Texas®

OK, I know it doesnt seem like that long ago, because it wasnt. But 2010′s ACL Festival is a distant memory, regardless. Why? The line-up for 2011′s edition of the annual party in Zilker Park was officially announced recently, and for those who claimed the organziers had an off year with last years billing (for the record, we didn’t think that), it would seem that such complaints will be hard to come by this year.

Kanye West, Stevie Wonder, Coldplay, Arcade Fire, My Morning Jacket, Cee Lo Green, Fleet Foxes, Allison Krauss, Ray Lamontagne, Nas & Damien Marley, Social Distortion and Ryan Bingham headline an insanely fun group that, as was the case last year, will surely provide many an opportunity for tough decisions once the schedule is announced in a couple of months.

Aside from Bingham, there are several notable acts with Texas ties, as usual. Iron & Wine, Court Yard Hounds (the Dixie Chicks sans Natalie Maines project), Jack Ingram, Hayes Carll, Gary Clark Jr., Patrice Pike, Hudson Moore and of course, as usual, Asleep at the Wheel will certainly lend the festival its usual taste of the Lone Star State.

So, this is only the beginning. This year we at Best of Texas are going to take the ACL preview to new hieghts (at least for us). We’re not going to throw out a few big names and wait until after the September festival is over to tell you how it all went down, no sir. Starting NOW, we’re going to begin a musical oddysey that will see us give you the reader a short (and sometimes not-so-short) introduction into each and every act that will grace an ACL 2011 stage. Sometimes we’ll tell you about several at once, in some form or another. Sometimes we’ll just post a video and a couple of quick thoughts on an act or two, and at other times, we’ll kill a few hundred words on an act that we think is particularly special and certainly worth your time, should you head to Austin between Sept 16-18. 

Since this is the first one (of so very many to come), let’s get one of the big names that needs very little introduction out of the way: Kanye West.

Headlining the Friday night schedule, competing for ears with Coldplay, who’ll be rocking the other end of the park around the same time, most likely, West has established himself as a festival act that is as unpredictable as he is ostentatious and genius. Full disclosure, West’s 2010 record My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy was my vote for record of the year when I voted in the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll (the album ended up at #1, among 1200 voters from publications all over the country including Rolling Stone and Spin).

OK, we’ve got almost four months until that magical weekend, so please check back regularly for future ACL band intros. I promise: it’ll be well worth your time, oh fellow festival goer.

Been a fan of Texas country for a few years have you? You have stories of seeing a younger, less tan Pat Green playing at the Dixie Chicken, or Jack Ingram at Adair’s or Cory Morrow at some dive bar, back in the late 1990′s? Well, if you have those types of memories, you are likely have a few remembrances of catching your fair share of Owen Temple shows too, then.

After Temple went north to get some graduate schoolin’ in him, he returned back to his homeland and got back to work with Two Thousand Miles, a rocking Texas country album that dealt with everything from the rodeo to living life as a satisfied married man. Temple followed that record up with an album that was nothing shot of inspired. Dollars and Dimes is basically a concept album that tells the stories of various folks in a range of scenarios that weren’t exactly positive, thanks to the current state of our country at the time, as Temple saw it.

Whereas Two Thousand Miles was a solid rocking country effort, Dollars and Dimes held the warmth of a folk record, even though Temple wrote much of the collection on piano. His penchant for telling stories that engage and intrigue is tailor-made for that of a folk-troubadour, really. His new album, Mountain Home continues in that trend, in fact.

While this new album again looks to highlight stories of folks that lie just beyond the light of everyday life and normal existences, perhaps predictably, Temple shifted sonic gears a tad, just enough to keep things interesting and unpredictable. Utilizing the sultry funk of delta and roadhouse blues, Mountain Home will appeal to fans of Jason Eady’s more recent albums, which isn’t a shock, as the two have become quite the close buds over the past few years. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a great deal of diversity of sound to be had on this album. This isn’t Temple’s attempt at becoming Freddy King by any stretch.

Please, get to know the work of Owen Temple, if you’re one of the unfortunate folks to not have any drunken memories involving him in your past.

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.

A month ago, or so, I pointed you fine folks into the direction of some quality musical happenings that were coming soon. Well, those have come and gone, and now we’re looking straight ahead to some more festivals that will host music that’s as hot as the sun it’ll be taking place under.

The Randy Rogers “Sake of the Song” Festival - New Braunfels. (June 10 – 12).

It’s doubtful that there is a better setting for a weekend of music than the Guadalupe river. With that quintessentially Texan back-drop, Randy Rogers Band, Band of Heathens, Billy Joe Shaver will be playing along with a few non-Texan acts. Sons of Bill and Jason Isbell lead the pack of friendly carpetbaggers.

Free Press Summerfest - Houston. June 5-6.

Almost like a mini-ACL Fest, this relatively new festival has a solid line-up, indeed. Flaming Lips, Ra Ra Riot and Girl Talk will provide the buzz while acts such as Lucero, Medeski, Martin & Wood and Slim Thug only add to the substance that is packed into the two day shin-dig.

Willie Nelson’s 4th of July Picnic - Austin. July 4.

I hate to say stuff like this, BUT, you may not be able to officially call yourself a Texan if you haven’t been to one of Nelson’s (almost) annual parties. Legendary for their brazen and debauchery filled early days, the festival has evolved into a well-run and star-studded affair. This year, Willie will  hosts acts that helped him get wild and crazy in the early days (Kris Kristofferson, Asleep at the Wheel, Leon Russell, among others) and bands that grew up wanting to be a part of the craziness (Jack Ingram, Randy Rogers, and Jamey Johnson, just to name a few). 

Stockyards Stampede - Ft. Worth. July 3.

Another Randy Rogers Band headlined event. Brought to us by the folks that bring us the CCR Red Dirt Roundup, also held in the backyard of Billy Bob’s. Thankfully, this isn’t just another red dirt, rock-intensive line-up that seems to be dominating the calendar. Sure, there is Randy Rogers and Radney Foster, but aside from those red dirt stalwarts, we’ll get MC Hammer, Everclear, Mark Chestnutt and academy award winner, Ryan Bingham. Now that’s a varied line-up, even if it’s a big-time head scratcher, 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 or daily on his personal music blog, The Gobblers Knob