River (Jam) Reflections

River Jam By August 17, 2017 No Comments

Now that River Jam is over, it’s time to start writing again. It’s been about two weeks since attending my first River Jam so I’ve had a chance to soak it all in. I pretty much went straight from the hundred degrees heat of New Braunfels to the 60-degree beauty of Breckenridge, Colorado. The river is ice cold and rushing at a much faster clip compared to the Guadalupe, which was more of a river walk this go round. Colorado is a good place to write and process. The weather is cool and when the wind blows, it’s downright chilly. Nature is in abundance and like NB, there are afternoon thunderstorms, but more on that in a minute…

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I headed down to San Marcos on Friday. I’ll admit I got into this music thing back-asswards. I’ve been a fan, watching this scene (and Galleywinter) from the outside since the late 90’s. At the time that was enough for me, but six years ago I was inspired by my Texas music heroes to pick up a guitar and learn a few songs. Now I can campfire about as bad as the next guy. I can play “Like It Used To Be” but the Cub Scout parents only sing along if I play “Brown Eyed Girl” or “Tequila Sunrise”. Still, it nudged me closer to the music and satiated me up until about two years ago. I then started texasmusicblog.com with no goal in mind other than to write about the music and artists I love and maybe have an excuse to chat with a few of them. In January Brad Beheler brought me onboard to Galleywinter and it’s been exciting, especially knowing the history and music family it has fostered over the years.

Like I said, I didn’t know what to expect and I hadn’t met any of the Galleywinter “family” in person which didn’t sit well with me. Tweets, Facebook posts, and IMs only do so much. I’m a GenXer and prefer face to face communication. I need reality. Nobody’s ever written a song worth a damn about Insta friends.

I showed up to Cheatham Street just after the doors open. It’s easy to hang there because the place oozes ambiance and history. I chat with Red Shahan, talking about the new record coming in 2018 and about my grandfather’s liquor store, where Red had pictures taken for Men and Coyotes. Soon after I overhear people discussing Galleywinter and how “Brad and some other guy” were the primary folks writing these days. I took that cue to turn around and introduce myself as “the other guy”. Turns out it was Chris Austin (afternoon drive for 92.1 Shooter FM in Waco) and a few of his friends. Minutes later Brad and a few others join us and before you know it there’s a healthy Galleywinter contingent to get to know. That’s better.

Red comes on and was great as usual. He gave us a sampling of the new stuff coming in 2018. You’re gonna like it, check a little bit of it here:

It’s cool seeing your favorites in a listening room atmosphere where you aren’t squeezed in like sardines and girls aren’t training by you constantly making beer runs.

The show ends and I proceed to meet a few more folks, including Jennifer Allen from 92.1. I finally found a crew to float the river with the next day. Saturday comes, it’s hot as hell, the river was low and we had to get out of our tubes and do some walking. Two hours of that was enough. It was one of those days where you drink two gallons of water and never have to piss because your body is struggling to stay hydrated. We recoup, regroup and head to River Road Icehouse for the Saturday night lineup of Haley Cole, K Phillips, and Prophets & Outlaws.

And of course headlining was Josh Weathers. This dude is unreal. If you haven’t seen the video that went viral several years back, go YouTube it. But Josh has more than a kick ass voice, the guy has Jedi musical instincts and the charisma to have audiences eating out of his hand. I was familiar with his work but had never seen him live. Go see him, for the love of God and orphans around the world…

Sunday at River Jam was acoustic/songwriter day. Over a dozen artists doing what they love and playing for tips. People spread all over the patio and in the river, baking in the sun at the Lone Star Float House. John Dempsy and Mike Stanley were up and had just started “Falling Rain” when the sky completely dumped. Toads floating, 50 mph winds that bent trees and threw campsites into complete disarray. Within 60 seconds we had a packed house on the patio as people took cover. The power flickered, the amps went dead but the people went electric. Mike and John proceeded to make that lemonade.

This guy had it figured out…

That set the mood for the rest of the day and everyone was into it. The river or getting boozed up took a back seat to all the music. Johnny Chops played “Shotgun” and dedicated it to my kiddos who have latched onto that song as one of their favorites. That was cool. It’s played almost daily in my house, with my daughter doing ballerina choreography while belting out lines like “Wickedness and whiskey were my fuel”. I’ll claim that as a parenting victory.

Josh Grider and John Baumann capped off the end of an awesome weekend of music and new friends. I’m thankful that I got to extend my music family and I’m ready for next year.


  • Thanks to “The Mayor of Funville” and Darby for letting me crash overnight when I was too tired to drive. It’s cool how music can be the thread that brings people together so quickly that you suddenly make friends and feel comfortable sleeping in the same cramped camper with folks you met less than 24 hours earlier.
  • Haley Cole had a Joplin thing going on that was hip, hip, hip.
  • Steve Guckenheimer and CJ Thompson of PAO can burn it up with their instruments and Matt Boggs is a kind soul who can absolutely bring the soul.
  • Loved talking to John Dempsy about guitars and how the personality of each one you play brings out a different part of you. It got pretty ethereal.
  • Keep an eye out for Mike Stanley.
  • Next time I’m in Padre, I’m going to see Mark Allan Atwood. If you see him, ask him about what happened to his guitar case.
  • Mike Ethan Messick has a new album you should check out.
  • Got to see how The Co-Write podcast sausage was made.
  • Brad and I exchanged a head nod of “hell yes, this is what it’s about” when Seth James and family took us to church with the guitar solos and gospel music on Sunday afternoon.
  • Loved watching Tim Murphy do his thing.
  • There was one notable exception to it being “all about the music”. A chap who remain nameless showed up for John Baumann and within a stretch of 30 minutes got completely schnockered and passed out, nose first onto a picnic table. Baumann made sure we all knew about it and did some impromptu stand up to bust the guy’s balls. Rock on.
  • I did manage to stick my feet in the river and bust out the guitar for some tunes with Darby and The Mayor. Didn’t have the courage to play in front of anybody else, especially when you are around professional musicians all weekend. Baby steps, but still fun.

Did Jerry Jeff Walker kill Texas Music?

The Texas Music Scene By June 24, 2017 1 Comment

A recent article posted by Fort Worth Weekly made me tilt my head a bit. I’m still up in the air as to whether or not this was written to be click bait (isn’t it all?) and I’m the fool that’s been suckered in by responding. Probably, but music is a talkin’ sport, that’s what we do around here, and I felt compelled to write.

Click the link if you haven’t read it or you can accept my summary at face value.

What Happened to Texas Music?

It goes like this… Willie, Waylon and the boys were doing just fine creating counterculture Outlaw Country in Texas during the early 70’s until some Yankee gypsy name Jerry Jeff Walker came here and started ruining it with his silly drinkin’, hell-raisin’, sing-a-long songs. People liked it and Robert Earl Keen piggybacked off the movement, perpetuating it into the 80’s before handing it off to a charismatic, yet parent funded kid from Tech name Pat Green in the 90’s. From there all the Pat Green copycats came out of the woodwork and now Texas Music, with the help of the “Neanderthal” Red Dirt movement, has devolved into nothing but a bunch of crappy, beer drinking party anthems. It all sucks and to prove it I’m going to interview some local Fort Worth musicians who are going to confirm that it’s all crap and what a farce of a business it is.

Honestly, I’m not angered by this article. It just overgeneralizes and discredits those artists in the scene that do write well and give a rip. Hyperbole is in these days and the article is full of old man syndrome; like that friend that constantly bitches about how Saturday Night Live has sucked since the Belushi days. Ok, I get it, and there is some truth in your frustration, but can we unpack this a bit?

The author, Jeff Prince, comes out of the gate throwing JJW under the bus, saying “A New York guy killed Texas Music”. While he acknowledges Walker wrote some “beautiful tearjerkers” apparently that’s negated because he also wrote, “Sangria Wine” and a few other carefree songs that people insist on hearing at his shows.

Reducing Jerry Jeff and his repertoire to a handful of beer drinking songs is selling him pretty damn short. Most of his songs came from personal experiences (e.g. Mr. Bojangles) and not a pre-bro country concoction to get people turnt and lots of spins on mainstream radio. The guy has always been an entertainer, storyteller, and songwriter that people can relate to and I don’t recall ever hearing him do bits to keep people engaged at shows. He didn’t burn guitars or have a drummer named Nippleus Erectus, it all came from the music and his interaction with the fans. People go to his show to relax, unwind and sing-a-long and I don’t understand how that makes him shallow. I saw ‘ole JJW at Billy Bob’s last month, he played the hits but ironically, not “Sangria Wine”.

Prince goes on to acknowledge Robert Earl Keen for improving the Texas beer anthem genre with better songwriting and Pat Green for his stage presence, personality and grassroots marketing genius. However, given the overall tone of the article, all his compliments come off as backhanded. The story continues that these guys, along with the “Neanderthal” Red Dirt music coming out of Oklahoma at that time, elevated the scene and inspired waves of imitators that watered down Texas Music to the drivel we have today.

He’s right for crediting JJW, REK, PG and Oklahoma acts like Cross Canadian Ragweed and Jason Boland for taking this thing stratospheric in the late 90’s. After all, that frenzy of acts coupled with the Ingrams, Morrows, and Fowlers of the world birthed a rabid fanbase that created this website. What I don’t understand is why he blames these guys for all the poor writing, cheesy performing, overly social media hyped acts they inspired. Ten years from now are we going to blame Sturgill and Isbell for the flood of wannabes who do a crappy job of trying to replicate them?

The 90’s were my college years and looking back I’ll admit a lot of it was shallow and fun. Even then we knew Pat Green was Texas frat boy country, but we didn’t care. We belted Creager’s “The Everclear Song” and CCR’s “Carney Man” fully knowing those weren’t the pinnacle of songwriting. But when you’re young, good music takes the party from a 6 to an 11. That’s the way it’s always been, it will continue to be that way and it’s not unique to Texas Music. But let’s be clear, it wasn’t all mindless beer slinging. Walt Wilkins and others were funneling substance into the scene. As far as Red Dirt is concerned, I don’t think Bob Childers, Tom Skinner, and Jimmy LaFave took a “Neanderthal approach” to songwriting. I’m not even sure what that means, but for safety, I wouldn’t utter that within earshot of The Damn Quail’s Bryon White. I’m sure Bryon’s neanderthal approach involves disembowelment of folks who insult his idols.

The article wraps with Mr. Prince doing a Q & A with three Fort Worth musicians, each giving their impressions on the state of Texas Music. Their responses didn’t direct ire towards any of the aforementioned artists but rather the business side of music. The pay for radio play, people trying to get into pockets, the farce of Texas Music charts, you know, all of that Bad Truth fodder and again, not unique to Texas Music.

The biggest nugget of truth in this strange article centers around the watering down of Texas Music. Yes, there are a ton of acts and mediocrity is abound. But it’s not the fault of Jerry Jeff Walker or any of this scene’s forefathers. In the write-up, Earl Musick states you no longer need a studio to put out a record. He’s right. Accessibility to inexpensive, yet capable recording technology has put record making within reach of anybody who has a computer and a few hundred bucks worth of software and equipment. Couple that with social media for free self-promotion and distribution via Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud, and it’s much easier to get up and going as an artist compared to ten years ago. It’s a great thing actually. Inevitably, with those doors available you’re going to get some cheap tricks, people that aren’t that talented, can’t write or know how to assemble a good record. We are flooded with people trying to be the next big thing. But flip that coin and you’ll get a Jason Eady, John Baumann, Jamie Lin Wilson, Dalton Domino, Shinyribs and a host of others who’ve figured out how to make this work and put some good art out there. Are they filthy rich? No, but that’s an entirely different discussion.

Jerry Jeff didn’t invent the internet, REK didn’t write the book on using Twitter, and Pat wasn’t the first to stream his music for little to no money. They aren’t to blame. What happened to Texas Music? It’s grinding away as always. As fans there are ample good fruits; but, you’ve got to sift your way through it all and ignore the rotten stuff.