Should “Texoma” Be The New Term for the Indefinable “Texas Country/Red Dirt” Scene?
Look, we’d be lucky to get 50% of folks to agree with this, let alone universal acceptance and implementation. But what most everyone can agree on is that there is a problem. So just hang with me for a second. We’re just riffing here.
Right now the biggest “scene” in country music, and maybe in all of American music, is the scene that exists in the states of Texas and Oklahoma, generally revolving around country, country rock, some blues, and singer-songwriters, with tentacles that reach farther sonically for sure, and with certain little outlying geographic enclaves here and there around the country. But it’s a scene of music that is defined more by geography than it is a sound. This is something we all agree on.
When referring to a “scene,” we’re talking about something smaller than a genre, outside of the mainstream, but bigger than any one clique of artists. It’s a centralized and autonomous sect of music that often has its own infrastructure such as festivals and touring circuits—or in the case of Texas/Red Dirt, even its own radio stations—and many of the artists know each other, share many of the same managers and booking agents, etc., and collaborate and tour together often.
The problem with the whole Texas Music/Texas Country/Red Dirt “scene” is just that—what to call it. Texas Country is not really Red Dirt, even though the two regularly get lazily lumped together. Texas Country and Texas Music are separate things as well, but once again get summarily bundled. Yet all of these things are intertwined in a very close knit and pretty universally-recognized scene. The problem is nobody knows what to call it.
Possibly the easiest segment to define is Red Dirt. But one of the problems is Red Dirt doesn’t have a definable sound. It’s defined more by geography, and a time and place. The only artists still out there touring and playing that truly have a claim to the term “Red Dirt” are folks like Cody Canada, Jason Boland, and the Red Dirt Rangers—people that have direct ties to “The Farm” outside of Stillwater, Oklahoma in the 80’s and 90’s.
For those that don’t know, The Farm was a big two-story house on 149 acres outside of Stillwater where musicians would hang out picking, playing, and writing music till the break of dawn. The scene around The Farm started in the late 80’s, with artists renting the rooms in the house, and others pulling RV’s out to the property to live cheap or free so they could have time to write, record, and play music. The house on “The Farm” burned down in 2003 when some of the newest Red Dirt/Texas Country artists were still in grade school. Cody Canada was there. Jason Boland was there. But many weren’t. The term “Red Dirt” itself describes the geographic borderland between Oklahoma and Texas and its signature iron-rich or “red” soil.
Many of the founding fathers of Red Dirt who took younger artists under their wings and helped launch the movement are now gone. Singer and songwriter Bob Childers passed away in April 2008 in Stillwater. Songwriter Tom Skinner passed away in July of 2015. And Jimmy LaFave, the final surviving father of Red Dirt, recently passed away in Austin after a fight with Cancer.
One of Jimmy LaFave’s defining records was his 2001 album Texoma. It’s influences were the sonic and geographic borders that comprised the dual citizenry he shared with Austin and Stillwater. Jimmy LaFave was personally responsible for helping to cross pollinate the two different scenes of music in conjoining states, and making people see the similarities and kindred spirits of Texas and Oklahoma music, even if the sound was far ranging and indefinable.
The term “Texoma” predates the music scenes in Stillwater and Austin. The portmanteau (a word that combines two words) has been used to describe the geographic region around Lake Texoma which straddles the central portions of the border between Texas an Oklahoma, and is fed by the Red River, which is the official borderline between the two states. The reason the river is called “Red” is for the same red clay referred to in “Red Dirt” music.
But today, many Texas Country artists are coming from the Lubbock region, which really does have any ties to the Red Dirt legacy. The Turnpike Troubadours are from Talequah, Oklahoma, which is hours east of Stillwater. “Red Dirt” in many ways could still encompass the music scene of the two states, but that almost seems insincere and disrespectful to all the artist that were part of the original Red Dirt movement, many of which have now passed on or retired. It seems weird to refer to the Turnpike Troubadours as Texas Country, just as it feels weird to call William Clark Green Red Dirt.
On the other hand, Texoma encompasses all the facets of the music scene on either side of the border, while also containing the spirit of the music that can be adopted by fans and artists in nearby Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, and parts of Missouri which are quickly adopting the regional influence of the music, and even outside of the region in other enclaves no matter where the geographic origin.
“Texoma” is also a way to honor the legacy of artists like Jimmy LaFave, all the original Red Dirt pioneers, and the people and artists who stretched out arms across state lines to form a healthy and vibrant musical community that fans and artists enjoy today, and autonomously from the awful nature of the music business in Nashville. One of the big obstacles standing in the way of offering a true alternative to Music Row for artists from the region and beyond is a universally-recognized name to unite under.
What gives Saving Country Music the authority to unilaterally choose the name of a music scene? Absolutely nothing, though the term started to creep into SCM’s coverage of the region’s music two years ago as a more appropriate and respectful way to describe the scene. Ultimately, the best nicknames are not the ones chosen through brilliant deduction, but are adopted organically in nature almost by happenstance. You think Jody Rosen set out to define “Bro-Country” when he dropped the term haphazardly in a critique of the subspecies of country? It wasn’t Rosen who defined it. It was everybody else adopting the term en masse. The best nicknames take off by mistake.
But that doesn’t make “Texoma” a bad idea. I bet Jimmy LaFave would approve.
May 31, 2017 @ 12:02 pm
As someone who has been part of the Texas/Red Dirt scene for almost 15 years, I’ve always had a hard time describing it too. “Texas/Red Dirt” seems to encompass what it is fairly easy, but it would be better to have a more defined name.
I’m not opposed to calling it Texoma, but just saying it to myself, it doesn’t seem to flow as easy as I would hope. But if it becomes common place, older guys like me will just have to deal with whatever it’s called haha.
May 31, 2017 @ 4:57 pm
we should call it covfefe music
May 31, 2017 @ 12:18 pm
No. Negative. Great intentions but leave well enough alone.
Texas country and red dirt are brother and sister of the same spiritual parents, the movement Townes, Guy, lyle, steve, jerry, and ray and a bunch of others started. Anyone in Texas/oklahoma is welcome to join the scene as long as they maintain their creative indendence and write their own songs. We harbor independent, free spirited, uncompromising souls so they can blossom. The name doesnt matter, its only out of media necessity, and once you try to nail it down to categories and names your forsaking the original intention. Which is to do what we want and be left alone about it. Thats why the official motto is “Dont mess with Texas” but the official unofficial motto is “Screw you, we’re from TEXAS”.
All are welcome as long as they are singing it from the heart and not a media PR script.
Heavy metal guy doing country, come on in Cody Jinks. O.K. boys doing punk bluegrass, we saved you a table Turnpike. Traditional country troubadour through and through you know youll have a home here, Aaron Watson. It aint the name that matters its the heart.
May 31, 2017 @ 1:51 pm
I agree. Spent several years living in Texas and fell in love with the music. I refer to it as Texas country because to me thats what the majority of it is, country singers from Texas. Geaux Aaron Watson!!!
Big Texas Mike
May 31, 2017 @ 3:40 pm
Hey, you forgot the radical leftist PC Hollywood Lib establishment beating you over the head “LOVE IS LOVE, Y’ALL” on hipster hatchprints. Assimilate to the corporate establishment / priest sacrament labels lest you don’t agree that the earth is flat as we crucify you. I.e. “mess with Texas; mess with it all day ’till you rob the Spirit and desecrate with the violation that is so pleasurable to those who take part in all the genocide you see in Africa under a study by Existential Anthropologist, Prof. Michael Jackson.
May 31, 2017 @ 4:28 pm
You smoke crack dont ya boy
Big Texas Mike
May 31, 2017 @ 4:52 pm
No, why? Are you looking? I got some C.I.’s that might be willing to swap information.
May 31, 2017 @ 12:20 pm
I dig it.
May 31, 2017 @ 12:26 pm
I don’t dig it.
May 31, 2017 @ 1:18 pm
I still like Texas-Red Dirt, the hybrid term conjures up a vivid audio and visual image and I “get it” when someone mentions it.
To me, it’s not disrespectful to refer to modern artists like the Troubadours as Red Dirt, but instead, it keeps the legacy of their forefathers alive. When we speak of Delta Blues, New Orleans Jazz or Outlaw Country, we think of a time and a place, but that doesn’t mean that the label must be forever frozen in that time, but instead when applied to the present, informs us that the present artists are standing on the shoulders of their predecessors.
Ascribing the label of Western Swing to a Quebe Sisters recording does not diminish the legacy of Bob Wills or Asleep at the Wheel, but instead ties them all into a grand tapestry.
I’d carry on further, but I think I’ve run out of flowery language…
In any sense, I don’t have a problem with Texoma, and it could certainly work as a supplemental adjective, but I think we already have a good description to use.
May 31, 2017 @ 1:33 pm
Great topic, hits really close to home for me as a Texan and music lover. I’ve heard and myself used a lot of the different nicknames over the years: Outlaw country, Progressive country, Americana, Texas country, Red Dirt Music, Texas Music, Ameripolitan, etc. Whenever someone asks me nowadays what I listen to, I respond with, “All types, but mostly underground country.” That way it’s more indicative of an attitude than a region.
May 31, 2017 @ 1:37 pm
As an Oklahoman, I just want to point out that the correct phrasing is “Red Dirt/Texas”
May 31, 2017 @ 1:55 pm
sounds like a cancer
May 31, 2017 @ 2:46 pm
Haha, I was thinking it sounded like a factory pickup truck. Tahoe? Colorado? Tacoma, that’s it
October 17, 2017 @ 11:13 am
May 31, 2017 @ 7:40 pm
Texoma rhymes with eczema, which might come in handy for songwriters.
A red rash and some red dirt,
Oh baby, better boil my shirts.
There once was a man from Texoma
Couldn’t dance a lick ‘cuz of excema.
OK maybe not.
The Goddess of Country Rock
June 3, 2017 @ 3:32 pm
YES! I have always thought so, too. I KNEW I couldn’t be the only one! (I posted a similar comment below before I saw yours.)
OTOH, “Ark-La-Tex” sounds like the name of a local chicken shack.
June 6, 2017 @ 12:06 pm
I like the idea, but the term needs a little work. Seems like folks here are already coming up with several ways to pronounce it. How about Texahoma? I think that splits it a little more naturally, and people would all say it like Tex-uh-home-uh.
May 31, 2017 @ 2:18 pm
I think it should be called Choctaw Bingo.
May 31, 2017 @ 4:06 pm
You win the internet today
May 31, 2017 @ 3:26 pm
Both states are covered in Red Dirt,so Red Dirt it is for me.
June 2, 2017 @ 8:34 pm
But the dirt in Austin sure ain’t red. More of that limestone mix….
May 31, 2017 @ 3:59 pm
I’m not much on portmanteaus (e.g. Branjelina), but I like Texoma.
But I would even be willing to settle for “Ain’t Nashville “.
May 31, 2017 @ 4:58 pm
this is so well put, Trigger. Being from Oklahoma (and i still live here), i find it difficult to call Jason Boland or the Turnpike Troubadors “Texas Country”. i also call them “red dirt” and “hard country”…Cross Canadian Ragweed probably had some of my most absolute favorite music out of Stillwater. I’d be all for calling this brand of music “Texoma”. WAY less confusing. Good read!
June 1, 2017 @ 6:07 am
I like hard country. Never heard that before…
May 31, 2017 @ 8:19 pm
I’m not from the area, but love the music. I always called it Texas-Red Dirt when playing it for my friends who thought the only country music there was is what’s on the radio.
June 1, 2017 @ 9:30 am
“Hard country” is what they used to call Dwight Yoakam. I like it, too.
June 1, 2017 @ 10:09 am
Dwighty Yoakam to me is honky-tonk. Although his last few albums have this weird rock n’ roll thing going on that I don’t really care for.
Whitey Morgan and 78’s sounds to me like hard country but they’re also outlaw country.
June 1, 2017 @ 11:31 am
It’s Texhoma but you get points for the thought here.
June 1, 2017 @ 11:33 am
Congratulations Trigger (and your website/blog) I saw this story last night on a Bing news page from some west Texas news site, IIRC was out of Midland.
June 2, 2017 @ 5:17 pm
Man, you’re way off about the continuance of the Red Dirt scene and sound. More to follow when I’m not on mobile.
June 2, 2017 @ 6:02 pm
January 13, 2022 @ 12:44 pm
“Coop never did explain to Bertox the context behind his statement… Legend has it, his PC stopped working before he could arrive home to mash away at his keyboard. Some say the PC simply overheated; while others believe he downloaded some malicious software from an adult website and caused a crash. A more fringe theory indicates he was ambushed by Dateline, and arrested and detained by the FBI following an awkward meeting with Chris Hanson… We may never truly know the chilling details of this mystery.”
-Robert Stack, Unsolved Mysteries
The Goddess of Country Rock
June 3, 2017 @ 3:29 pm
This is very, VERY random, but the longer regional term, Arklatexoma (Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, and Oklahoma), has always sounded like a type of cancer to me. Texoma, to an extent, does too, but I still like the idea of using it for this genre of music.
June 4, 2017 @ 5:38 am
I just call it Texas-Red Dirt.