Pat Green, Jack Ingram, Eli Young Band, Cross Canadian Ragweed and others had already made the major label leap, helping to take a vibrant regional sound to the rest of America. Now it's Wade Bowen's turn to bring some Red Dirt and independent spirit to country music at large.
This isn't a debut, more like a fresh start on a bigger stage. Working with Justin Niebank, a master mixing engineer and Vince Gill's producer of recent years, Bowen cut new versions of four of his most popular songs along with seven new tunes that reflect his evolving vision as a songwriter. Longtime fans (and there are quite a few of them) will hear the Bowen they've known and the next steps on his journey. They'll get better acquainted with the ballad singer who doesn't often get a chance to show himself in honky tonks. Newcomers will hear a head-turning country artist with range, road-tested hits and one of the best male voices in the business.
That voice truly jumps out of these 11 tracks. Wade's baritone is dense and concentrated, with traces of whisky and smoke and an autumnal warmth. Bowen takes command of his songs, cutting over the top of Niebank's sculpted guitar-scapes. The sound is one hundred percent country, rife with pedal steel and vivid emotion, but it's also music could easily find a home with fans of Bowen's non-country idols - folks like Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne. Take a few passes through this project and you'll hearing a singer's singer and a focused songwriter who's adding layers to his music all the time.
"All this work and the care we've taken with this album just falls in the category of trying to get better," says Bowen. "When it comes to my intent as a musician, I've not changed anything since day one. I've only tried to mature and tried to get better, and I think this record is representative of that." On a live circuit where the overwhelming mandate is to stir up a party, Bowen has aimed to leave folks with a memory. As a writer, even one from a state with some tall literary traditions, he's not trying to earn a PhD in poetry; he's trying to communicate. "My style," he says, "is more to try to evoke an emotion. I'm more about trying to leave a mark on people."
Growing up in Waco, Bowen's exposure to the music of Texas was limited to whatever made it on FM country radio. George Strait was king. Guy Clark was a name he'd not have recognized before getting to college. There, in Lubbock, he discovered the iceberg below the surface, starting with Robert Earl Keen. "He was a big changing point in my life," says Wade. "I realized by listening to him that there was way more out there than I ever knew. So I started getting into Guy Clark and other great Texas music. But I was obsessed with Robert Earl. When we started the band we were sort of a Robert Earl cover band."
That band was called West 84, and they found that with their large posse of friends who'd always show up for a good time, it was easy to land gigs. Bowen meanwhile began to channel a life-long love of writing into songs, and when college ended he made two major decisions. He took on the role of solo artist under his own name, and he moved to Austin. By then, about 2001, fellow Waco native Pat Green had busted out to national prominence and the Texas music phenomenon was the buzz of Nashville. It was part of Wade Bowen's inspiration to charge ahead.
Try Not To Listen is the album Wade regards as his true debut, the project that kicked off a life and living made of 200-plus nights a year on the road and patient grassroots fan development. Then with Lost Hotel in 2006, things really began to click. The opening track "God Bless This Town" reached No. 1 on the bellwether Texas Music Chart, and over the next six years, he released six more chart-toppers and three additional top fives. He achieved another landmark when he was invited to add his name to the roster of great artists who've made a Live At Billy Bob's CD/DVD combo at the iconic club in Fort Worth. With a decade that good, it was inevitable that Music Row would become interested.
The origins of Bowen's new record deal can be traced to his music publisher, Sea Gayle Music. It's where Brad Paisley, Radney Foster, Jerrod Niemann, Chris Stapleton and other do their songwriting, and in 2010, it was the first indie company to be named ASCAP Country Publisher of the Year since 1982. Sea Gayle has a track record of investing in artists and helping them reach their potential, and that's how they've worked with Bowen, ultimately backing this album and introducing its independently made sound to Sony Music. Step one in that process was to find a producer who could preserve Wade's vision yet find the sweet spot that would help his music have its best chance at country radio. "Of all the producers we talked to, Justin Niebank was the only one who said 'I need to come down and see you live,'" says Bowen. "Well after 13 years of doing this I'd hope someone would want to see what we do, why we have fans. He totally got it and based the whole sound of this record around that."
That live immediacy certainly throbs on "Saturday Night," which tracks the internal monologue of a lonesome hombre sitting on his stool, nursing his drink and thinking about "that sad goodbye." As the album's first single, its chiming descending guitar riff will be the first thing many audiences will hear from Wade, his calling card. Also likely to grab listeners early is "Patch Of Bad Weather," a brisk, rocking take-down of a treacherous lover. It paints dramatic pictures of a stormy Texas landscape and it kicks like a gun.
Bowen has also taken advantage of his recent songwriting sessions and the comfortable studio environment fostered by Niebank to develop his love of ballad singing and the emotional side of country music. "All That's Left" brings strings into the mix, and it works. Bowen sounds at home. In "Say Anything," a guy can't think of a thing to say to a girl he's just met except gush on about the one he let get away, so he shuts up and listens. Its chorus will surely make some leading male country singers wish they'd been given a shot at the song. "I love those songs like that. Sad ballads," says Bowen with an apologetic shrug. "That's where my passion is. 'Say Anything' is one of my favorite tracks on the record."
Bowen was extremely pleased that the offer of a deal from Sony's BNA Records included an invitation to re-work his best material. "It was a huge opportunity to make these four songs a little better," he says. "We've played them lives for a long time, and we learned from that. We changed some tempos and tried to animate them a little bit. We created more dynamics and more signature hooks. That's stuff Justin has taught me as a producer."
Among these, "God Bless This Town" is probably the closest Bowen has so far to a greatest hit. A Texas No. 1 in 2006 and a popular music video with tons of CMT and GAC play, it's got stories layered in its stories and its characters feel familiar and alive. The narrator is torn between cynicism and attachment, and the song is all the more affecting because of it. The new version has a clean, coiled energy that ought to propel it into the hearts of a new wave of fans. Also re-worked is the smoldering "Trouble" and a breezy song written by Paul Thorn called "Mood Ring" that uses a dime-store novelty as a device to get the narrator to reveal his conflicted feelings.
Now one last note, because Bowen knows it's going to be interesting to roll out a "Nashville" album to his fans. A contingent of them have preemptively made it known that they live in mortal fear of Bowen being eaten by the Music Row machine. Yes, Wade did record this project in Nashville, with Nashville session players. But study those previous albums, and you'll see that's exactly where and how he's made them all. Bowen's been making regular writing trips for years as well, working with an expanding circle of masters and taking advantage of the town's expertise and experience. Wade will tell anyone who has a low opinion of Music City that for him, it's the home of Guy Clark and Todd Snider and Rodney Crowell, of the greatest guitarists on Earth, the finest studios and producers.
And of course Nashville was the origin of those radio dreams instilled when Wade was growing up in Texas and hearing country legends on his FM radio. The calling he felt was toward authentic music that reaches people, and that's not unique to Austin, Lubbock, Waco or Nashville for that matter. It lives in the heart and the work of the artist, and those who've believed in Wade Bowen all along will find in this album and the many albums and tours to follow, plenty more reasons to keep the faith.
For more than a decade, Roger Creager built a reputation on his distinctive brand of hard-core, rabble-rousing Texas Country music, on his rich, full-bodied voice that can carry a tune for miles, and on his exceptional ability to work thousands of Texans into a rabid frenzy with his voice and guitar, in the great concert tradition of Jerry Jeff Walker and Robert Earl Keen. Along the way, he's been writing some mighty fine instant classics about family heirlooms, fields of bluebonnets, and late night trips to Mexico. Four albums, hundreds of thousands of road miles, and an ever-expanding fan base later, Here It Is has Roger Creager laying his cards on the table with thirteen songs that are arguably his best batch yet.
"It's been five years since I've put out anything new," Roger says. "So it's five years of evolving and maybe even maturing, although it's still me." Actually, it's more of him than ever. For the first time, he's written or co-written every song on the album.
The first single, "I'm From the Beer Joint" plays to Creager's honky-tonk wildcat image informed by his live album, as he declares his preference for independent drinking establishments. "It's not going to change any lives, but it sure is fun," Creager laughs about the sing-along, before turning serious. "But who wants to listen to a whole album of that?" He's aiming for something higher.
"I hope there's a song here that penetrates your soul, too," he says, leaning forward. "There's a few that may do just that. I aimed with a shotgun. I really did try to mix it up. There's love songs [Missing You], drinking songs [the aforementioned "Beer Joint"], up-tempo dancing songs [I Love Being Lonesome], groovy little tunes [Tangle Me in You], one about a man who's screwed up and he's driving like hell through the middle of the night to get home [Driving Home]. 'I Loved You When' is my best story song yet. It doesn't even tell the whole story. It doesn't have to. It gives you just enough to know there's a history there. It's all you need to know."
The two catalysts behind the album were Lloyd Maines, the go-to producer who produced Creager's first albums, and Radney Foster, the Texas kid from Del Rio, whose songs and productions have established him as one of country music's most innovative and edgy operators. Radney teamed up with Justin Tocket, a talented producer himself, to co-produce this project. But Roger himself is the biggest catalyst of all.
The Corpus Christi native was raised on songs like Guy Clark's "Desperadoes Waiting For A Train" and Gary P. Nunn's "You Ask Me What I Like About Texas" and under the influence of Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, and Jimmy Buffett, along with Willie, Waylon, Cash, Merle, and even Sinatra.
He graduated from college and spent two years in Houston working a 8-5 gig. He finally listened to his heart and moved back to College Station to pursue a life in music. Working without a paycheck was liberating. "I'd always been a slacker," Roger admits, "and I could easily see myself failing in music because I wasn't trying hard enough. So I promised myself that would be one excuse I'd never use. I just got out there and busted my hump."
In 1998, he released Having Fun, then blew open the doors two years later with I Got the Guns. The title track, a striking piece about his granddad and his family, became a staple on more than 200 radio stations programming Texas Country Music. Long Way To Mexico and Live Across Texas grew his audience beyond state lines.
Here It Is speaks to those broadening horizons. "I was in 14 countries last year," Roger says. "I want to take our music to a wider audience without compromising the integrity of the music. I'm taking some of who I am to where I'm going."
"I've always tried to make records where every song is different so I can listen to them over and over again instead of forty five minutes of essentially the same song," he says. With Here It Is, he can do just that. This go-round, he's staying on for the whole ride.
Let's just get it out of the way right up front: In the five years between his last and most successful album yet, Good Times, and his new Dualtone Records release, Beautiful Day, Charlie Robison got divorced from his wife Emily (of The Dixie Chicks). So it's only
natural to assume that this is his "divorce album," which is not altogether untrue.
But as with all devoted songwriters, Robison writes from a perspective that draws from and speaks to larger matters and issues within human experience and life in these times.
And as the title indicates, even if this album is to a notable degree about and informed by the end of his marriage, there's something different and more at work here.
Beautiful Day is ultimately an album that chronicles the processes and resulting growth
one goes through and finally the redemption to be found within such a major life event. And it reflects a change in approach is the way Robison writes his songs. "In the past most of my songs were stories written from a third-person perspective," he explains. "This is the first album where I'm writing in the first person. It wasn't like I did it by design; I didn't have any choice."Hence Beautiful Day is a musical and emotional journey that travels through a vivid landscape of feelings and moods from certain places to other ones new and wholly different. Like such certified classics as Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks and Willie Nelson's Phases & Stages, its narrative center is the end of Robison's marriage. Yet unlike too many divorces, where rancor and pointed anger is a key part of the mix of feelings, this story is one of two people who love each other and their children, but due to their situations, themselves and the demands of their careers, the marriage is no longer tenable. And that's what makes Beautiful Day another significant creative work about divorce with a different tale to tell than any other.
Robison's divorce, which was finalized in August of last year, is by no means typical. "It was a completely amicable thing," he explains. "We didn't even have separate lawyers. We did the whole thing ourselves, and we get along better now than we had the last four years of our marriage. We hang out all the time," he notes.
The distinctly different nature of this break-up is clear from the opening title track, with its upbeat vibe, tempo and theme, albeit tinted with a slightly sardonic edge. And by the time one reaches the final number, Robison's decidedly Texan reading of Bruce
Springsteen's classic "Racing in the Streets," an exhilarating sense of freedom and new beginnings is at hand.
In between one finds such compelling new Robison compositions as the psychedelically
tinged "Yellow Blues," the upbeat and spry "Feelin' Good," the emotionally stormy "If The Rain Don't Stop," the somber "Middle of the Night" and the kicking country-rock hoedown of "She's So Fine." As with his last album, Robison includes two numbers by
one of his favorite songwriters, Keith Gattis, "Down Again" and "Reconsider," both of which fit the album's theme perfectly, as does Bobby Bare Jr.'s "Nothin' Better to Do."
All told, it's an album that takes the listener through a gamut of feelings that by its end leaves one wiser and more mature as well as wonderfully entertained.
Throughout his career, Charlie Robison has forged his own path within the country music world as well as the Lone Star music scene and popular music at large. He grew up in the small scenic town of Bandera in the Texas Hill country — known as "The Cowboy Capital of the World" — where his family has ranched the land for eight generations. Music wasn't just a staple around the Robison household; from even before he could walk, Charlie would spend Saturday nights with his parents at The Cabaret, the local
C&W dancehall in downtown Bandera. But the fare playing in the family home ran the gamut from rock'n'roll to singer-songwriters and much more. So it should come as no surprise that Charlie, his brother Bruce and sister Robyn Ludwyck all enjoy respected and
critically acclaimed music careers as singers, songwriters and recording and performing artists.
While attending college at Southwest Texas State University — now known as Texas State University, and the alma mater of George Strait and many other musicians on the Lone Star scene — Robison found he wasn't cut out for academics, and a long held
desire to try his hand at making music came bubbling to the surface. He managed to persuade his brother Bruce to also drop out of college, and the two headed to Austin.The brothers Robison soon both landed in the band Chaparral, which in the late 1980s
was a seminal act that seduced young generations of Texas to hit the dance floor to two-step, waltz and more, arm in arm in the old-school style, to a new sounds and style within the greater realms of country. It was ground zero for what became a thriving Austin scene rich with emerging talent by the 1990s. Charlie began writing songs in earnest, and after a stint in the popular Austin roots rocking combo Two Hoots and A Holler as well as a collection of local talents know as The Millionaire Playboys, he struck out on his own as an artist.
His 1995 debut album, aptly titled Bandera and released on the tiny Austin Vireo Records label, was a potent opening salvo that included such Robison favorites as the rowdy nightlife celebration "Barlight" and "Red Letter Day." After a brief deal with a Nashville
major label that ended because of his refusal to be artistically boxed-in and packaged as the latest hunky hat act, he signed with Sony Music's Lucky Dog label and released two studio albums (1998's Life of the Party and 2001's Step Right Up, which hit the Top 40 of the country album chart) as well as two live recordings: Unleashed Live with brother Bruce and labelmate Jack Ingram from a tour the three did together and his own 2003 Live album that showcased Robison's dynamic and hard-charging performing style
which has made him a Lone Star State favorite and a popular national country-rock attraction.
In what now may seem rather ironic, Robison's 2004 Dualtone label debut, Good Times, found him celebrating wedded and domestic contentment as a husband and father (of son
Gus and twins Juliana and Henry). It enjoyed the best record sales of his career, and the video for "El Cerrito Place" was a Top 10 hit at CMT. Beautiful Day promises to build upon and expand Robison's public impact even further. But even if his divorce was amicable, the experience still wasn't an easy one for him, as
the end of any profound love is bound to be. "When I was writing this record, I was going through the quintessential divorce thing of living in a one-bedroom apartment in downtown San Antonio across from the bus station," Robison recalls. "When it's over, it's over."
Beautiful Day captures the panoply of feelings one experiences with the break-up of a marriage. "It goes through the range from, man, this sucks worse than anything in the whole world to, man, I'm really pulling out of this and really feel good. I'd be up and
write a redemptive song like 'Beautiful Day' or 'Feelin' Good.' And then I'd write something like 'If the Rain Don't Come Today,' where the guy in the song wants to go out and have fun tonight, and then it fades into the reality of where you're at on 'In the Middle of the Night.' You're by yourself and you don't feel as good as you did earlier. But I still tried to give it that Sinatra twist where even if it feels lonely and bleak, a girl walks in at the end, and you think, well, maybe my life isn't quite over yet."
Despite the high-profile fame of The Dixie Chicks, the Robisons managed to keep their separation and divorce out of the tabloids and gossip columns. "Although the order of the songs on the album is more musical than following any storyline, as you hear the record
you'll know what was going on with the divorce," Charlie admits.
Beautiful Day is also a musical departure for Robison as his first self-produced album, recorded at his brother Bruce's Austin studio, Premium Recording Service. The vibrant electric guitar work throughout is by artist in his own right as well as producer Charlie
Sexton, while the acoustic guitars that fill out the sound are by Robert Earl Keen's guitarist and producer Rich Brotherton. Longtime Robison sideman Kim Deschamps brings the colors of his steel guitar and mandolin to the mix, while the bottom end is held down with grooving solidity by the veteran rhythm section of Robison's backing band The Enablers, bassist Scott Esbeck and drummer Keith Robinson. "I've wanted for a long time to make a record that sounds like a great American rock band," explains Robison. And just as Beautiful Day closes one emotional chapter in his life and opens another, it's also an album on which his always strong rock'n'roll leanings come to the fore to transcend his country roots, while also bringing them along, to create a sound that is simply great American music.
All told, it's an album of deep and rich emotional and musical content that anyone who has ever lived, loved and lost can find themselves within as well as experience what Charlie Robison has been through. And all of us, the artist included, find a redemption
and the prospect of new beginnings by the time the record ends, and find ourselves better, wiser and stronger thanks to it all.
Flatland Cavalry is an energetic blend of Country-Folk-Americana whose sound and influence can be traced to the vivacity and showmanship of the Turnpike Troubadours, melodic stylings of John Mayer, and songwriting ability of renowned Texas artists such as Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen. Thomas Mooney, Editor-in-chief of New Slang Lbk, a music blog focused on the thriving Lubbock music scene, states," It's the closest thing to Turnpike Troubadours in some time. Close your eyes and maybe, you can hear the same wiry twang in Cordero that you heard in Evan Felker years ago. The comparisons don't end there. There's the piercing interplay between guitar and fiddle. The honest longing for intimacy, inevitable heartbreak, and the occasional summertime fling that sprinkle their way through songs." Founded in 2012 by childhood friends and college roommates, Cleto Cordero and Jason Albers, Flatland Cavalry is determined to take the Lubbock music scene (and the state of Texas) by storm with their refreshing original sound.
Within two weeks of releasing their debut EP, Come May (May 2015), the ambitious young band received an offer and signed with the Oak Park, California based booking agency, Atomic Music Group, and joined the roster amongst other great Texas-based musical acts including Ray Wylie Hubbard, Brandon Rhyder, Folk Family Revival, and The Statesboro Revue. It seems the future is bright for the humble five-piece from Lubbock, TX; whose sole mission is to write and play music that's, "Easy on the ears, Heavy on the heart."
Mike Ryan is a singer/songwriter with a knack for pairing lyrics with music that breathe life into a song. Though Mike would tell you "I've still got some road to travel as a writer," many will argue he's already established himself when it comes to penning clever new tunes. Smooth and soulful, he has uncommon vocal ability. With the upcoming release of his sophomore album, Bad Reputation, Ryan proves his ability to craft a good lyric in addition to breathing life into a song in a way that no other voice can.
Surrounded by the musically inclined from a young age, Mike's never been a stranger to notes or rhythm. Early on, Mike was greatly influenced by his grandfather Paul, who directed the Texas National Guard Band for over 20 years. "Gramps was the first person to teach me about the relationship between love and music," says Mike. "He was very passionate about making music, as well as teaching it, and that passion was infectious." Additionally, two of Mike's uncles are currently band directors and Mike's Father, Ted also has a passion for music and the performing arts. "I have great memories of my dad performing in plays and musicals as I was growing up," Mike recalls, "and he still plays bass with his blue grass band every time he gets the chance." Mike honed his own talent early as a member of his middle school and high school choirs.
The talent Mike has been blessed with as singer/songwriter has certainly not been ignored. After releasing his first full length album in the Fall of 2012, Night Comes Falling, Mike grabbed the attention of Sea Gayle Music, one of the top independent publishing companies in country music, out of Nashville, Tennessee. Mike strengthened his team again with APA Talent of Nashville coming on board to oversee tour booking in January of 2014.
Since May of 2013, Mike frequently travels to Nashville for writing sessions. Mike's second full length album, Bad Reputation, showcases ten new songs, all written or co-written by him. The songwriting and vocal talent that so many have come to recognize shine brilliantly with this new project. The first single, "Dancing All Around It," (went #1 on the TX Music Chart 9.29.2014) grabs you with the first line and keeps you hooked as the story unfolds. "Easy," reminds you of the smooth classic country hits of the 80's, and "Wasting No More Whiskey" (#1 on TX Regional Radio Chart 4/3/2015)is a creative and catchy tune that will have you singing along before its over. "I had some trouble narrowing it down to just 10 songs out of all the new ones we had written, but that's a nice problem to have," says Mike. "It's a great feeling when you have more good songs than space on an album."
With the first two radio singles from the BAD REPUTATION album both hitting number 1 on the Texas charts, its evident that Mike Ryan knows a thing or two about good music. His rapidly expanding fan base is solid evidence of that.
Rob Baird is a thinker, a seeker, a man who surveys the scene, decides what he aims to accomplish and sets it in motion. Sure, over the past five years the Memphis-born musician, who broke out with 2012's critically-acclaimed I Swear It's The Truth and built a dedicated fanbase as a result, steadily earned a reputation as a no-frills, earnest singer, songwriter and performer — one able to tear through the Texas live-music circuit with ease.
But Baird envisioned for himself a fuller artistic landscape. "I love Texas but I knew there was more out there," the 28-year-old says. It's why he temporarily stepped off the stage, decamped to Nashville and began to assemble Wrong Side of The River, the musician's most eclectic and elegant, crisp and stunning collection of songs yet. "It was time for me to go out there and figure it out on my own; hit the reset button," he says.
Chances are if you see them live on a Saturday night, more than likely you will wake up with your ears ringing and a hangover on Sunday morning. It's safe to say that Dalton Domino and the Front Porch Family Band puts on more of a party rather than a performance. Their music is a gritty blend of fast energetic southern rock with a hint of everything from Americana, Red Dirt and Texas Country to Delta Blues and Soul.
Dalton Domino has made a splash on the Texas Music scene. In the last couple of months Domino won the Larry Joe Taylor singer/songwriter contest to perform at Larry Joe Taylor Fest; played on the Texas Red Dirt Roads w/Justin Frazell; released his debut single "Killing Floor" which made it to number 1 on the Top 5 at 5 on the Red Dirt Rebel for a month; and started recording a full length album. Needless to say, Domino and his band have been busy.
The road to success for Domino started two years ago when he moved to Lubbock, Texas after reading about the many musicians who got their start at The Blue Light Live, including Josh Abbott, William Clark Green, and Red Shahan of Six Market Boulevard. Domino started playing Monday nights at singer songwriter night at the Blue Light and soon met up with Levi Fowler (harmonica), Michael Moad (bass), Beau Bolfing (guitar) and formed The Front Porch Family Band.
The band is not afraid to push the edge and bring a true rock feel to their music. Listeners are captivated by the edgy lyrics and you will find yourself wanting to dance along. Domino has the unique ability to make every audience member feel like, well, family. He shares the stories behind his songs and does so in a real and honest way.
Currently, Domino and FPFB are in the process of recording their first album "1806" at Mount Vernon studios with producer Jon Taylor. The Band also added a new member, Lora Markham on vocals to round out their sound. Domino released the first single, "Killing Floor" in May and the single can be found on iTunes. If the success of the song is any indication, the band has a hit on their hand. Domino and The Band are set to release the album in the Fall.
After listening to Kaitlin Butts' pure and simple country music, it is obvious that she is not riding the fence where her music is concerned. With vocals that throw you back to the honesty of early female honky-tonkers, and with that nostalgia refreshingly uncontrived, this Oklahoman sings her songs with 50 years of heartbreak in her voice, though she is not even half that age.
In 2014, Kaitlin entered Red Dirt artist and producer, Mike McClure's Boohatch Studio to begin recording her album, Same Hell, Different Devil. Kaitlin was able to have some of her favorite Oklahoma musicians on the album such as Whiskey Myers' Jon Knudson, Alan Orebaugh, as well as Grammy-award winner, Lloyd Maines. The project was mixed and mastered by Joe Hardy who has worked with artists such as ZZ Top, Steve Earle and Turnpike Troubadours. The new album draws the listener into the stories of love and fun, as well as to the darker corners of life, like heartbreak, revenge, jealousy, and the inevitable whiskey drunk. Same Hell, Different Devil was released in late February, 2015, and a tour of regional radio and shows featuring Same Hell, Different Devil is underway.
This rebellious redhead has supported artists such as The Great Divide, John Fullbright, Mike McClure, Aaron Watson, Zane Williams, Wade Bowen, Cody Canada, and Cody Jinks. She has performed at SXSW, Gypsy Café Music Festival, Norman Music Festival, and OKC Fest, where she was named an artist to watch by NewsOK. Kaitlin is also a frequent performer at the Centennial Rodeo Opry, Oklahoma's "Official Country Music Show."
Kaitlin's music has recently received praise from Oklahoma/ Texas Music blog, Red Dirt/Blue Collar, who wrote that "in a short time, Kaitlin has managed to become one of the most promising, young Oklahoma songwriters to demand their due attention." The article also stated that "Same Hell, Different Devil serves as a showcase to this young ladies incredible songwriting skill and powerful vocal prowess. Exhibiting a maturity in her lyrics well beyond the reach of her 21 years of age, so many of the songs on this album will certainly leave listeners wondering which of the ghosts of songwriters past this girl has tapped in to."