New Stuff: Texas
This weekend, Austin opens its doors to tens of thousands of people who will attend the big three-day Austin City Limits Festival. Kings of Leon, Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Levon Helm and many others will play … but we’re not gonna go. Tickets are a little pricey, and it’s been sold out for months anyway. So we’re just gonna sit back and enjoy some new music from around the Lone Star state. You can join us: pull up a chair, and it’s free.
The best songwriter in Texas, hands down, is Guy Clark. His new album is Sometimes The Song Writes You, and all I can add to that is “Amen, brother.” If you ever wanted to know (or not), Guy likes to write his songs on graph paper – you know, the kind with little blue squares. “It’s just the tactile part of it, I guess,” he says. “I write in longhand, on graph paper. It kind of keeps you in a straight line.”
The second-best songwriter in Texas – and he’ll readily agree with that – is Robert Earl Keen. His newest is called The Rose Hotel, and it has lots of great playin’, nice singin’ and guest appearances by Greg Brown and Billy Bob Thornton. Robert’s songs are funny and sometimes very insightful but they’re always keen. Sorry.
You probably know that Kris Kristofferson is a Texas boy (born Corpus Christi) but we’ll excuse you if you didn’t know that. After all, Kris is a god in Nashville: he wrote classics like “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” “Help Me Make It Through The Night” and of course “Me and Bobby McGee.” He’s 73 years old and he sounds as cool and timely as ever on Closer To The Bone. As a bonus, on this album he even includes the “first whole song I ever wrote … 11 years old and well on my way.”
Miranda Lambert is a little bundle of dynamite from Lindale, Texas, and in her songs you don’t mess with her or else. She is nominally a country singer, but her new album Revolution brands her as just as much an outlaw as Waylon, Willie or Billy Joe (Shaver, not that dude from Green Day), and she rocks.
Somebody in our office turned me on to The Band Of Heathens a few years ago, and I’m glad they did. Their newest is called One Foot In The Ether, and that describes you if you don’t like this gumbo pot of rock, country, folk and a healthy helping of spicy Texas soul.
And we wrap it up today with two guys you may have heard of: George Strait and Willie Nelson. Strait, the rancher from San Antonio, has a new one called Twang and it does. And Willie, the dean of American songwriters, puts down his pen to cover an American Classic or two on his latest. Perfect accompaniment for a starry Texas night, I must say.