As one might expect, one of the best ways to stay up on the up-and-coming artists is to pay attention to the veterans that are consistently producing good music themselves. Despite flying below the radar to many, Don Vickers is an impressive artist. I know I’ve turned some people onto his work since my original article. It’s only natural that I take a look at some material he requested me to put an ear to. As expected, his request was met with a positive review which you are currently reading.
In the world of country music and especially Texas country music, we are used to hearing many of our favorite artists play with a full band on their records. Since becoming more familiar with the up and coming acts, I have realized that most do not always have opportunities to play full band at their shows. There are times where they are able to have the full ensemble, but many shows throughout the week are spent playing solo or song swaps. What I have learned is the true talent is not necessarily what lies behind the album, but their live performances. It's easy to be swept up in a full studio recording, complete with a large range of instruments and an expert at the helm of the soundboard. Kentucky based Jericho Woods, who I covered last month, kindly reach out to me with for a sneak peak at their upcoming acoustic release. This is the type of music that really shows off just what these guys are capable of.
Well I have to admit, Luke Combs has a lot going for him. He comes across as an incredibly likeable guy, and someone that most genuine people can get behind. The type you can shoot the breeze with and have a beer. I have some family and friends that were aware of him quite a bit before he made it to radio since he performed a lot in the North Carolina area. Like many mainstream albums, they tend to be a mixed bag to me. There are some solid songs and then some offerings that I skip over. It's something that I still have a hard time with seeing how so many independent artists put out such strong full albums, but it is what it is.
I've been waiting on purpose to write this article you're about to read simply because I was not ready. I did not have the appreciation that I do now for artists like Brent Cobb. I was still going through a transitional phase where my tastes were, and in many ways are, changing. My love for upbeat honky tonk country will never go away, but I was so unaccustomed to stopping and listening to some of the more soulful artists out there, that I didn’t know where to begin. I didn't take the time to stop and really listen to the words and try to decipher what I could. Some things admittedly still go over my head, but that's ok. I don't pretend to be some Brainiac that knows every little meaning to every thing out there. I do know, that someone like Brent Cobb has a very bright future ahead of him.
A staple in Texas has long been the voice of Kevin Fowler and his ability to be a summer time anthem and then do a complete 180 with Daddies and Daughters. Like any good time Texas artist, he faces his fair share of criticism, but I have always enjoyed his music. While working to expand my horizons in the Spring, I was listening to some artists like Chris Ledoux in hopes of finding some others like him. I browsed a few and found myself hooked on one in particular. With a little research I found out this guy is not only a singer/songwriter, but also one of Kevin Fowler's guitar players. Small world eh?
In much of music history, listeners would decipher their music solely through the sounds that would come from their radio and early music players. It was once one of the main forms of taking in information before giving way to television and all the later technologies that followed. It was the voices and instruments that took center stage and were subject to scrutiny – not someone's poor outfit of choice at some stupid awards show. What I am hinting at is the fact that talent was measured by the actual voices and general ability. Country music in particular has been one of the largest victims to this resulting in the country sound to being left out in the cold. There is a young artist hitting the Texas circuit by the name of Dustin Sonnier, that has one of the most country voices out there I have yet to hear.
It’s one thing to be the type of music fan that flips on a station like Sirius XM The Highway and hear some slightly obscure artist that may be huge regionally but fails to receive mainstream radio play. It’s another to be in the trenches alongside the talent in their early days. The time that 99% of the people fail to see. The years that they are becoming an “overnight success” as they say. It’s the forgotten years - filled with all the heartbreak, blood, sweat and tears that you can’t see through your speakers. Texas is rich with artists that are all fighting for a voice and stage to propel their careers to that next level. A couple months back, I came across Lindale, Texas native Chris Colston on Instagram and decided to check out his music. This kid is going places.
I'm going to come right out and acknowledge the elephant in the room. Yes, Pontiacs by Texas John Baumann is a startling 9 minute song.
Now that that's out of the way, we can focus on why this song is worth nine minutes of your time. John Baumann's increase in popularity has not been by accident. If you listen to Here I Come off his latest album, Proving Grounds, you will learn a little about his quest to become a fulltime country poet. The admittedly shallow-surface scratching songs he used to pen failed to satisfy him. Some artists may have become content because they wrote some songs and maybe their family stroked their ego. Not Baumann. He mentions writing nearly 200 songs before one finally hit home. The songs that pull at our heart strings and leave those lasting impressions. The songs that every artist strives to write and put them on the map.
I'm beginning to think that 2017 is the year of the female trio's because I have been coming across a goldmine of female talent. There is not much more pleasing to the ear than women that can sing together with their southern drawls in perfect harmonies. Credit goes to a Pitstop for Country favorite, Adam Hood for posting about these fantastic women. After a while you begin to find artists that not only produce quality music themselves, but also have a knack of sharing others that are worthy of time. The Sweet Tea Trio is making Alabama proud and it's only a matter of time before they are heard far beyond.
Having only purchased a minute amount of mainstream albums the past few years, I have kept my ears towards some of the hopeful mainstream artists. Jon Pardi and William Michael Morgan have been the only ones I have pulled the trigger on and instead choose support the talent in Texas and independent arenas. I am not naive to think that all Texas music is the best thing since sliced bread. That mindset is laughable as I have watched fans protect some acts that are right up there with the bro-country mainstreamers. Hearing the first few tracks leading up to Joe Nichols new album Never Gets Old, I began to feel excited. Could this be the first mainstream purchase I make of 2017?
Just a Massachusetts guy supporting Texas and other independent country/Americana artists.
Check out my spotify for good tunes!