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November 2018: Reinventing the Needle

What do you say when it’s over?  Don’t know if I should say anything at all.

So goes the plaintive statement at the heart of Clint Black’s classic “Better Man”.  And it kind of sums up the headspace I find myself in lately with this music scene.  It’s not the first time either.  Nothing has moved my needle in months.  At least not within the confines of “the scene”.  When a hardcore music fan can’t find much to get excited about, it’s time for some examination.  And that examination has proven that there isn’t much happening.  It’s like death by quicksand, being stuck on an escalator to nowhere.  Everything changes, yet stays the same.

The charge is being led by Koe, Parker and Read.  A youth movement that is super cool,  but comes off like a movie I’ve already seen.  Turnpike is in the Enquirer. PG is selling art.  Sure, the RRBs and WBs and JABs of the world plug along and are fantastic.  But, what’s new?  Not much.  CoJo and Ward are making national waves by releasing music that has more in common with Tracy Lawrence and Tracy Byrd than Willie and Jerry Jeff.  And, there’s nothing wrong with that.  It just doesn’t move me anymore.  I’m super proud and happy for those guys and everyone having success at the moment.

All that well-deserved success aside, most things that are exciting at the moment are happening beyond our scene.  Sturgill, Isbell, Tyler, Prine’s resurgence feel good and they’re a cousin to us…but they don’t live with us.  As Lefsetz has pontificated about countless times, true innovation is happening in tech, not music.  Music, in general, is rudderless and hasn’t seen innovation in 15 years or more.  It’s not just a Texas Country/Red Dirt problem either.  Every genre and every scene seems to be treading water waiting to find out what’s going to happen next.

There’s comfort in the curves and when there’s so much money at stake, it’s hard to take chances.  Even punk rock went corporate.  Maroon 5 is playing the Super Bowl and the biggest rock star on the planet at the moment is a former folk singer from Grapevine turned hip hop maven that provides monster commercial hooks amid the slurring. Vanilla is the most popular ice cream flavor, but down in Texas we dig us some Blue Bell Rocky Road.

When was the last time you heard something original?  Something that made you say wow.  Something that made you hit repeat.  Rewind.  Replay.

The lead guitarist of a major alternative rock band one time told me, “There’s only so many notes, we’re all just reinventing the wheel.”  However it is reinvention that we are all seeking the most.  We look back to move ahead.  The most buzzworthy band of the moment (for better or worse) is Greta Van Fleet.  A Led Zeppelin ripoff that is finding success simply because the world is craving something fresh yet familiar.  Willie begat Jerry Jeff begat REK begat PG begat RRB begat JAB begat the present.  Someone, somewhere is creating that reinvention for our scene.  They will arrive when the time is right, and I will be waiting alongside all of you to bask in it. Whether they sound like Jerry Jeff 4.0 or something different, we’re in desperate need.  Artforms of all kinds suffer when stagnant.

Phil Pritchett once sang of country music, “it’s gone the way of Big Band as far as I can tell.”  If things don’t change course in the next few years, we’ll be saying the same thing about Texas Music as a whole.  It will be a relic, a super niche.  The splinters of it will live on forever.  Americana, folk, singer-songwriters.  Those things will never go away.  The question is how fresh will they sound?  And what will the audience look like?  In 5 years? 10? 20?

Time will tell and the needle awaits.


-I never want these columns to come off too ranty.  I’m not upset, just trying to pontificate, motivate and ruminate.  I don’t have any answers, but I have lots of questions.

-We’re undergoing some housecleaning around the site and updating things.  The Spambots invaded and we’re fighting them off.  A simple redesign and some upgrades are coming your way soon.

-I can’t remember a wetter fall.

-I’m headed to Vegas and Key West in successive months.  I was built to rage.

-Jason Garrett will stay on as head coach until Jerry draft’s his grandson.  I think it’s in the contract.

-My candidate loves America, Jesus and bbq.  Your candidate hates puppies, freedom and tacos.  You can flip it for whichever side you’re on.  Ready for the election to be over and the ads to be off my screens.  Please vote.  Please research it beyond the silly ads every candidate uses.

-I’ve found that taking old school yellow cabs, while not as convenient, is cheaper and more fun than Uber.

-This month’s recommended album:  Adam Hood – Somewhere In Between.  The Alabama troubadour has delivered another top to bottom banger.  You want groove, he’s got it.  You want soul, he’s got it.  You want country, he’s got it.  You want blues, he’s got it.  Most importantly, you want real…he’s got it.

-“Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.” – Mark Twain

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