A recent Fort Worth Weekly article poses the question: What happened to Texas Music? The semi-weekly posits the theory that after Jerry Jeff Walker moved to Austin in the late 1970s and cast his influence over the state, true Texas music was all gone, and we have him to blame (or thank) for Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green and the myriad of frat-boy imitators that came after. The music that this whole cycle creates, writer Jeff Prince argues, is nothing more than “an embarrassing, twangy idiocracy” and “a large mound of crap with flowers springing from the muck once in a while.”
Prince interviewed three people with Texas country ties for the article: Joey Green, a Texas songwriter who recently moved to Nashville; Amos Staggs, who, at 70, continues to write, record and play live shows; and Earl Musick, who owns a recording studio, record label, and publishing company. All three bemoan the loss of “true Texas music,” with Green calling it all “a cluster---- of bull----.”
The interview mainly focuses on the farce that is the radio industry, and how easy it is to get paid ads that count as streaming plays for songs these days. Which, fair. And, do they have a point about some of the genre’s more frat-boy artists? Sure. I saw Kevin Fowler open for The Randy Rogers Band a few weeks ago and was sad to see he’s still peddling his love of beer, bait and ammo as he approaches 50.
But, with all due respect, rumors of Texas country’s death has been greatly exaggerated. Here are five Texas artists you might not hear on the radio, but who deserve your attention all the same. Two are even from Fort Worth.
1. Cody Jinks
Jinks’ metal-band background informs his fast-moving, old-school brand of country music. He’s also from Fort Worth. Jinks is mentioned in the Fort Worth Weekly article, but as a caveat, according to Green:
I’ve always thought [Jinks] was great. But he could still be bartending at While Elephant Saloon if the right person didn’t think that way. He hooked up with the right manager up in Nashville, a guy that used to work for Kid Rock, and he knew just what to do with Cody at the right time. Cody Jinks is a prime example of somebody who found the right management company and took him out of Texas to even make him big in Texas.
Check out his latest release “I’m Not the Devil” for some substantive songwriting and amazing musicianship. Plus, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson even likes him, which points to his mainstream appeal without compromising his sound.
2. Grady Spencer & the Work
Another Fort Worth band, this four piece of working-class musicians write songs about faith, feeling lost in your faith, love, marriage, leaving your hometown and everything in between. They sound like country combined with gritty blues rock, and Fort Worth has even embraced their song “Things To Do” in promotional material for the city. And they also don’t sing about partyin’ all the time.
3. John Baumann
Baumann hails from all over Texas, but most recently from Austin. He just released a new album called “Proving Grounds” that features plenty of drinking songs, but it also has a nine-minute opus called “Pontiacs” on it that no Pat Green-type would ever touch. There is room for both partying songs and introspective songs in Texas music.
4. Maren Morris
Morris is also mentioned in the Fort Worth Weekly article as an artist who succeeds, but with a caveat from Musick: “Maren [Morris’] parents bought her enough recognition that her talent got a chance to take over. She is talented.”
Morris is definitely pop-country, but she is one of the best pop-country acts out there right now. She sings about partying and going out, sure, but she’s in her mid-20s. It’s age appropriate. Her debut LP, “Hero,” was excellent but also hints at some of the heights she can still attain.
5. Sunny Sweeeney
Sweeney, an Austinite, just released one of 2017’s best albums, “Trophy.” She can write songs that are both wry and heartbreaking, often in the same song. She is a fantastic female voice in a genre that doesn’t see much female representation.
More: Sunny Sweeney, Selena Gomez land on The Ringer’s ‘Midyear Music Awards’ list
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rest assured that Texas music is still not dead. And, since it’s the weekend, maybe go support some of those artists by seeing a live show tomorrow. There’s plenty of concerts in Austin this weekend.
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