Texas®

Remember how I was going on an on about how the current landscape of Texas country wasn’t exactly sending me into the stratosphere with sheer bliss? Well, what a difference a few days make.

Sure, the new songs from Ryan Bingham and Randy Rogers helped, but even more helpful really, was getting to listen to the latest record from former Houstonian, now Hill Country-dweller, Opie Hendrix.

Camino Alto busts out of the gate with an absolute prize. Blending dancing pedal steel with Tejeno horns, “Hayes for Horses” sets the table for a beer-soaked ride full of tongue-filled cheeks and winks, complete with accompanying grins.

There are some fair and serious comparisons to be made between Hendrix and anther style0bending, sound-blending Texas troubadour, Robert Earl Keen. Their dusty vocals share a plain-spoken smoothness and their lyrics share an ability to tell a simple story in a way that’s anything but simple. Don’t confuse the perceived symmetry for mimicry, however. After perusing a bit of Hendrix’s earlier work, it’s clear that he is looking to be himself and not a REK clone, to which he does so perfectly.

When it comes to sawdust covered, cow punk thrashing, Hendrix is pure, Uncle Tupelo-gold. Whether is “$50 Bill” from his Chupacabra LP of a few years ago, or “Thanks Joe”, Opie seems to understand that country and rock can co-exist in sound and not merely in name only, as some alleged “red dirt rock stars” seem to think as they paint themselves into a sterile, arena-rock light corner (OK, I’ll stop – this is “Best” of Texas, after all).

Oh, you want only country? The kind where the only thing that’s crying along with you is the saddest pedal steel in the world? Check out “Here Comes the Heartache”.

Nothing revolutionary is happening here, and that’s what has really captured me. Camino Alto is simply a blast of an album that doesn’t give me the chance to wonder what has gone wrong with today’s Texas country.

I’m too busy smiling and hitting “repeat” to worry about all that.

Kelly Dearmore is a freelance writer, mean pot of chili maker and opinionated music lover. To read more about what Kelly is listening to, visit him here on The Squawker weekly or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob

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