July 3 2021

Did Flatland leave the Panhandle?

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Yesterday Flatland Cavalry released their latest album. I cannot help but say that I miss that little Lubbock Based band that I grew to love.

I am listening to Welcome to Countryland, the new album by Flatland Cavalry, honestly I am not thoroughly impressed. Although, the album does have some sweet sentiments from Cleto Cordero’s roots, such as his poetic lyrics that shine out through some of the songs on the record, for instance the song, “It’s Good to Be Back (Round Here Again)”. Also, I can feel the love that Cordero has for his new wife, Singer/ Songwriter Kaitlin Butts during the love songs, “Life Without You,” and “Well Spent Time.” Kaitlin Butts offers much to the album through her backup harmonies on this album.

I am in total agreement with what the website, “Saving Country Music” had to say.

“Welcome to Countryland isn’t perfect. A couple of the harder songs still seem to not get the levels on the guitar where you would expect them to be for the track to punch.”

Saving Country Music

An old saying goes, You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy. In the case of Flatland Cavalry’s third and latest album, I am not so sure that this saying rings true. Under the direction of the album’s producer, Jake Gear, and a new management team It seems that Flatland has evolved to the ways of Nashville and began to step out of the Texas Scene that made them who they are. Some of the songs on the album seemed to run together or even sound like something that had already been done. The musical arrangements were great with the fiddles and steels and guitar work, but the music at times seemed to over power the simple words from Cleto’s tongue.

I am not saying I totally hate the album, but I am saying is that it is simply different. In my opinion it certainly isn’t the best or what I know that Flatland Cavalry is capable of. I realize nobody gets it perfect every time.

I still feel that Cleto Cordero is an accomplished writer. He is a singer/songwriter who has much to offer the world of music. I just hope he remembers that Texas is where his roots are and where many of his fans would like to see him stay.

I know in my heart that Cleto Cordero is here to stay- he has a long career ahead and he isn’t done making good music. The kind of music I want to hear, for now I will take the good with the bad. I am just going to wait for the next Panhandler hit.


July 2 2021

Release Date for Darby

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Well, We’re in pretty good shape for the shape We’re in.

Darby Sparkman

Darby Sparkman is a Texas Native from Quanah, Texas who is making her way into the Texas Music Scene in a big way. Not only is she a singer and a songwriter, but she is also a journalist for Wide Open Country.

Well, We’re in pretty good shape for the shape We’re in. – Darby Sparkman

These are lyrics from Darby Sparkman’s newest single which released today July 2, 2021. I have been following Darby Sparkman on Twitter and Spotify this year, she has some great tunes that have come out recently.  

Earlier this year, Sparkman released an EP titled The Cabin at Ghost Gum Creek which features four great songs all telling stories of hard living and lost love. Sparkman has a way with words. She bares it all on this EP which was recorded primarily to give focus to just the girl and her guitar.

“This is so different from anything I’ve ever written or recorded & im so happy to share it with you!!!”

Darby Sparkman Via Instagram

On her Instagram page she describes the new single, “Pretty Good Shape,” “This is so different from anything I’ve ever written or recorded & im so happy to share it with you!!!”

I have been listening today, I think it is a wonderful song. This catchy tune makes it hard not to kick it up a notch and just sing along.  

In Texas, Darby Sparkman is moving up fast and furious. I hope to see more of what this Texas Gal is gonna let out.


July 1 2021

VNE album Review

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Got My copy of Vincent Neil Emerson’s self-titled album in the mail. I have already played it in it’s entirety several times over.

I am the kind of guy who has to hear the album from start to finish on the first go around. Some people just pick and choose the songs they want to hear or even worse, press shuffle- I don’t understand that.

The producer- and the artist- in this case, Rodney Crowell and Vincent Neil Emerson arranged the album in exactly the way they intended it to be listened to.

So far my two favorite songs from the album are both found on it’s B-Side. “The Ballad of the ChoctawApache” and “High on Gettin’ By.”

The Ballad of the Choctaw Apache” is a tune about how the rich man came and flooded the land that once belonged to an Indian Tribe. Through the songs lyrics, VNE gets pretty deep and emotionally involved as he has every right to- Vincent Neil Edwards was raised solely by his mom, a descendant of the Choctaw and Apache Nations. The song includes Native American flute music that makes the musical arrangement more than amazing.

“I hope that dirty reservoir was worth all the lives you scarred,” VNE sings, “Well a hundred eighty thousand acres of ancestral land… flooded by the damn.. But it just don’t mean a thing to the faces in your hand.”

It doesn’t take a wise man to see that those faces in the rich man’s hand were all looking back from the money they made by washing out the land that was so sacred to the people who lived on and off it.

High on Getting By,” also has some profound lyrics. I can really relate to this song as I have been working for the man all of my life and still have dreams that my future is going to be better than life is today.

Like a bird caught in a store I been searchin’ for the door But There ain’t no clear direction when you ain’t needed anymore.” Sings VNE

These lines speak loudly to me. This song inspires me. I have given my all and sometimes it feels that I just haven’t given enough. I know that my spirit must be taken back into some realm of control and that the things in my mind aren’t always what reality is- but I also know that I am the only one who can make the move. I have the faith and strength in God to direct my thoughts and I must provide the action. I am ready to take the next step- In a forward motion.

All the songs on the album were written by Vincent Neil Emerson. The album was dedicated to Emerson’s son Clyde. VNE gives a big shout out to thank so many who have helped him on this road including Charley Crockett, Willie Nelson, his mom and his wife Jeri Leeann.

On the back of the album one of Rodney Crowell’s notes does a bit of name dropping, calling out some of my all time favorites-

“When asked to explain the Texas singer/songwriter/poet mystique, I often said the Guy Clark was a regional artist with global appeal, that his literary sensibilities one could say that he and Larry McMurtry were cut from a similar cloth… And that Townes Van Zandt’s allure was, much like Dylan’s, rooted in his effortless access to the higher realms of archetypal imagery. To put it simply, he made incredibly complex songwriting sound easy. Add Willie Nelson to the mix and you have the Texas Trifecta.”

Rodney Crowell

Vincent Neil Emerson’s skill with his abilities as a songwriter could be compared to all of these men mentioned in Rodney’s quote.

I love this album and I hope you will give it a listen or ten… thousand.


June 28 2021

Honky Tonk Angel- Chad Sullins

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Chad Sullins and the Last Call Coalition were for a time one of the hottest acts in the Texas and Red Dirt Music Scene. After the band’s breakup- officially announced in October of 2015, citing irreconcilable differences, and different lifestyle paths being taken. The breakup seemed to me, remarkably similar to Cross Canadian Ragweed, who had disbanded only a short few years prior. Cross Canadian Ragweed was another popular group and still happens to be one of my personal favorites. They played the same scenes and venues as Chad and the Coalition.  

After the breakup, Sullins went on to have a successful career as a singer and as a songwriter. Over the years he has shared stages with some of Red Dirt’s very best. Yesterday I read on several of these artists Social Media Pages as they were all giving heartfelt condolences to Chad Sullins. Sullins was highly regarded by his peers in the music industry. He also had a loyal following of fans who stuck with him from his earliest beginnings as an artist.

The Stillwater Oklahoma Based artist, Sullins, began having heart troubles in 2014, yesterday when the cause of death was announced it was due to a torn aortic valve. No arrangements have been made yet at this sad time.

I want to wish each of those affected my sincere condolences in this trying time. Chad Sullins has a great many songs that will forever be treasured by those who loved him. The music shall never grow old.

Rest in Paradise Chad Sullins, Thanks for making the world just a little bit better through your words in song. You’ve reached your destination- Honky Tonk Angel.


June 27 2021

Shelby Lee Lowe knows he’d miss Tennessee

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Shelby Lee Lowe was born and raised not too far outta Nashville and hasn’t strayed too far away from his country and honky tonkin’ roots.  He is proud of his roots and ain’t never going to leave. He says it best in one of his newest singles, “Miss Tennessee.”

She’s The Reason I ain’t ever gonna leave

Cause you know I’d miss Miss Tennessee

Miss Tennessee” was written by Shelby Lee Lowe, Matthew Huntley & Andrew Scott Wills.

“I’ll go on record saying that drummers and bass players don’t get enough love.”

Shelby Lee Lowe

I appreciate Shelby’s lyrics and his music. He is humble enough to realize that he is not the star of the spotlight all by himself and that it takes a band to make the man. “I’ll go on record saying that drummers and bass players don’t get enough love. If they are solid most people don’t even notice them, but a good rhythm section is soooo damn important.” Shelby Tweeted last Friday. This Rhythm can be heard in “Miss Tennessee,” as well as throughout all of Shelby Lee Lowe’s songs. He is still ‘ the kind of music that I grew up loving. Good ol’ fashioned rubbing belt buckles dancin’ songs.

Shelby Lowe’s website lists some of his accomplishments as Opening for Charlie Daniels and playing at Nascar events like the Bristol Motor Speedway and Coca-Cola 600. Shelby deserves all the big-time spots that he can get.

In his own unique ways, he is still making country music that sounds country. I like that he has not fallen to the traps of Nashville’s bro country and is not concerned with trying to make his music sound like the song that the last guy just wrote. He writes from his heart and soul and puts his all into his song.


June 26 2021

Evolution- Highwaymen to Highwomen

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I am sure you have all seen the trending memes and posts on social media that state, “I was Today years old when I realized…” Just today I made one of these profound discoveries. It was something that I probably should have known, but that I just really did not know.

I was today years old when I realized that the same songwriter who wrote the hit songs, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix“, “Wichita Lineman”, and “Galveston” all made famous by Glen Campbell, also wrote the song “Highwayman.”

I was today years old when I realized that Jimmy Webb had written all of these songs and more.

Another fact about this magnificent songwriter that I did not realize, was that he recorded the song “Highwayman” way back in May of 1977. Webb was first to release the song on his album El Mirage. Shortly after the original version came out, Glen Campbell also cut the song and used the Highwayman name as the title of his 35th album which was released in 1979.

Highwayman was the inspiration behind the name of a supergroup of outlaw country musicians who formed the Highwaymen. Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings. These Highwaymen would score a platinum album. The group took the song to #1 on the Hot Country Songs Billboard chart. The Highwaymen version would win an award for the songwriter, Jimmy Webb, Best Country Song in 1986.

I don’t know how they decided who would take which verse, but having Johnny last was like having God singing your song.”

Jimmy Webb

In 1984, Glen Campbell first pitched “Highwayman” to Johnny Cash. Years earlier, he had played the song to Waylon, who later said, “I just couldn’t see it then.” The quartet who soon became known as the Highwaymen had decided that they wanted to do a project together and were already recording for their first album and Marty Stuart again played the song for Cash, saying that it would be perfect for them. “Four verses, four souls, and four of them,” explained Marty Stuart. Glen Campbell found an opportunity and was able to play the song to all four of them. This performance was the turning point and the Highwaymen were born. The group chose the name the Highwaymen as they were always on the road at that time of their careers and the name fit each of their own outlaw image. Webb Later remarked on the Highwaymen’s version, “I don’t know how they decided who would take which verse, but having Johnny last was like having God singing your song.”

Jimmy Webb composed the song, “Highwayman” after a night of hard drinking in London and waking up from a bad dream of himself wearing pistols in his belt and being terrified as the police were closing in on him. Upon awakening, he sat at his piano and had the first verse in only a few hours.

In recent years, a new supergroup, The Highwomen has evolved. This time the group of Highway bandits is of the female gender. In 2019, Brandi Carlile and Amanda Shires along with Jimmy Webb reworked the iconic song. In the Highwomen version, the singers are Brandi Carlile, Amanda Shires, along with additional vocals provided by Yola, and Natalie Hemby.

I’ll be back again and again and again….


June 25 2021

Vincent Neil Emerson- Releases Self Titled Album

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I just ordered the new Vinyl by Vincent Neil Emerson. This much anticipated self-titled album released in its entirety today. I wrote about VNE back in May, after hearing his single, “Learnin’ to Drown.” I have been a fan ever since. “Learnin’ to Drown” is a very intimate song by this young Van Zandt County, Texas native. Through the writing of the song, VNE was able to release some of the emotions that he has held onto since his father’s suicide.

Vincent Neil Emerson Track List:

1. Texas Moon

2. Debtor’s Blues

3. High On The Mountain

4. Learnin’ To Drown

5. Ripplin’ And Wild

6. Durango

7. The Ballad Of The Choctaw-Apache

8. White Horse Saloon

9. High On Gettin’ By

10. Saddled Up And Tamed

This new album was produced by Rodney Crowell. It released today on La Honda records. The album was recorded in Nashville at Sound Emporium Studios. The track listing of songs on this album were written by Vincent Neil Emerson. Backing up VNE on this album is Rodney Crowell’s back up band. These are musicians that have played in and around Nashville for many years, seasoned musicians who have played the big venues like the Grand Old Opry.

“To me, it’s in that Texas folk-singer tradition of Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Ray Wylie Hubbard, myself and Steve Earle.”

Rodney Crowell

“To me, it’s in that Texas folk-singer tradition of Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Ray Wylie Hubbard, myself and Steve Earle.” Said Rodney Crowell of the album.

Vincent Neil Emerson has only been making a career out of his music for a little over a decade, but his music sounds as if has been around since the beginnings of Country and Western. I have previously thought myself that his skill and sound reminded me of Townes Van Zandt or Guy Clark. This morning as I was driving to work, I was streaming Spotify and VNE’s song “High on The Mountain” came on. I took a double take as the sound of the lyrics and the fiddle and swing sound reminded me of an early Willie Nelson recording. I really loved the tune and the reminder it gave me that today was the release day of this new album.


June 24 2021

Tanner Usrey- Medicine Man

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Prosper, Texas is located in the Dallas Ft Worth metropolitan area, was founded as a farming community in the early 1900’s the name Prosper comes from the prosperous crops that the area was once known for.

Tanner Usrey is an independent musician from Prosper, Texas. His heartfelt lyrics and big voice have gained quite a following since he released his debut album in 2017. Tanner has a large following on social media and on streaming platforms such as Spotify. As of today, Tanner Usrey’s Twitter account has 7,878 followers. His Spotify account receives over 223,000 monthly listeners.

Today I have been streaming songs from Usrey’s 2019 EP, Medicine Man. I love the way the lyrics drag me into every song. I really dig this upbeat music. Sometimes, Tanner’s lyrics seem chilling or even haunting. I can feel the emotions in each and every song on this album.

Tomorrow night, Tanner is playing in my old hometown of Midland at the Rusty Bucket. If you are in the area, I really think this show is going to be worth the watch.

Tanner Usrey is working on new music and traveling Texas as we speak. Check him out.

6/25 – Rusty Bucket – Midland, TX

6/26 – Alpo’s Barn – Farwell, TX


June 23 2021

Cotton Farmin’ Blues

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There’s a red dirt road off the beaten path. Off an old farm to market road, where the cotton used to grow. The fields are all grown up now with wheat grass and overgrown with stickers and careless weeds that suck the last drops of water from the soil that hasn’t been turned since the tractor broke a few years back. The government calls it CRP but mostly the men who used to farm that land just think it’s crap since the market fell out and the price is cheap.

There’s an old farm boy who never grew up who still hangs onto the land that his daddy owned, and he hopes that someday it will all come back and he kicks the tires and dreams of the good ol’ days when he used to drive into Lubbock. He would take his guitar to some college bar and sing his songs and people would dance and he would drink his beer and he had no fear and life was good and he thought that he would do things that nobody else ever could.

Oh how he wished he was more like his daddy was, how he worked hard all his life with just his strong back and little sleep.

Out there on that fallen farm where the sky is as big as Texas is wide he thinks hard about starting again.

And out of nowhere here comes the wind and there’s a trickle of water from and old windmill and the dirt fills his eyes and ears and he steps inside of an old metal barn. A big hoot owl takes a dive to catch a mouse with big wide eyes and the feathers fly.

He sucks in a big breath of air and life is good again if only for a time.

In his pocket he finds a dime and he pulls it out and heads or tails and he makes his wish and son of a bitch and its back to farmin’ again.

He knew that there was a lot to do and he’d never catch up and the sun was high.

Next year things will go his way and there’s groceries and bills to pay and he works hard to get where he is and he keeps on dreamin’ of his next big thing and life is good out on that land that his daddy owned and never owed a soul.

And on this farm that’s where he’d stay.

Life is hard out on the road when you go away and you never come home and when you do there’s plenty to take care of that you forget while you were away.

There’s time to work and time to play and don’t ever forget to pray.


June 22 2021

Travis Roberts- Add him to My List of Cap-Rock Country.

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Mason & the Gin Line says it best when they call their style of music “Cap-Rock.”

I believe that “Cap-Rock” should become a sub- genre of Country Music- Most especially music that is classified as Texas Country and or Red Dirt. The Caprock region of Texas has been producing world class singer/songwriters for as long as anyone can remember. Waylon Jennings from Littlefield, Mac Davis who once sang about leaving Lubbock, Texas in My rearview, and Bury me in Lubbock, Texas in my Jeans… Delbert McClinton was born on these windswept plains as was Buddy Holly.

More recently Texas musicians like Jason Boland, William Clark Green, and Cleto Cordero who is the front man for Flatland Cavalry all have called the caprock country their home.

Terry Allen was born in Kansas but got to the Caprock as quick as he could. Many of his songs are stories about the region such as his, “Hard Amarillo Highway,” which has been covered by artists such as Sturgill Simpson, Bobby Bare and Robert Earl Keen. Terry lived in Lubbock and attended Monterey High School there. Other Monterey alumni include Texas musician Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock, thus adding to this grand list of “Cap-Rock” to honor the singer/songwriters of the Caprock of Texas.

Texas country legends Gary P. Nunn began his musical career in a garage in Brownfield, Texas shortly before Pat Green and Cory Morrow were both spending their college days at Texas Tech in nearby Lubbock, Texas.

I recently posted about Travis Roberts, one of the newest singer/songwriters from this long line of Texas musicians who calls the Panhandle region of Texas home. Today I took a look at Roberts’ newest single “This Too Shall Pass,” available for streaming now on platforms like Spotify and YouTube.

Ken Fisbeck of Spur Radio had this to say of the new tune, “This Too Shall Pass” is a story of self-sabotage in relationships and the realization that the common adage “This Too Shall Pass” applies to the best of times not just the worst of them.”

This Too Shall Pass” is a story of self-sabotage in relationships and the realization that the common adage “This Too Shall Pass” applies to the best of times not just the worst of them.”

Ken Fisbeck

I have yet to mention, the pedal steel guitarist Lloyd Maines, who also once called the Panhandle home. Travis Roberts newest single wails out with steel strings. From the songs opening lyrics of Wish I could find the words to tell you.” I thoroughly enjoyed this tune. The steel country sound crashes into a rhythm of rock-n-roll guitars. Roberts proves his place as a lyricist when he turns the song into one of those repetitive bad dreams. Roberts lines cry out to us, Dreamin’ The Same Damn Dream two cars crashin’ out on the street.” As the storyteller, Roberts is able to reel us back in by his promise, This Too Shall Pass.”

Travis Roberts promises a full album real soon. If the rest of the album is as good as “This Too Shall Pass,” and his previous release, “Cabin Fever,” I am hooked. Two songs in, and I am already a Travis Roberts fan for life. I shall add him to my growing list of great “Cap-Rock” artists.

I’m not sure how long I am willing to wait for more Travis Roberts. I am certain that whatever is coming next will be worth the wait. I shall take the latest songs advice and try to maintain my patience. For I know, “This Too Shall Pass.”