Man, oh man. It must be Spring in Texas. Why so? The bluebonnets sprouting along the interstates? Sure, I guess. The arrival of another Texas Rangers or Houston Astros baseball season? OK, I guess.
Perhaps the most fun sign that Spring is upon us, at least here in North Texas, is the return of Shiner Sunday’s at Love & War in Texas in Plano. This past Sunday was the second week for the series that must be starting it’s 10th or 11th year at this point (we’ve been going for 9 of them, including this year). Each year, the roster of acts seems to be more and more packed with big stars from the world of Texas Country and Red Dirt. This week was absolutely no exception, as Austin’s Reckless Kelly took the patio stage (recently renovated to become a shrine of sorts to the late, great Rusty Wier) in front of what must’vebeen 400-500 rowdy fans, many of which had no problems jumping on-top of their wooden picnic tables and shaking their groove-thing, with little regard for personal safety. That’s what Reckless Kelly’s live show will do.
As the show was being broadcast, live on KHYI 95.3 The Range, Willy Braun and crew took a rather business-like approach to their rocking. Picking a few older cuts from their pre-Yep Roc catalog, such as “Back Around,” “Vancouver,” “Seven Nights In Erie,” “I Still Do,” “Motel Cowboy Show,” and the extremely sing-along worthy, “Wicked Twisted Road,” Reckless Kelly got the crowd, including many toddlers that seemed to be closer to the speakers than we can imagine is safe, going before busting out material from their last two albums, Bulletproof and Somewhere In Time.
While the haze of a late Sunday afternoon can bring-about moods of laid-back ease, such wasn’t the case for the wild throng on-hand. Slower songs – like “Vancouver” and “Wicked Twisted Road” – were amped up and quickened with a pulsing rhythm that was appropriate for each tune, as well as for the overall vibe of the show.
With shows from Jesse Dayton, Charlie Robison, Chris Knight, Darryl Lee Rush and even Swampadelic, on the way, there can be no mistaking that spring-time in Plano will be blooming with good times.
Let’s be honest: We love our fellow-Texan musicians and, for the most part, we have great reason to feel that way. There’s just something to being a proud member of this state’s population that lends a native artist an honesty and insight into their work than what might come from an “outsider” when it comes to spinning yarns that relate to the folks who live here.
Of course, there have been many an act make their way to Texas from other areas, only to become hometown heroes, none the less (See: Reckless Kelly or The Mother Truckers in Austin). On top of that, there are the artists who simply do not make Texas their home, yet seem to just get it. They visit for the occasional tour and seem to have crowds awaiting them when they come as if they were regulars or neighbors. Been to a Chris Knight show in Dallas anytime recently? You know what I mean, then. The talented, but a little scary Kentucky-dweller hits Texas regularly and still pulls in crowds that would make most jealous. His music speaks to Texans in a way which comes across as if he’s speaking in a code that is spoken only south of the Red River.
Another artist that fits that description is California’s Ted Russell Kamp. A prolific singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist, Kamp stays busy when it comes time to release an album, but especially when it’s time to hit the Lone Star State. Kamp’s stellar new album, Get Back to the Land, is absolutely making the miles add up for him these days. Just this past week, Kamp played what must’ve been 10 different gigs from Austin to Parker County and from Ft. Worth to Hill Country.
What’s even more interesting is that Kamp’s distinctive Cali-country sounds are likely what makes his presence in Texas so welcome. As Texans, we appreciate an artist who likes sharing his regional love with an audience, even if it’s not our region, necessarily. In fact, as is the case with other records from Kamp’s catalog, especially the excellent Poor Man’s Paradise from a couple of years back, Kamp manages to push the influences of his life on the road (this guy has literally seen the world from a tour bus) into his songs, as he incorporates southern, soulful horns and roadhouse boogie-woogie vibes into the mix. And hey, if there’s another thing we Texans love, it’s Southern soul, right?
So, remember, local is great, but an out-of-towner who appreciates what we have locally is pretty sweet also.
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.