As times get lean for alternative newsweeklys, their penchant to dispose of any and all journalistic class, fact-based reporting, or positive counterpoints to their dubious assertions goes out the window in lieu of mercilessly ripping into entire segments of artists without a single word of objectivity or credit where credit is due for the express purpose to generate clicks. At one point this latest piece sums up all Texas Music as “…just a clusterfuck of bullshit.” We saw this in late March when L.A. Weekly took to task a slew of Americana artists that including Jason Isbell and Lucinda Williams, listing off each artist’s negative points without a word of the accomplishments in their careers.
The latest is a piece from Ft. Worth Weekly called “What Happened The Texas Music?“—a worthless, at times factually incorrect, and incorrigible hit piece on Texas Music blathered out by curmudgeons with a bone to pick with all the young whipper snappers and their party music, exploiting a tiny fraction of truth to espouse platitudes and certainties about a scene that has much more quality and diversity than this assholic version of events is willing to give credit to.
“A New York guy killed Texas Music,” is how this piece written anonymously by the Ft. Worth Weekly staff starts off, slamming Jerry Jeff Walker while protecting the author so he or she doesn’t get shit all over via social media like they probably deserve.
First off, Jerry Jeff Walker didn’t kill Texas Music. He is one of the seminal people who helped invent it. And if Ft. Worth Weekly had dusted off their copy of Jan Reid’s Texas Music magnum opus, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock, they would understand that if it wasn’t for Jerry Jeff, there would be no scene in Texas for Willie Nelson and other latecomers in the mid and late 70’s to use as a slingshot to superstardom.
In later years did Jerry Jeff Walker morph into a drunken country rock buffoon, flying off the handle in silly songs until he was nothing more than a shell of his “Mr. Bojangles” past and a caricature of himself? Of course he did. But to put the death of an entire region’s music on the man who was personally responsible for breathing life into its lungs because it’s a bellicose way to start off your badly-rationalized smear piece is beyond all. Jerry Jeff Walker spiraled completely out of control in the mid 70’s, and that’s one of the reasons we loved him.
The article goes on to say that Texas Music eventually devolved into nothing more than drinking and party songs, and that’s where it sits today, blaming among others, Pat Green (who probably deserves it to some extent) and Robert Earl Keen for this systemic devolution. It’s shepherded to its spurious conclusions by a cast of three artists with Ft. Worth ties: 70-year-old Amos Staggs, 69-year-old Earl Musick, and 34-year-old Joey Green, who works as a songwriter now in Nashville. They each take turns complaining about all the younguns and their party music, and how the Texas music charts have become nothing more than a toilet bowl of bad songs.
I’m sorry if you have a 17-year-old Kevin Fowler CD stuck in your car’s dash, and that’s where your reality tunnel for the entire Texas country music scene begins and ends. But don’t fuck off an entire segment of music just because you’re too lazy to look for the quality. Is there shit out there in the Texas Music scene, and inglorious party hearty blowhards that are doing their best to screw it all up for the rest of us? Of course there are. Take a look at the hijinks of Sam Riggs at the Larry Joe Taylor Festival a few months ago just south of Ft. Worth in Stephenville. There are mounds of worthless artists and music, and plenty of managers and booking agents to help them perpetrate their filth on the good citizens of Texas and beyond.
But that’s all the more reason it is imperative on periodicals such as the Ft. Worth Weekly to help the public sift through the garbage and find the best stuff. I’m actually all for naming names and weeding the Texas Music garden of all the godawful music that has sprouted up recently, and really has always been boiling under the surface in Texas Music as the Ft. Worth Weekly article rightly points out. But crikey, don’t through out the proverbial baby with the proverbial bath water.
Have you ever heard of the Turnpike Troubadours? Have you taken a listen to the latest record from Dalton Domino called Corners, or Jason Eady’s self-titled latest (who also happens to be from Ft. Worth)? Did you behold the power of John Baumann’s “Old Stone Church” before settling on the idea that Texas Music is all party bullshit? And those are just some very recent examples.
Surprisingly, they do mention Austin Allsup, as well as Cody Jinks (who’s a native of Ft. Worth), but even that’s in a negative context, giving credit for all of Cody’s recent success to his manager as opposed to Jinks himself or the positive spirit of Texas Music that has uplifted dozens of quality artists over the last few decades.
“I love Cody Jinks’ stuff. I’ve always thought he was great. But he could still be bartending at While Elephant Saloon if the right person didn’t think that way,” says Joey Green. “He hooked up with the right manager up in Nashville, a guy that used to work for Kid Rock, and he knew just what to do with Cody at the right time.”
Yes, Texas Music has an infrastructure problem, and always has. Jan Reid made that point in The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock back in the 70’s. But don’t put that on the artists, or the music. This just proves that these perspectives are not coming from concern, but from elements of jealousy and old man’s syndrome in this Ft. Worth Weekly piece. Only fitting then when the article quotes the recent Steve Earle line about how … “The guys just want to sing about getting fucked up. They’re just doing hip-hop for people who are afraid of black people.” …and then says, “Earle’s sentiments could just as easily apply to today’s Texas Music.”
Are you kidding me? Are you really going to say there’s not much distinguishing Texas Music from Music Row’s pseudo rap EDM bullshit? Have you heard Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Backroad,” which is poised to be the longest-running country music #1 ever, let alone the godawful new single from Walker Hayes “You Broke Up With Me”? I don’t blame the three guys Ft. Worth Weekly rope-a-doped into putting their names behind this article (yet they didn’t have the guts to name their own reporter). It’s another example of an article started with a slanted perspective, and then finding subjects to agree with it as opposed to attempting to ferret out the truth by presenting a wide range of perspectives.
The problem in today’s music scene isn’t just a lack of quality music, it’s a lack of quality journalism covering this music. Just as much as anything, this is what has allowed the crap to rise to the top. I’m sick and tired of seeing these irresponsible articles taking scandalous stances they know will become flash points on social media, then getting passed them by dozens of people saying, “Hey Trig, what do you think of this?”
I think we need to spend more time focusing on the positive, and when we do decide to go negative to weed the garden, name names so as to mitigate collateral damage, and stop making irresponsible blanket statements about entire segments of artists and music just because we’re pissed off by the success of a select few bad seeds. We need surgical strikes against the bad stuff, and holistic support of the good so that the grassroots can choke out the weeds, not douse the entire lawn with weed-be-gone because we’re pissed off.
Nobody “killed” Texas Music. It is alive as it has ever been. Weeds and all. And this is a good thing, because it damn sure beats the alternative coming from Tennessee.