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Kaitlin Butts & Silverada: Spirit, Energy, Vibes

I saw a meme recently that said "In religion we call it spirits, in science we call it energy and in the streets we call it vibes. Whatever you call it, trust it."

Two of the most preeminent artists in the Texas/Red Dirt scene dropped career defining records last week. In a fashion true to the by the boot straps ethos of this music scene, they each did it on their own terms and stayed true to their artistic visions. They each trusted their spirit, energy and vibe.

Kaitlin Butts first started hitting folks consciousness in this scene about a decade ago when she dropped her debut project Same Hell, Different Devil. At the time there was an insurgence of young female voices such as Kensie Coppin, Jade Marie Patek and Jackie Darlene among others. However, Butts immediately stood apart from the crowd. She had an it factor about her. A devil may care attitude with a flair for showmanship. Her songwriting transcended the typical tropes written about in Texas and Oklahoma. And, she could belt the shit out of what she wrote. Over the next couple of years she would connect with Cleto Cordero on both musical and personal levels where their duet "Life Where We Work Out" would give each of them a career jolt. Butts hit the road and ground out gigs while popping out at various Flatland shows to sing their hit duet. However, she would continually promise that she had new music of her own coming. She began to build a brand. One that was true to her and all her own. Cunning, daring, bold, unique and artsy. She borrowed as much from country music as she did pop and Broadway. Butts cultivated a dynamic social media experience that hooked fans across the country. By the time she dropped her single "White River", onlookers could see the roadmap leading to something special. Other tracks dropped, more people began to pay attention and by the time she released her What Else Can She Do? project in 2022 she was on the cusp of leaping from regional renown to national notoriety.

She's stayed the course and leaned into her intuitions which have proven to be spot on. Butts dreamt up an ambitious concept record called Roadrunner! A project that owed the vibe to the musical Oklahoma and the actual music to an artist at the top of their creative game. Butts mixes murder ballads with love songs. Heartbreak, heartache and hellraising. She does it all with a fresh sonic outlook and a reinvention of the country music wheel on the lyrical side. This is what country music should be moving forward. Progressive, yet nodding to tradition. True to the spirit of the artist. As Oklahoma as it can get.

Down in Austin, a band of rabble rousing honky-tonkers were on a similar, albeit different trajectory. Mike Harmeier's Mike and the Moonpies project had sweated and gigged their way from five hour gigs in the most divey of Hill Country bars to recording at Abbey Road and playing the Ryman. They had become critical darlings, festival headliners and one of the best live acts regardless of genre in the world. Much like Kaitlin Butts they had created a brand and identity built on their hard charging music and knock 'em back vibe. But, he and they wanted more. They felt that the name Mike and Moonpies fit what they were doing 15 years ago, but not so much anymore.

So, in a much publicized (and controversial in some circles) move, the band pivoted to rename and rebrand themselves Silverada. Despite the Moonpies moniker which they felt was a bit of an albatross, the band had cranked out a conistent string of albums over the last decade that were perhaps the best overall run this scene has seen during that timeframe. They had created classic songs and built a fanbase. But, they were willing to risk it all to chase their muse.

The early returns based solely off their newly released self-titled album Silverada proves that their gamble was worth it. In a catalog full of heaters, they set the canon ablaze with the best thing they've ever done. It's got elements of what made the Moonpies albums so damn good, which makes sense since it is the same guys. But, it goes further. It pushes in new sonic directions. The wild streak is still there, but so is the heart, soul and mind.

"Americana is a myth." is a salvo Harmeier tosses into "Radio Wave". Call it what you want, I'll just call it good. It's as Texas as it comes.

Kaitlin Butts and Silverada are standing on the edge of greatness on fully firm footing. They tossed conventions aside and did it their own way. They did not play it safe. They each did what was in their artistic soul and it has paid off in spades. Music fans in this scene always crave genuine honesty and have good bullshit detectors. Which is why the authenticity (yes, that word) is so apropos in each of these cases. Butts could have been content to write to a formula and be known as Cleto's duet partner. But, she's too talented and driven for that. Silverada could have never put out another record and gigged for the next 25 years as Mike and the Moonpies. But, they were too talented and driven for that. As big as this music scene has gotten, it's still a cottage industry fueled by independence and perseverance. With artists as great as Kaitlin Butts and Silverada leading the way, the future is brighter than it has been in quite some time.


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