The 15 Best Songs From the Past 15 Years of Texas Country/Red Dirt/Whatever It's Called
As we look upon the massive machine Texas country has made chug along over the past several years, it's easy to see 1997 as a pivotal time. In college towns and major metropolises alike, the masses were demanding more music from people that shared their pride, enthusiasm and thirst for something different. Pat Green's fraternity favorite, George's Bar was released, signaling his arrival, as was Jack Ingram's Livin' or Dyin' and Robert Earl Keen's sorely under-appreciated, sound-shifting Picnic .
All Hail The Keen - photo by Peter Figen
1998 witnessed releases that made everyone take notice of what was going on south of Dollywood: Charlie Robison's Life of the Party, Cross Canadian Ragweed's Carney, Reckless Kelly's Milican and the debut release from arguably the first geographical interloper the fledgling scene would fully embrace, Kentuckian Chris Knight.
Since the end of the '90s, many studs from the Red River region have shot to stardom and major label deals. Jack Ingram and Pat Green both experienced a healthy dose of mainstream success and chart ascension, while the Randy Rogers Band scored a major label deal while getting to make the music they've wanted, even if the hits haven't been plentiful. Sunny Sweeney found success and Texas-claimed former rodeo cowboy Ryan Bingham won an Oscar. Denton's Eli Young Band has become an A-list group of stars in the world of modern country, thanks to their smash single "Crazy Girl."
Unlike the late-'90s, it is now just fine to get along with the folks on Music Row, even if many around these parts feel as though the cross-pollination of Nashville cheese and Texas grit creates something banal and formulaic.
We at the DC9 decided to gather some local and not-so-local folks to find out what they think are the best 15 songs of the past 15 years when it comes to this most indefinable genre. Some great songs from both rookie and veteran artists barely missed the cut. The list could have been 30 songs and some signature tunes would've still been left off. What we have below are the 15 songs that just about all of the panelists agreed upon, emphasis on "just about all of the panelists."
Here's the panel that provided the votes resulting in the top 15 list:
Matt Hillyer: Lead singer of multi-DOMA winning band 1100 Springs.
Juli Thanki: Editor-in-Chief of Engine 145.Com and the 2011 International Bluegrass Association's Print Media Personality of the Year.
Pat Green: A key yet polarizing figure in the surge of Texas country. His hits include "Wave on Wave," "Carry On" and "Baby Doll."
Brad Beheler: Writes and helps run Galleywinter.com, perhaps the best place to go for anything relating to Texas / Red Dirt music (check out The Drop).
Ronnie Fauss: Dallas-based folk singer/songwriter who has just recorded his debut album for New West Records, due soon.
Cody Canada : Former lead singer for seminal Red Dirt act Cross Canadian Ragweed and now the primary vocalist for the Departed.
Helen Eaton: Former DOMA-winning Americana/country/folk talent buyer at the Granada Theater, who is now helping run the show at Billy Bob's Texas, where she helped line-up special acts for this year's Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic.
Drew Kennedy: New Braunfels-based troubadour who's written and performed with many of the state's greats. He's just returned from a triumphant set at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass festival.
Merrol Ray: North Texas-based country rocker who won the Shiner Rising Star award when he fronted his old band, Miles From Nowhere.
Katie Key: Editor-in-Chief of Best in Texas magazine, which publishes the weekly Texas Music Chart, the baraomter for what regional artists are hot at a given moment.
George Dunham: Star of the massively popular, Marconi award-winning morning show on 1310 The Ticket, and lead singer for country act The Bird Dogs.
Amber Farris: Lead singer of Dallas' Somebody's Darling, another recent winner of the Shiner Rising Star award (and the vocalist that this writer dubbed the "country-rock queen of Dallas.").
Rita Ballou: The sauciest blogger in Texas and on-air personality for Waco's 92.9 Shooter FM.
Oh, and myself, because this is my blog post.
15. "Angry All the Time" - Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis
14. "Choctaw Bingo" - James McMurtry
13. "Vancouver" - Reckless Kelly
12. "Somewhere Down in Texas" - Jason Boland & The Stragglers
11. "The Weary Kind" - Ryan Bingham