Author Archives: James Pruitt

About James Pruitt

James Pruitt is a sophomore advertising major at the University of Texas at Austin. He was born and raised in San Angelo, Texas, growing up surrounded by the West Texas culture. He is an avid fan of George Strait, and enjoys good old-fashioned traditional country music from all the way back to Jimmie Rodgers to more recent artists like Easton Corbin. He attended Central High School, and prior to coming to UT he attended Angelo State University for a year.

James’s Country Music Adventure

I always knew Austin was known for its rich music history, but I never knew just how historic the music scene actually was. The Country Music Project gave me an opportunity to do a little exploring and research, and I was fascinated to discover what this great city has to offer. First, I was able to enjoy a country music show from a third generation member of the Carter Family, Carlene Carter. Next, I took a trip to the most famous honky-tonk in Texas, the historic Broken Spoke. After that, I went to visit the Willie Nelson statue at ACL Live, and then concluded my adventure with a journey to the Texas Music Museum.

I always knew Austin was known for its rich music history, but I never knew just how historic the music scene actually was. The Country Music Project gave me an opportunity to do a little exploring and research, and I was fascinated to discover what this great city has to offer. First, I was able to enjoy a country music show from a third generation member of the Carter Family, Carlene Carter. Next, I took a trip to the most famous honky-tonk in Texas, the historic Broken Spoke. After that, I went to visit the Willie Nelson statue at ACL Live, and then concluded my adventure with a journey to the Texas Music Museum.


Filed under Austin, Class work, Reflection, Storify

The New Zac Brown Band

A few weeks ago Saturday Night Live had Zac Brown Band as their musical guest. I hadn’t heard much from them lately, but I’ve been a fan ever since their album debut The Foundation. Their 2010 album You Get What You Give was another one of my favorites, and it sounded largely similar to the first one. I found out through their performance on SNL that they have a new album coming out called Jekyll + Hyde, scheduled for release in April. Since it had been a couple years since I’d seen ZBB perform I was expecting to see the signature Zac Brown beanie and to hear a couple bluegrass-influenced songs similar to “Chicken Fried” and “Whatever It Is”. Boy was I to be surprised.

The first performance was actually more like Zac Brown Band of old, as the band played the first single from the album, “Homegrown”, a country song about being proud of where you’re from or something along those lines. But even though the song sounded like a typical ZBB song, the appearance of Brown was different, simply because he ditched his beanie for a top hat. In addition, it seems as though Brown is trying to convey a “cleaner” look, with well-groomed facial hair rather than his scraggly beard.

Old Zac Brown

New Zac Brown

So it was obvious to me that Brown is trying to change his image, to what though I wasn’t sure. Then the band was introduced for their second song, and instead of a feel-good song like “Knee Deep” or “Toes”, the band played the second single from the new album called “Heavy is the Head”. The song is absolutely nothing like the Zac Brown Band we’re all used to, and my mind was blown. The song even features guitarist Chris Cornell from the rock band Soundgarden.

If you’re like me after watching this video, you’re thinking “Is that really Zac Brown Band?” I mean, that distorted bass line is nothing like we’ve ever heard from ZBB. This is a full-fledged heavy metal song. What’s even wilder is Brown’s “mad-hatter” top hat, complete with the feather.


I’m not sure what Brown’s intentions are with this “personal rebrand”, but it seems like he’s ready to distance himself from the previous image of the band. It’s worth noting that most of their songs on the upcoming album will be more along the lines of what we’re used to, including the single “Dress Blues”, which is softer and more like a country song. Still, I don’t think they released “Heavy Is the Head” for no reason. To me, ZBB is trying to send a statement that they’re more than a country band, they can be rock stars too.

Another interesting fact about this song is that it’s the first Zac Brown Band song released to rock radio, rather than country. It’s also the band’s first entry on the Billboard Rock charts, debuting at number 37.

Even though I was shocked to discover the new sound/image of Zac Brown Band, I quickly learned that they have been a versatile band for a while. I found videos on YouTube dating back as far as 2009 featuring the band covering artists including Pink Floyd, Snoop Dogg, Rage Against the Machine, and Metallica, and they strangest part was that all of these covers were good. I never knew how talented the band really was, and although I prefer their original sound I would love to see them in concert.


Filed under Country Pop, Movies and TV

Keeping Traditional Country Music Alive

This weekend I was able to go home to San Angelo with some friends and visit for a couple days, which is always refreshing and serves as a way to get away from school for a little bit. It was the last weekend of the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo, and we didn’t want to miss out on all the fun.

CaseUnfortunately, since tickets sell out several weeks in advance, I wasn’t able to attend the actual rodeo performance. As disappointing as that was, at least I was still able to take part in something rodeo-related. One of my best friends, Case Hardin, started a country music band after we graduated high school, and since then he has made a name for himself, playing shows at dance halls all over the state. The past two years he has played shows during rodeo season in what is collectively known as “the beer barn”. Located directly next to the coliseum where the rodeo is held, the beer barn is where people go to, well, drink beer before and after the rodeo. It’s a non-insulated wooden building, includes a stage and a dance floor, and it has no seats or tables. Instead, everyone packs in as tightly as possible and those remaining gather outside.

While it may sound like an unpleasant place, what makes it awesome is the music. What is usually a run-of-the-mill shack basically in the middle of nowhere comes to life as an authentic dance hall. Case played for three hours to an audience of hundreds of rodeo-goers, and the dance floor was filled during every song. Case, a bona fide fan of traditional/neotraditional country music, performed covers of singers like George Strait, Tracy Byrd, and Conway Twitty, and he mixed in some western swing with songs from Bob Wills. Backed by his band, which simply includes a guitar, bass guitar, steel guitar, and drums, Case keeps the spirit of traditional country music alive with his twang and his salutes to legends past. I knew when I saw him sing George Strait’s “Heartland” in the 4th grade talent show that Case was destined to be a country music performer. Case’s next show is March 14th at the London Dance Hall in London, Texas, which is considered to be the oldest dance hall in Texas. It’s awesome to see one of my good friends experience some success, and it was great to be able to catch one of his shows.


Filed under Dancing, Honky Tonk, Live Music, New Traditionalism, Texas, Western Swing

The Roots of Ernest Tubb

As I was reading Christine Warren’s Honky Tonk Debutante, I made a mental note at her mention of Ernest Tubb, the man credited with starting honky-tonk music. Tubb, nicknamed “The Texas Troubadour”, had an incredible influence on the sound of traditional country music, and as Warren stated, his hit song “Walking the Floor Over You” was the first honky-tonk hit and started the golden era of honky-tonk music. While Ernest Tubb is an important figure for every country music fan, he is especially notable for me. Before Tubb gained worldwide fame and recognition, he got his start in my hometown, good old San Angelo, Texas.

For those of you who haven’t heard of San Angelo, it is located right smack dab in the middle of Texas, far isolated from any interstates or big cities. It never rains (at one point last year we had just 15 months left in our water supply), and there really isn’t anything to do for entertainment. It’s a typical West Texas oil town.

One thing there is to do in San Angelo is see live music. Texas Country artists like Aaron Watson and Kyle Park are always playing at Midnight Rodeo, and local singers play at bars around town. Famous artists like George Strait and Lee Ann Rimes used to play at the San Angelo Rodeo before they made it big, so there is also lots of history in the city’s music scene.

San Angelo country singer Case Hardin

But as I mentioned above, San Angelo’s real claim to fame is the place that gave Ernest Tubb his start. Tubb moved to San Angelo from San Antonio in 1939, and was given a daily radio show on a local station, where he was paid $2.50 a day. The wage for the radio show wasn’t enough to support his family, so he also drove a beer delivery truck for $2 a day, plus 8 cents for each beer sold. In addition to his two jobs, he was known to set up on the street corner to play his guitar and sing for passersby. Tubb liked San Angelo so much that he wrote the song “Beautiful San Angelo”. Just four years after moving to San Angelo, Tubb was a member of the Grand Ole Opry and in the middle of a career which saw him collaborate with singers like Loretta Lynn, and even garnered him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tubb was instrumental in the sound of honky-tonk music, and none of it would have been possible without his short time in San Angelo.

Ernest Tubb’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame


Filed under Classic Country, Honky Tonk, Live Music, Reflection, Texas, Uncategorized

The Demise of Country Music

I stopped listening to country music on the radio a few years ago, right as “bro country” was beginning to become mainstream. I wouldn’t be able to tell you any of the new songs or new artists, but every time I happen to come across a country radio station it always seems to be the same thing: dudes like Florida Georgia Line bro-ing it up and singing songs about their trucks or how country they are. I know that doesn’t describe all country music on the radio these days, but it’s apparent that bro country is what the industry thinks will sell the best. Maybe it’s just my West Texas roots, but to me that isn’t even close to what country music is supposed to be.

Yesterday as I was scrolling through Facebook, through the dozens of stories and articles being “shared” by my friends, I saw one video that really caught my eye and seemed to prove my belief today’s country music. If you haven’t already seen the video I encourage you to watch. It’s kind of eye-opening about the state of country music today.

Pretty crazy, right? That seems like pretty solid proof that Nashville is just pumping out the same song with different words, and people are buying it. That video reminded me of a different video that came out at the end of 2013 with the same concept, but it was a review of more than just six songs:

Whether you like that type of music or not you have to say that video is pretty funny. To me, it is kind of depressing to see country music deteriorate to this state. I guess if that’s what the people want then so be it. I just think that bro country is meaningless and repetitive, and these videos seem to back me.

They say there’s a George Strait song for everything, and the topic of bro country is no exception. In 2001, a full decade before bro country burst onto the scene, George Strait released a song called “Stars on the Water” as part of his The Road Less Traveled album. The song is most likely the first use of auto-tune in a country song, except it is Strait’s way of mocking “stars” who use voice enhancers and other things of that nature. “Stars on the Water” makes George Strait seem almost psychic, giving a subtle dig at the future artists who dominate the world of country music today.

Strait also collaborated with Alan Jackson on “Murder on Music Row”, in which they claim “someone killed country music” in the chase for “the almighty dollar and lust for worldwide fame”. The lyrics to this song perfectly describe bro country music, and they are probably right when they sing “Ol’ Hank wouldn’t have a chance on today’s radio”.


Filed under Bro Country, Classic Country, Country Pop, New Country, Uncategorized