Texas artists show their appreciation
Friday, September 19, 2008
– Texas can be its own country so to speak when it comes to making music careers. Many homegrown artists barely ever leave the state to give concerts.
"They appreciate you for whoever you are," said singer Rosie Flores during a panel discussion the "Lone Star Legacy: The Role of Texas in Helping Shape Americana Music" during the Americana Music Conference Friday. "They'll never say to you. 'that's a cool song, but Faith Hill would never cut that'." Flores was one of four four Texas artists talking and singing, and all have gone well beyond Texas for their careers.
Part of the reason is that Texas was an amalgam of ethnic groups and musical influences without a set style, according to Casey Monahan of the Texas Music Office and Dr. Gary Hartman of Texas State University. Zydeco music did not start in Louisiana, but Texas. Ethnic groups would bring their particular style of music with them.
While not necessarily easy to define, part of what makes Texas music is that the artist write his or her own songs. "There's a story telling tradition," Radney Foster said. "For whatever reason, we've held onto that tradition...You had this ability to sing about anything you wanted to. In Townes' (Van Zandt) case, you didn't have to sing very good at all."
Bruce Robison grew up in Bandera, a town of less than 1,000 people. "There was a lot of music there," he said. "Everything was a shuffle."
He recalls Adolf Hofner playing there, who had a many decades long career. "I thought it was the dorkiest (music)," he said. "I found out later they were a real swing band, a contemporary of Bob Wills, and they made some really great recordings."
"I was just immersed in music," he says. "It was everywhere."
Robinson said while he was in bands in Austin in his 20s, he didn't do any writing and worked as a fry cook in a restaurant. The other fry cook was called up to Iraq in the first Gulf War. "This kid was going off to the war," he said. "I was just thinking of starting to write songs. I was in turmoil in my head thinking about thousands and thousands of people getting killed or something. I couldn't get my mind around that concept at all. I decided to write about one soldier going off to war." The song turned out be Travelin' Soldier, a big hit for the Dixie Chicks, which was dropped from the charts because of comments Natalie Maines made about President Bush on the eve of the seocnd Iraq war.
Cross Canadian Ragweed's Cody Canada grew up in Oklahoma, but was influenced by Texas music at a very young age. "My dad took me to see George Strait when I was five. We had front row tickets. My dad was the big shit at the concert that night. My mom had never heard of him, and I sit in that seat and didn't move for an hour and a half and realized that's what I'm going to do. I don't care if I have to eat bread sandwiches for the rest of my life. If I can or can't sing, I'm going to do it."
His sister introduced him to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Buddy Holly."
"The most influential part of my life was about 13," Canada said. " Back when local stations would sign off, on the nights that we had bad storms, tornados and stuff, CMT would play (Foster & Lloyd, the Kentucky HeadHunters)...I'd pop in a (disc)."
During the 90-minute session, each artist would take turns singing songs with Foster turning in "Don't Call Me Lonesome" to start off the music. Flores sang Bring It On, which she wrote with Foster. Canada turned in a tender Bluebonnets Bloom, which he wrote for his son. The quartet closed with "Tonight I Started Loving You Again."
"They should call this panel "Texas, why's it so awesome kickass?" joked Robison during the session.
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CD reviews for Bruce Robison
Fortunately, Bruce Robison doesn't use the word "hits" in naming this package of 10 songs. Some actually were hits, only not for him. Instead, Robison re-records songs he previously released, in effect, in order to get ownership back of the songs. Robision released several albums through Sony before striking out on his own. His greatest success came as a songwriter, and his enormous skills are on display here.
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The New World
Bruce Robison isn't an artist to joyously consume because of his singing voice. It is plain, though obviously functional by professional standards. But this Texas native really should labeled a songwriter/singer instead of the other way around. His songs are more spot-on real than Todd Snider, the performer with which his own world view is most closely aligned. Robison doesn't so much pull the listener into his own world as make that person believe he's been watching him. »»»
It Came From San Antonio
Bruce Robison does music on his terms. He releases an album - this is a seven-song EP - every so often, tours some, sometimes with wife Kelly Willis, and writes songs for others.
While not exactly having a high profile career in his own right, Robison's music remains strong. He always sings well, with sufficient grit to avoid being overly smooth and certainly avoids being tagged a songwriter who writes great songs, but can't really sing them. He easily infuses songs the right sense of »»»
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