Texas Tracks

I live in Texas, a state known for its notable music. Here are some recent albums from Lone Star artists that have lived up to the Republic’s musical rep.

CD: Natural Forces by Lyle Lovett — The artist who creates country music that can be enjoyed by listeners who aren’t usually disposed to the country genre breaks form on his latest release. What has set Lovett apart and earned him a more mainstream and sophisticated audience is his quirky and imaginative approach to country songwriting and the way he has woven gospel, blues, orchestral touches and other flavors into a take on the style that’s all his own. Yet this disc is split between original numbers that are as country as anything he has recorded and covers of tunes by other Texas writers like Townes Van Zandt, Vince Bell, Eric Taylor and others, à la his previous two-CD set of such, Step Inside This House. Oddly, it’s those latter tracks that shine here even more than his last set of songs by others, proving him a masterful interpreter. So much so, in fact, that this disc is worth the proverbial price of admission alone despite his own weakest song output to date (which is not to say that they’re bad, but alas not fully up to his finest standards).

CD: A. Enlightenment B. Endarkment (Hint: There is no C) by Ray Wylie Hubbard — From a 1970s cosmic cowboy movement footnote for writing its anthem “(Up Against The Wall) Redneck Mother” (which he refers to as “the event that paid the rent”), Hubbard has grown over the last two decades since achieving sobriety as well as maturity (and, yes, enlightenment) into one of the most soulful songwriters and performers on the Lone Star State scene or also anywhere. On his latest, he delves even more deeply into what he calls in one song “the downhome country blues,” wandering the lost highways and dark byways of the proverbial South like a wise and world-weary musical Buddha. No contemporary artist comes as close to the authenticity of an icon such as the iconic Robert Johnson as Hubbard does on his latest dusky and sharp album, due out at the dawn of 2010. If you go for real deal roots music you’ll likely find this a masterpiece.

CD: Cotton by Sam Baker — What makes for a great singer-songwriter is an original and distinctive artistic voice, and that’s Baker indeed. One could cite his compelling backstory — nearly dying in 1986 in Peru when a Sendero Luminoso bomb blew up a train he was on, and then rising from his crippled and mentally disabled state to become a musical performer — as one reason to find Baker interesting. But even that aside, Baker creates compelling and stark yet vivid portraits of real people and lives. On his beautifully arranged third album, he creates a musical and lyrical equivalent of the James Agee/Walker Percy book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, rich with black & white contrast and shadows as well as literacy and empathy. It’s a true gem.

From The Progressive Populist, Febuary 1, 2010


News | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2010 The Progressive Populist
PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652