The Panhandlers Supergroup Returns with “Where Cotton Is King”

photo: Charlie Stout

No ladies and gentlemen, the Panhandlers weren’t just a lark. The supergroup of Texans consisting of Josh Abbott, William Clark Green, songwriter John Baumann, and Cleto Cordero of Flatland Cavalry blew us all away with their debut self-titled album in 2020, showcasing the more country and heartfelt aspect of all their respective sides, and turning in something even greater than the sum of their parts.

And instead of letting egos and their primary projects get in their way, they’ve been back in the studio again recently, and have just released a boot-stomping, hard country tune called “Where Cotton Is King.” Keeping with their tradition of singing about what they know and where they’re from, this song sits right down in the mythos of the Texas Panhandle where cotton is about the only crop that grows, and the rural routes are all lined with fluffy berms each harvest season like snow drifts.

Cleto Cordero says the new song is “about the plight of a generational farmer who breaks his back day in and out to render his portion to ‘The Lord of the Land: King Cotton’.” It’s also just a killer half time phase guitar tune indicative of the guy who played with a flying “W” lit up behind him, and a Telecaster wrapped in leather. Let’s not forget that the hometown of Waylon Jennings is right there north of Lubbock, and he was as much a Panhandler as any.

Though there’s hints and allegations that a new Panhandlers album might be in the offing like the rising sun coming up over the Llano Estacado, at this point, it’s just this single they’re peddling, leaving us thirsty for more.

“This is actually the very first song we tried writing with all four of us, back on our first writing trip to Marfa in 2019,” Josh Abbott explains. “We even recorded it for the first album but it just wasn’t quite right. I’m glad we’re all mature enough to know when to pull a song. And because we did, we were able to finish it in 2021 the way it deserved.”

Don’t be surprised if we hear something more from these guy before the end of 2022. But for now, they’re left us dangling on the edge of our seats.

Approached at first as a covers songs project embodying the spirit of the Panhandle region that gave rise to artists like Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Terry Allen, and so many more, The Panhandlers morphed into an original record during a songwriting session the four artists assembled in Marfa, Texas. The name is a play off the famous supergroup The Flatlanders that held forth from Lubbock in the early 70’s.

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