In its second season, Texas Music Scene has established itself as a serious outlet for Texas Country talent. Hosted by a legend in his own right, Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, the show focuses on both the past and present of the state’s musical gifts. Enjoy!

Man, oh man. There are certain afternoons where I am convinced that I couldnt be experiencing what I am at experiencing at that given moment in any other state. Sure, that’s a bit shallow, perhaps. There are many unique locales that boast myriad opportunities, unique to their perspective areas that we, as Texans, may not be privy to on a regular basis. Regardless, last Sunday afternoon (and many other previous Sunday afternoons, for that matter) was one such moment where I felt especially Texan.

For eight spring and summers running, I have made a point to attend at least a few Shiner Sundays at the Plano, TX location of Love & War in Texas. For a couple of dozen Sunday afternoons each year, the best and biggest names on the Texas Country scene share the stage with the most promising newcomers, while all of it is broadcast live on KHYI 95.3, The Range. Personal highlights from the past, for me, have been due to solid, and perhaps rare parings of talent. In 2004, Jesse Dayton and Dale Watson carried out a marathon set, with Dayton and his band playing for literally hours beyond the two hour broadcast portion of the show. Last year, Darryl Lee Rush and Jason Boland packed the Hill Country-style patio to its absolute capacity and turned the time into their own mini-Red Dirt festival.

As I prepare to head on over for this weeks boffo bill, featuring Charlie Robison and John David Kent as the opener, I cant help but wonder how tough it will be for today’s acts to top the show from last week, featuring a prodigal Texan, Zane Williams, fresh off of his return from writing hits in Nashville and one of the finest writers to ever come out of the heralded tradition on the Brazos, Hal Ketchum.

Looking more grizzled than suave with his glorious mane tamed by father time, Ketchum professionally worked through his catalog of solid, radio hits from the 1990′s. Truthfully, I had forgotten how many great tunes the man has in his considerable portfolio. Few need reminding that the simple-life classic “Small Town Saturday Night” is his, but I’ll be darned if “Sure Love”, “Hearts Are Gonna Roll” and “Stay Forever” werent every bit as enjoyable to hear again. Ketchum brought the reverent crowd to their feet, and to tears (literally, in many cases that I personally witnessed) with an acapella rendtion of “Yesterday’s Gone”, a song that he wrote in honor of and about his Grandfather. Simply beautiful.

It really was an amazingly Texan afternoon. For most Sunday’s, Love & War in Texas is all about the love

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

Last week, country troubadour, Jason Boland and his band, The Stragglers, released an immensely enjoyable live album. The record combines their favorite songs from their last couple of studio albums, including the regional chart-topping title track from their last effort, Comal County Blue, with some choice cover tunes that the band also holds dear.

The album was released on April 20th (4/20 for the uninitiated) and is entitled High in the Rockies: A Live Album. Coincidentally, the album was released only a few days after most of the band was reportedly arrested for possession of marijuana on their tour bus while traveling in south Texas.

Deciding that such an episode was either a risky publicity stunt or an insane coincidence, I chose to avoid the topic altogether when Boland and I chatted over the phone about what goes into the making of a live album.

When describing the narrowing down of choices for the covers, Boland said, “Tulsa Time” by Don Williams and Merle Haggard’s ”Rainbow Stew” are ones that we have been doing more recently. We’re always searching for definitive songs that are personal to us. “Gallo del Cielo” and “Backslider Blues” were two that people have always asked for. We just tried not to over-think it, really.”

With six previously released albums, including another live record, the excellent Live at Billy Bob’s, Boland put forth a good amount of thought into which songs from their catalog would make it onto this new live disc. “We wanted to avoid repeating what had been on the Live at Billy Bob’s album and to also not have it drag-on, either. I’m really happy with the flow of what we picked. I’m really glad that we got ‘Outlaw Band’ [from Comal County Blue] on there, also.”

Being originally from the fertile red-dirt (pun intended) of Oklahoma, Boland now lives in Texas. Getting away from the crowds that are extremely familiar with his work after almost a decade together was important for Boland. “We always play up there [Colorado] during the Steamboat festival and our crowds are starting to really develop, and they have that fresh electricity to them,” Boland says. Further explaining the process behind the logistics of the live release, he says, “we wanted to just nail a few shows, so there wouldn’t be any need for overdubs.” Feeling good about the results from the four shows which produced the final results, Boland says that he and his mates “feel like we got what we wanted.”

Mercifully, the quality of High In The Rockies is strong enough so that you shouldnt feel as though you need any further herbal enjoyment to apprecaite the album, even if the band needs a little itself, from time to time.

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