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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Roots of Texas Music

BOOK REVIEW
The Roots of Texas Music
edited by Lawrence Clayton and Joe Specht
Texas A & M University Press
p. 2003

  I think there is a fair amount of condescension about Texas in the Indie Music nation.  People living within the orbit of New York and Chicago tend to limit their definition of "cool" to those cities while making the occasional exception to representatives from the West Coast.  Outside of SXSW, most bands touring between the East and West Coast play maybe one or two dates in Texas, tops.   But uh, Texas has 25 million people and if you add that with California (37 million) you have just about 1 in every 6 U.S. citizens.  Unlike the other parts of the country, you can tour this territory year round, limit your dead zone to Arizona + New Mexico and skip the drama (and hard judging, and expenses of NYC.)

  The indie rock infrastructure in Texas markets like Dallas and Houston has grown to a level similar to that in smaller west coast markets like San Diego and Portland- this gives the touring band a strong thursday/friday/saturday segment to anchor the Texas leg of a tour.

  Despite popular conception, Texas has long been a fertile location for American music, as The Roots of Texas Music convincingly demonstrates.   Texas played a decisive role in the development of Blues and Country music in the first two decades of the twentieth century, as Blacks and White migrated from the East looking for work in the oil boom of the first part of the 20th century.  Texas's infamous criminal justice system was a direct inspiration for many of the classic Blues recordings and Blind Lemon Jefferson, by virtue of his early recordings, may be the most influential blues artist of all times.

  In the world of Country music ("Country and Western"= Western equals "Texas") Texas was key in developing the "honky tonk" song, with the now familiar tales of hard living that characterize much of the lyrical content of today's Nashville sound.  Texas was also the spawning ground for the "outlaw country" of Austin and the "bakersfield sound' of Buck Owens (born in Texas.)  Much of the country music produced in California was created by Texas immigrants.

  And of course, Texas played it's part in the rock and roll revolution.  Wolfman Jack broadcasted into Texas from a Mexican radio station across the border, and of course Buddy Holly came from Texas.

  So, it seems to me- if you are an Artist at a "DIY" level, and living somewhere between Seattle and Houston you're better off working the area between Texas and California- even outside of SXSW- then racing to get to New York City and wasting the opportunity.  When the time is right for New York City- you'll know.

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