Friday, June 06, 2008

T for Texas

Next week I’ll spend three days in Texas, where I’ll be speaking at the Trinity Arts Conference. I’m looking forward to that. To prepare, I’ve been reviewing my speeches. No, that would be the logical thing to do. Maybe this weekend. Yeah, definitely this weekend. But right now I’m listening to songs about Texas.

This will be my third trip to Texas. I’ve been to Dallas before, where I’ll be staying, and from everything I can remember about Dallas it looks a lot like any other 21st century American metropolis, with its gleaming skyscrapers and the same fast food restaurant chains and big-box Targets and Best Buys you can see everywhere else. But I’ve watched all those John Wayne movies, too, and read a few Larry McMurtry novels, and listened to a whole bunch of music emanating from Austin, and so there’s a certain mythical Texas I’m hoping to glimpse as well. This is the Texas of the Alamo and cowpokes herding the dogies up the Old Chisholm Trail. When Kate and I took the kids to San Antonio about ten years ago, we ate at Rudy’s Barbeque in Leon Springs, and virile young dudes in boots and cowboy hats rode their steeds up to the restaurant, hitched their horses, and ordered brisket. That’s the kind of Texas I’m hoping to see. Alas, this appears to be a fairly academic conference, so my guess is that the professors won’t be riding Old Paint up to the auditorium.

Still, a guy can dream. This is what I’m listening to today:

1. This Old Porch – Lyle Lovett
2. Lone Star Beer and Bob Wills Music – Red Steagall
3. Under the X in Texas – Johnny Gimble
4. South Canadian River Song – Michael Martin Murphy (yes, that’s a river in Texas, not a reference to our northern neighbors)
5. Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan
6. Waltz Across Texas – Hank Thompson
7. San Antonio Rose – Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys
8. Dallas – Joe Ely
9. Amarillo – Emmylou Harris
10. San Antonio Girl – Steve Earle
11. Heaven, Hell, or Houston – ZZ Top
12. West Texas Teardrops – Old 97’s
13. El Paso – Marty Robbins
14. Gulf Coast Highway – Nancy Griffith
15. The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton – The Mountain Goats

Nobody captures the mythical Texas better than Lyle Lovett. I want to hang out on this porch.

This old porch is like a big old red and white Hereford bull
Standing under a mesquite tree
Out in Agua Dulce
And he just keeps on playing hide and seek
With that hot August sun
Just a-sweatin' and a-pantin'
Cause his work is never done

And this old porch is like a steaming, greasy plate of enchiladas
With lots of cheese and onions
And a guacamole salad
And you can get 'em down at the LaSalle Hotel
In old downtown
With iced tea and a waitress
And she will smile every time

And this old porch is the Palace walk-in
On the main street of Texas
That's never seen the day
Of G and R and Xs
With that '62 poster
That's almost faded down
And a screen without a picture
Since Giant came to town

And this old porch is like a weathered, gray-haired
Seventy years of Texas
Who's doing all he can
Not to give in to the city
And he always takes the rent late
So long as I run his cattle
And he picks me up at dinnertime
And I listen to him rattle

He says the Brazos still runs muddy
Just like she's run all along
And there ain't never been no cane to grind
The cotton's all but gone
And you know this brand new Chevrolet
Hell it was something back in '60
But now there won't nobody listen to him
'Cause they all think he's crazy

And this old porch is just a long time
Of waiting and forgetting
And remembering the coming back
And not crying about the leaving
And remembering the falling down
And the laughter of the curse of luck
From all of those passersby
Who said we'd never get back up

This old porch is just a long time
Of waiting and forgetting
And remembering the coming back
And not crying about the leaving
And remembering the falling down
And the laughter of the curse of luck
From all of those sons-of-bitches
Who said we'd never get back up
-- Lyle Lovett, “This Old Porch”


Wes said...


I'm from Texas, and though there are tons of other records that I could recommend as "essential" Texas listening, I'll recommend Lyle's Step Inside this House since you're already enjoying some Lyle. That record often gets overlooked since it's all covers and Lyle is all about writing a great song. But it contains so much of that mythical Texan quality that you are wanting. Plus there are lots of local references that give a little flavor of what it's like to live in Texas: the bizarre way Spanish place names are pronounced, what it's like to farm in Texas soil, the whole cowboy ethos, etc. Plus there are tons of Townes Van Zandt covers.

scott said...

Be sure to include anything by Guy Clark you've got!

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Townes Van Zandt, Waylon & Willie, Lightnin' Hopkins, The Texas Tornadoes. And anything that Joe Ely has recorded, including Dallas.

jackscrow said...

I concur on "Step Inside This House".

David Rodriguez's "Ballad of the Snow Leopard and the Tanqueray Cowboy" is a stunningly beautiful song, with wonderful lyrics and Lyle's cover of Townes' "Lungs" is one of the best covers EVER.

Unknown said...

I'll add one to your Texas list - Texas Trilogy by Steve Fromholz - remember Frummox? maybe doesn't evoke the older wild west of Texas but certainly paints a picture.

Also - anybody reading this ever hear of Russ Kirkpatrick? An early 70s Texas musician/songwriter/singer?

I've been trying to find his music but no one ever seems to know who he is. Maybe someone in this group.



Andy Whitman said...

Lyle Lovett's "Step Inside This House" (which I forgot I owned, but I do) is the perfect Texas album. Most of the songs mentioned in the comments (including "Texas Trilogy," which Vince just mentioned) are on that album.

Let me also recommend anything and everything by Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez. Chip is the guy who wrote "Wild Thing" (yes, that one). He quit the music business for a couple decades, was a professional gambler (how Texan is that?), and in the past ten years or so has released a series of good-to-great duets albums with Carrie, who sings like Lucinda Williams and plays a mean fiddle. The Texas themes abound.

Anonymous said...

I live in the area, and the joke around here is that Fort Worth is where the west begins and Dallas is where the east peters out. So if you want to see Mythical Texas, I'm afraid you'll have to go west, young man.

Drive about 1 hour to Fort Worth (Cowtown). Visit Billy Bob's, the world's largest honkytonk. Eat a proper steak at Cattleman's Steakhouse in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Get a drink at The White Elephant Saloon. And buy a hat and/or boots.

If you must stay in Dallas, look for Barbecue at Baker's Ribs (officially named as one of the state's best by Texas Monthly magazine) or Sonny Bryan's (a Dallas establishment, where you eat on an old school arm chair).

Anonymous said...


I agree with the Fort Worth comment. If you want to see the mythical Texas, Fort Worth is as good a place as you'll find near Dallas. Joe T. Garcia's is not the best Tex Mex in the world, but is definitely a Texas experience worth trying. Have fun and stay cool (if that's possible this time of year).

lanid said...

I remember Russ Kirkpatrick performing at Cafe York in Denver about 1970 or 1971. I had thought he was returning to Texas to teach theatre.

Al Urbanec said...

I remember Russ Kirkpatrick. Met him first in Estes Park, CO where I lived. Then at the York Cafe in Denver. He opened for the Dirt Band on their Uncle Teddy album tour. The last I saw him was in Austin at a place I think was called the Saxon Pub.