Living in Texas, it can be easy to take country music for granted.
There are the pillars of the genre (Willie Nelson, who turns 80 on Monday; George Jones; Kris Kristofferson) and the homegrown upstarts pushing the genre into the 21st century (Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Hudson Moore), but even at the more local level, there are plenty of bands putting their own spin on country music.
Here are five area acts that approach country music from unique angles, giving listeners a chance to appreciate some serious Lone Star style.
Whiskey Folk Ramblers, The Lonesome Underground
Fort Worth quintet Whiskey Folk Ramblers (Tyler Rougeux, Mark Moncrieff, Cory Graves, Jack Russell and Chris Carmichael) return with their third studio effort and first album in three years, following 2011s Salim Nourallah-produced ... And There Were Devils. The fellas dont mess with the formula too much, although there are some intriguing new ingredients stirred into WFRs tried-and-true sound (and fewer sonic shadows this time around). Long Way Back and Mad Mans Eyes skirt jazzier territory, while Lights on the Highway deserves to be a big fat radio hit its an appealing fusion of the rough-hewn WFR style and jangly folk-rock.
The Will Callers, What Else Is Left?
Sadness hovers over the 10 songs found on Fort Worth foursome the Will Callers debut full-length effort. What ordinarily marks a jubilant moment in the life of a band the first professional studio recording is unavoidably tinged by the tragic 2010 car crash on Interstate 35 that claimed the lives of bassist Brad Schroeder and guitarist Chase Monks ( What Else Is Left? is dedicated to the pairs memory). Still, guided by producer Ray Wylie Hubbard, the remaining Will Callers (Jake Murphy and Daniel Slatton) are unbowed, and, joined by bassist Scrappy Jud Newcomb and guitarist Brad Rice, infuse these expansive country-rock tunes with an undeniable urgency.
Deadmoon Choir, self-titled
Deadmoon Choirs four members (Vinny Martinez, Garrett Padgett, Adrian Nunez and Dave Manivanh) are split between Dallas and Denton, but the bands self-titled debut is nevertheless united in its faithful, polished update of 70s country-rock. The song titles suggest Deadmoon Choir will be a harrowing journey ( Whiskey Im Drinking; Devil Wears the Shoes Im Walking In), but these tunes smile in the face of sadness. Thankfully, the quartet doesnt stay shackled to its sonic inspirations and injects a hint of arena rock majesty into its rough-and-tumble compositions, bringing a sense of grandeur to these shaggy gems.
Sand Dollar Rodeo, GPS to Nowhere
Id have to think long and hard about the last time I saw an electronics credit in the liner notes of an album ostensibly full of country songs. But, there it is, credited to Roy Holliday, one half of the Roanoke duo Sand Dollar Rodeo (Heath Frazier rounds out the band), inside their debut LP. And indeed, GPS to Nowhere takes considerable liberties with the genre, spiking working-man lyrics with a distinctly 80s guitar-rock sensibility (the title track evokes Dire Straits, fronted by Jimmy Buffett, turned loose inside the Grand Ole Opry) and displaying some admirable ambition (atmospheric closer Treading Water stretches past the 10-minute mark). The records carefree attitude is infectious, and odds are good youll have a grin on your face (and the urge for a tall cold one) before these dozen tracks are finished.
Matt Jones, My Lonely Guitar
Jones (no relation) is a Fort Worth-based singer-songwriter currently working on his full-length debut with producer Paul Boll (Los Noviembres), bassist Aden Bubeck and drummer Pete Coatney. (Hes pulling double duty, too: Jones is also cutting a Christmas EP with Salim Nourallah, across town at Nourallahs Pleasantry Lane Studios in Dallas.) But this seven-track effort, released last year and recorded in Colorado with producer Steve Boynton, marks him as a talent worth keeping tabs on. With an engaging tenor voice and a keen eye for detail grounding his country-inclined songs in relatable realism, My Lonely Guitar suggests that Matt Jones wont be professionally forlorn much longer.