Category Archives: Country Subgenres

Home With the Armadillo: Jerry Jeff Walker and ¡Viva Terlingua!

jerryjeff2I first became familiar with Jerry Jeff Walker’s album, ¡Viva Terlingua!, on the fourth of July a couple of years ago. I was playing in a band at a house party in East Dallas. We heard that there was a great group playing next door so we went over to check it out. There we found a grizzled pair of old men playing early rock standards such as Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Sam the Sham and the Pharoh’s “Wooly Bully.” At the end of their set, they played a song called “London Homesick Blues.” The drunken crowd seemed to already know every word.

“I wanna go home with the Armadillo,

Good country music from Amarillo and Abilene,

The friendliest people and the prettiest women you’ve ever seen.”

I’d never heard the song but it was impossible not to sing along. Afterwards, my friends and I introduced ourselves to the band and talked with them for a while. The leader turned out to be Bob “Cosmic Bob” Livingston who was a founding member of Jerry Jeff Walker’s band The Lost Gonzo Band.


The next day I woke up and listened to ¡Viva Terlingua!, the album that featured “London Homesick Blues” as well as many other songs the band had played the previous night. It instantly became one of my favorite country albums I’ve ever heard.


Jerry Jeff live with Guy Clark and Dave Perkins

¡Viva Terlingua! was a live album recorded at Lukenbach, Texas on August 18th, 1973. It’s often seen as the seminal album of the progressive country scene. This offshoot of country music occurred mostly in Austin in the 70’s when country artists started embracing the hippy movement. I think this “progressive” sound comes through in the album in its laid back, party feel. At times Jerry Jeff sounds almost drunk while singing as the crowd yells out in approval. The first song on the record,“Gettin’ By” is an autobiographical account of Jerry Jeff’s carefree, hell raising lifestyle he was living as a musician.

In the next song on the album, Jerry Jeff dips into the catalog of fellow Texan and folk musician, Guy Clark with “Desperadoes Waiting For A Train”

The song is about Guy Clark’s childhood mentor growing old and slowing down. The haunting violins and intensified drumbeat late in the song give it an eerie runaway train sound.

The next song on the album is “Sangria Wine” a fun song about drinking with friends. This is followed a sad song with an upbeat tempo, “Little Bird,” and the rock influenced “Get It Out.” Following these songs is the classic “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother” written by Ray Wylie Hubbard.

“Backslider’s Wine” and “Wheel” follow “Redneck Mother” and have a more somber feel.

c504bcfc582063df91a13b4ea519332bClosing out the album is “London Homesick Blues,” written by piano player, Gary P. Nunn, which is about a country singer feeling homesick for Texas while on tour in Europe. For me, this track sums up what country music and recordings should be. The band is tight but is at the same time playing relaxed.

The repeated chorus and howls from the crowd towards the end of the song left a huge impression on me that July 4th a couple of years ago and continues to resonate with me to this day.

Here’s the version from the album, which is my favorite one, as well as a later live version.

Track Listing

1.    “Gettin’ By” – 4:01

2.    “Desperados Waiting for a Train” (Guy Clark) – 5:47

3.    “Sangria Wine” – 4:25

4.    “Little Bird” – 4:10

5.    “Get It Out” – 3:37

6.    “Up Against The Wall, Redneck Mother” (Ray Wylie Hubbard) – 4:32

7.    “Backslider’s Wine” (Michael Martin Murphey) – 3:34

8.    “Wheel” – 6:00

9.    “London Homesick Blues” (Gary P. Nunn) – 7:43

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Filed under Austin, Classic Country, Live Music, Progressive Country, Texas

Scotty McCreery Tries to Keep It Country!

“First and foremost, allow me to introduce myself, my name is Scotty McCreery…and we are here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to sing you some country music”, is how Scotty McCreery tends to start some of his shows. Even from the first few minutes of his performance, you’re guaranteed to get some good ‘ol country music.

Scotty McCreery, 22, a country singer who is best known for winning a “tiny little show” (as he likes to call it) called American Idol. At 16, he auditioned  for the show with Josh Turner’s “Your Man” and  “Put some drive in your country” by Travis Tripp, and because of his deep voice and lower register people were blown away. McCreery, went on to the show and eventually became season 10’s American Idol.

Although Scotty is a country singer, he is more of a “new country/ kind of bro country” kind of guy. His first album Clear as Day has more of a “traditional country” music with the banjos and the guitars as well as a pop sound, but the second album See You Tonight, has pop/rock elements. Each album does have a few distinct songs that prove he’s a country singer. His first single, “I Love You This Big”, is country enough to be country, but also not too country that the average Top 40 listener wouldn’t be able to enjoy. One of his favorite songs is “Carolina Moon” from his second album. He said that his focus on the third album is to have the same sound as this song, a more “traditional country sound”.

12767882_965068543546359_1847658702_oAt his shows he likes to explain that the producers would try to get him to sing songs that were out of the country music genre on Idol, but he would refuse because that is not who he was. He then asks the audience if it’s okay if they keep it country for the rest of the night. Of course, a lot of the fans are country music fans so that makes them happy, and the rest of the fans are Scotty fans and let’s be real for a second, they’ll cheer for anything he says!

It makes sense that he’d want to keep it more traditional. I mean, he’s been influenced by many country artists. He says that because of his sister he listed to artists like Backstreet boys, he was singing thing’s like “Conway’s Hello Darlin’…and Elvis Presley too, lord have mercy!”. Before starting his medley he likes to say that “nowadays things have changed a little bit, and it’s not a good thing or a bad thing because everything changes over time, but for me it does not change the fact that I, Scotty McCreery, have a love for country music. So with that said, I’d like to sing you…and take you back.. and sing you some good old fashion country music”. With his little spiel out of the way, he goes on and sings songs like “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard, “Blue Suede Shoes” by Elvis Presley, “Mountain Music” by Alabama or “Check Yes or No” by George Strait. With every tour, he changes the songs in his medley. There’s two things that remain true within this medley, he always plays an Elvis song because like he likes to say “Elvis was my duuuuuuude”, and that he likes to reiterate that “I am country!”.

In case you’re interested in hearing him impersonate Elvis Presley:

And here’s him covering two more classic country songs at the Grand Ole Opry just for the heck of it!

“Hello Darlin’”

“The Dance”


Filed under Blog Post 3, Bro Country, Country Pop, Country Rock, Live Music

The Most Famous Stuffed Horses in Country Music

IMG_1091My family and I have attended many country concerts across Southern California in the past eight years. In 2012, we began to notice stuffed horses in the front row of concerts for artists such as Eric Church, Lady Antebellum, and Keith Urban. After seeing two grown men dressed in red, white, and blue suits get on stage with Luke Bryan and perform “Country ‘Boy’ Shake it for Me” while holding stuffed animals and wearing flashing horse necklaces, I had to know the story. I learned that this was not the first time they performed with Luke Bryan on stage. In fact Luke called them out from the crowd by name at a concert in Georgia and invited them on the stage.  (Video of them begins at 1:05)

My family and I met Joshua Zeyak, 30, in October 2013 IMG_3253at a Luke Bryan Concert in San Diego, CA where he was tailgating wearing a bright green shirt with his name printed on the front, hot pink shorts, a horse belt buckle, and cowboy boots. We recognized the stuffed horses sitting on top of his truck right away and began the conversation.

One day in 2009, middle school teacher Leo VanWarmerdam, 28, used small plastic animals to reward his students for good behavior in his classroom. Later that night, at a bar in Corona Del Mar, CA, he discovered the animals were still in his pocket. Having some fun, Leo placed a small plastic horse on the rim of his drinking glass and passed the others around to his friends. Soon after, the entire bar wanted to join in the fun leaving Leo with no more animals.

The next time out country music fan, Josh, a friend of Leo’s, brought a bigger version of the plastic horse for his cup, and the obsession grew from there. Whenever the horses were brought out strangers at every bar, party, or concert wanted to get involved!

IMG_1092Eventually the horses grew in size and now are familiarly recognized at country concerts across Southern California. Men and woman of all ages are drawn to the horses and the personalities behind them.

After meeting Josh and his sister, Jenna, in San Diego our families began to plan what concerts we were going to next. Three years and over 25 country concerts later, I can say that Josh, Jenna, and the rest of the “pony” group are like family to me.

In order to capitalize on the popularity of these horses we finally decided to create a following for them on social media. As a Public Relations student I was automatically chosen to take charge of this task for “experience” as my dad said. I don’t know how promoting stuffed horses will look to future employers, but in the end it was all for fun and games.

IMG_4111We now have a Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and website for Pony Boys USA! Here is where we share our fun experiences within the country music world. Whether it’s on stage at concerts (pictured on the right with Eli Young Band) or backstage hanging out backstage with artists’ people get a kick out of the crazy fame these horses have gained.

It may be a strange connection to country music, but Pony Boys USA and all the people involved have enhanced my experience as a country music fan. Not only do I attend more country music concerts but I also get the chance to learn how to make a website and promote a new brand. I have no idea where this will go, if anywhere, but the bottom line is we have a great time and I enjoy the added benefits of watching my “brother” sing on stage with Keith Urban all because of some small horse obsession.



Filed under Blog Post 2, Concert, Country Pop, Keith Urban, Live Music

The Texas Groover

Doug Sahm

“You just can’t live in Texas if you don’t have a lot of soul.”-Doug Sahm

The first time I ever heard the music of Doug Sahm it was on a box set of one hit wonders of 60’s garage rock. It featured a hit from his band, The Sir Douglas Quintet. I would only find out years later that the genre busting career of Sir Doug could not be described in the allotted 2:25 seconds given to him on that box set.

Doug Sahm meeting Hank Williams at age 11

Doug Sahm (1941-1999) was a multi-instrumentalist/recording artist from San Antonio. He was drawn to music at a young age and quickly became a steel guitar prodigy.

On December 19, 1952, at eleven years old, he played on stage with Hank Williams Sr. at the Skyline Club in Austin in what would be Hank’s last show before his death two weeks later.

Next, the Grand Ole Opry offered Doug Sahm a spot, but his mother refused to let him go, wanting him to finish school instead. Doug continued to play clubs in Texas and in 1965, started his first successful band, The Sir Douglas Quintet. This mostly rock band came up with their name in an attempt to capitalize on the British Invasion despite their thick Texan accents and the fact that two of them were Hispanic. Their top hit, “She’s About a Mover” reached the U.S. Top 20.

Doug Sahm went solo in 1972 and released his first album Doug Sahm & Band in 1973, featuring many members of the Sir Douglas Quintet along with Bob Dylan, Dr. John, and the accordion playing Flaco Jimenez, “the father of Conjunto music”. In the 70’s and 80’s, Sahm went on several tours of the U.S. and Europe, gaining a significant following in Scandinavia.

He started the Tex-Mex super group, The Texas Tornados in 1989 with Augie Meyers, Freddy Fender, and Flaco Jimenez. Their music mostly featured the country music of Texas and Northern Mexico. They won a Grammy for their first album Texas Tornados which hit #25 on the U.S. Country album charts.

Throughout his career, Doug Sahm also played on other people’s work, most notably appearing on Grateful Dead, Willie Nelson, and Townes Van Zandt albums.

On November 18, 1999, Doug Sahm died of a heart attack in New Mexico. Although this was a heavy loss, his band mates eventually reformed the Texas Tornados adding Doug’s son, Shawn as a member.

sahm-big-red-lonestar1The thing that draws me to Doug Sahm is his ability to create music that is in my point of view authentic while still being able to cross over genres consistently. He started out playing country as a kid and later adopted rhythm & blues, rock, and Tex-Mex eventually blending them all in his work. He said himself, “I’m a part of Willie Nelson’s world and at the same time I’m a part of the Grateful Dead’s.”

I personally discovered each of these phases separately. I heard the tejano rock of “She’s About a Mover” in middle school when I still mostly listened to rock music. I remember starting to listen to his more country oriented solo work when my friends and I were moving into our apartments in college. After a long day of moving in the August heat, we all collapsed on a couch and listened to Doug Sahm & Band. The next summer, at the end of a road trip to North Carolina one of my friends blasted a Texas Tornados album from the car outside of a run down carwash in Durham. We were exhausted from days of driving but as the last notes of “Una Mas Cerveza” wafted through the air we were reminded that it was time to head back home to Texas.


Filed under Country Rock, Texas

“Nashville” Brings Reality To Light

I always wondered what life would be like as a country music star.



As a little girl who pretended to be like Shania Twain, a ten year-old fifth grader who wanted to be Hannah Montana, and later as a middle school and high school student was a mega Taylor Swift fan, I pondered what the life in the bright lights would be like.

While, the “Hannah Montana” show did not exactly portray the real life of a country music star, (she was in fact partly country music), ABC’s debut of the “Nashville” in 2012 certainly showed me the more or less reality of country music stardom,  but the series taught me a something little deeper about what the country music industry is facing.



The series is centered around the original, experienced Queen of Country “Rayna Jaymes,” who is portrayed by Connie Britton, and the young, rising country-pop starlet “Juliette Barnes”, portrayed by Hayden Panettiere. Britton’s character struggles as an aging artist who is trying to maintain her role in the country music scene, while Panettiere’s character is trying to overtake all of country music’s listeners with her poppy, upbeat style.

While the series involves love triangles, family issues, deaths, secrets, lies, etc., like any ABC drama would, “Nashville” reveals the eternal country music culture war: the battle between old music vs. new music, twang country vs. pop country, home, close knit label head vs. big label heads. Additionally, in depth the series explores the how the various artists, songwriters, managers, and other characters deal with the consequence of fame and finding self-identity in the bright lights.

Besides all those elements to the series, “Nashville” has some killer country music.



In the series, each artist struggles with the eternal country music culture war, and it is shown even in the music. Therefore, using the two main characters “Rayna Jaymes” and “Juliette Barnes” Here are a total of four songs. Two songs that are more pop country, modern, and two songs from the old, twang style.

“Rayna Jaymes” Pop country, Modern Song: “This Time

In Nashville, this experienced country music queen has won awards upon awards, and is adored by all. However, as soon as she tries to be competitive in the country music scene, Britton’s character is challenged with producing and singing music that is not her sound…also known as pop country. With up and coming young stars like “Juliette Barnes” it is forces “Rayna James” to fight for her voice to be heard.

“Rayna Jaymes”  Old, Twang style Song:  “The Rivers between Us

The blessing of being the original queen is that no matter what, your first fans always stick with you, and their daughters, and their futures daughter will too. That is the blessing “Rayna Jaymes” receives as she is faced with the adversity of maintaining relevancy in the county music scene. Unlike “Juliette Barnes” who showed up to county music as the new hot starlet, “Rayna Jaymes” is able to use her history of hard work and current determination to uphold a revenant spot in the spot light.

“Juliette Barnes” Pop country, Modern Song: “I’m a Girl

At the beginning of the series, Panettiere’s character’s music grabs the attention of tween and teens. Dressing in tight, sparkly dresses, “Juliette Barnes” goes the extra mile to capture audiences as the young, new sexy starlet. Her modern sound and sassy, headstrong personality is “Juliette Barnes’s” “in” to the country music scene. While her voice does have a southern accent, these two songs certainly display what pop country songs sound like.

“Juliette Barnes” Old, Twang style Song: “We are Water

As mentioned above, early in the series, Panettiere’s character represents how young females in today’s country music have to use a combination of their femininity and country pop sound to snatch a general audience of tweens and teens, but also within the industry, old, powerful men. However, as the series progresses, “Juliette Barnes” is able to take her poppy vibe to her true country roots. Panettiere’s character is able to slow down her sound, and hopes that her tween and teens fan will be able to appreciate the same “Juliette Barnes,” just with a different or actual country music sound.

Whether you love to listen to the queens of country music like “Rayna Jaymes” or the new starlets like “Juliette Barnes,” one can agreed the ABC series “Nashville” does an fine job using the characters and music bring light the war country music faces. (After all, the series is on its fourth season.)

But the question I propose is has the war always been going on? Have we failed to see it just until now? Or has the war begun recently in the 21st century?


Filed under Blog Post 3, Country Pop, Nashville