Friday, September 30, 2016

Ode To Texas Honky Tonks

Writing my blog "Keeping Score At The Double Ringer" about this cool Honky Tonk in Zuehl (about 25 miles northeast of San Antonio), I was reminded that Texas Honky Tonks are not only a dying breed, but that music itself, that is (was) played in these places seems to disappear as well. Where are the drinkin', laughin', cryin' and dancin' places and songs of old?

Honky Tonk singer, songwriter, and radioman (KEQX - Pure Country), Justin Trevino has a wonderful ode, "Texas Honky Tonk" of his 1998 debut album with the same title, to the places that should be on the endangered species list of every human being. Not only is there a community as in social network, but simply a place to forget all your sorrow, pain, and misery.

Justin grew up in Central Texas and started playing professionally when he was 13 years old, his father bringing him to gigs. After meeting Johnny Bush he became a Bandalero (member of Johnny's band) from 1994-2003. He also was playing bass for Don Walser, Cornell Hurd, and Darrell McCall and still maintaining his own band. By 1997 he started recording and producing his own albums as well as albums for some of his idols Bush, McCall, Curtis Potter as well as some newcomers like Amber Digby or Ron Williams, just to name a few. "Whiskey River" penned by Bush is still used by Willie Nelson to open his live shows.

Texas Honky Tonk

Written and recorded by Justin Trevino

The jukebox in the corner is playing Whiskey River

The neon star shines bright, above the bar.

There's laughing, dancing, shootin' pool

Cryin', drinkin', Lonely Fools

And People who don't know where they are.

It's the kind of place to go to-

when you have no one to turn to-

to help you ease your pain and misery.

It's a hang-out for the losers

and a hideout for the boozers,

and the place to go for lonely fools like me.

It's just a honky tonk, a Texas honky tonk.

where the clicking of the tops

and the music never stops.

It's just a honky tonk, a Texas honky tonk.

but it's become my home since you've been gone.

I used to think that someday

we might get back together

I couldn't stand the thought of losing you.

But I must accept reality

that you're not coming back to me

you've found your happiness with someone new.

So I sit here in the same old chair.

pretending that I just don't care

trying to forget your love somehow.

So from the top of the world

to the bottom of a bottle

I've sunk too deep to ever pull out now.

It's just a honky tonk, a Texas honky tonk.

where the clicking of the tops

and the music never stops.

It's just a honky tonk, a Texas honky tonk.

but it's become my home since you've been gone.
Justin Trevino

Sources: YouTube, KEQX,, amu communications photo

Friday, September 16, 2016

SR: Jon Pardi "Head Over Boots" #1 & "Dirt On My Boots"

Good things come to those who wait. More traditional country fans were able to rejoice. "Head Over Boots" by Jon Pardi of his second album "CALIFORNIA SUNRISE" which was co-produced by the Northern Californian finally reached the top spot as the most played country single on the radio (Billboard) after a staggering 44 weeks on the charts by the end of August (8/27).

The song, an unusual shuffle (well at least in these times) with a slight rockabilly beat to it, sounds modern, even though it has a retro feel to it. It could have easily been done (in an even more traditional way) in the '60s by Conway, Ray, or Eddie.

Asked by trade magazine Billboard why he was using traditional instrumentation like a fiddle (Jenee Fleener) and steel guitar (Mike Johnson) on his recording - which is missing in today's country songs, Pardi was quoted:

Fiddle all day! There’s a lot of fiddle on this record. There are a lot of old sayings from the '90s and ‘00s: "Shuffles won’t work on country radio." "You can’t have a pedal steel lead on country radio." If someone says you can’t have a fiddle on county radio... this is what I grew up with. I’m helping country sound a little more country.

Playing the late Buck Owens Birthday Bash that weekend in Bakersfield, he received a signature Buck Owens guitar from local Bakersfield station KUZZ, as you can see in the picture above. Not only citing Buck but California country music in general, Pardi was quoted:

"This guitar represents CALIFORNIA, and I'm proud to help make people aware of BUCK's legacy." 

Visiting his dad many, many moons ago in Central Texas, they visited Twin Sisters Dancehall (where they later also filmed the video) outside of Blanco together. That's where he got the inspiration for the song. Back in Nashville, he sat down with Luke Laird, and they co-wrote "Head Over Boots," both not really sure they had written a hit song.

And some radio DJs actually had to be twisted in their arms, as they were claiming that the song was too traditional for today's radio. Well UMGN, Capitol's parent company was able to convince the DJs with solid numbers. Pardi started selling the song digitally and outsold many other artists, who were way farther up in the charts, the song was certified Gold for over 635'000 downloads - and still sells about 9000 copies a week. He also did extremely well in "streaming" - his youTube views for the lyric and the conventional video added up for over 21 million streams, all streams combined (YouTube, Spotify, etc..) over 100 million streams. These are impressive numbers if you compare them to the terrible "Fix" #1 hit and Chris Lane (see SR: No "Fix" please - make Chris Lane disappear!) who has only around 7.5 million streams on YouTube.

★★★★(★)/★★★★★ (4½/5)        
(scroll down to read about his new single "Dirt On My Boots")

I was hoping that the record company would follow this number one single with the outstanding "She Ain't In It," a song that evokes the timeless superiority of George Strait he defined for over 35 years. Maybe that's gonna be single number three of "CALIFORNIA SUNRISE." First, the powers there are, wanna keep the momentum going with boots, well more specific with "Dirt On My Boots."

Unfortunately, musical-wise the song is a U-turn to stupid radio mediocrity. There may be Banjo, Fiddle, and Steel accents in it, but the modern production destroys the real country feel of the lyrics. Written by Rhett Akins, Ashley Gorley, and Jesse Frasure, the song was according to a radio interview in Pardi's words 'way out there':

“, it was a super hip-hop kind of style. But I loved the lyrics; the lyrics were so country. I just loved that; that’s what really appealed to me [...} So we took it and made it more country, and I think it kinda really made a cool sound.”

WTF, somebody please chase Jesse Frasure out of the Country realm, back to Nicki Minaj or Drake. As a songwriter he's responsible for some of the worst crap coming out of Nashville - "High Class" (Eric Paslay), "Fix" (Chris Lane), "Road Less Traveled" (Lauren Alaina), and "Like The Sound Of That" (Rascal Flatts) just to name a few.

“Dirt on My Boots” was produced by Pardi and his long-time demo producer Bart Butler. Lyrically the song actually can be referenced to the old country theme of going out on a Saturday night, like Lefty Frizzell did in his tune "Shine Shave Shower" - with its lyrics:

Gonna shine, shave, shower, and brush my teeth

Go out a dancing and forget my grief

Make all the nightclubs in this town

'Cause my sweet baby's gonna show me around

It basically is a hard-working blue-collar guy, who wants to go out and woo his gal dancing with her in his high heeled cowboy boots:

Been up since the crack of dawn

Just trying to be paid

Been hotter than a thousand suns

I can't find no shade

Just two more rows and I'm good to go

Yeah, I'm shutting this tractor down

Get me a half an hour for a shave and a shower

And I'll be outside your house

and in the refrain (excerpt)

Gonna hit the club, gonna cut a rug

Burn it up like neon lights

Might have a little dirt on my boots

But we're gonna dance the dust right off them tonight

Got a little dirt on my boots

As a gentleman he even promises to leave his dirty boots outside, if he should be invited for coffee after the dancing:

Baby, we can slip right out of that barroom door

And when I take you home, don't worry babe

I'm gonna kick them off on the porch

The discrepancy between the quality of music and lyrics is so high that I included two different numbers, added up and divided by two, they give the rating of "Dirt On My Boots" as 3 out of 5.

Music: ★(★) 1½ - Lyrics: ★★★★(★) 4½                                                   ★★★/★★★★★ (3/5)

Sources: Billboard, Mediabase, Roughstock, Vevo, BMI

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Zac Brown Band Going Back To Foundation Of Success

Zac Brown Band - Kansas City Mo - 5/27/16                                                 © ZBB (from their website)

Currently finishing up their successful summer tour, "Black Out The Sun," Zac Brown Band released a video on their twitter account @zacbrownband on September 7, announcing a new album coming next year. Their latest album "JEKYLL + HYDE" was recently certified Platinum, while their debut album, 2008's "THE FOUNDATION" earned five times that honor for five million sold copies, just a couple of weeks earlier. No wonder then, that the band announced they want to go back to their "original" debut sound of "THE FOUNDATION."

The recording for the new, yet untitled album is supposed to take place during the slower winter, "Colder Weather" months. Always loved the harmonies on this track from their second major-label album "YOU GET WHAT YOU GIVE"

Sources: Twitter, RIAA,,

"That'll Be Day" - Buddy Holly Would Have Been 80 Today

Isn't it amazing that in a just 18 month long "career," Lubbock's most famous son, changed the future of rock'n'roll, music, well even how a band performs in general. His vast influence on everybody from The Beatles and Rolling Stones to the later emergence of Punk is well documented.

Two decades ago my former PD Jürg Hofer and I ventured to Lubbock to interview Buddy's brother Larry Holley (correct spelling of the last name). We met Larry at the second coming of the Hi-D-Ho, a reincarnation of the original downtown grill, where Buddy played to the people of Lubbock from the roof of the building. The original was also the place where Peggy Sue Gerron would hang around and listen to the "new" music. It was at the end of a cruisin' loop where the youth met and mingled and where Rock'n'Roll was tolerated. Later that day, we visited Larry at his home, where he showed us family pictures and some of Buddy's memorabilia. He also showered us with family recordings, including songs by his daughter (Buddy's niece) Sherry, who among other compositions recorded several odes to the old stomping grounds, like "Don't Say Hello, Say Hi-D-Ho."

Nashville had issued (Feb 1996) a somehow ill-made tribute "NOT FADE AWAY" to Holly for his 60th birthday with TV special and everything. But Nashville still didn't understood Holly 40 years after he started out in that town and left disgusted. They wouldn't even let him play his own guitar on his own recordings. So he went to Clovis, New Mexico and to New York to record. It was the typical riding the bandwagon scenario, there were a couple of decent tracks on that tribute, Waylon Jennings pairing with Mark Knopfler on a unfinished song fragment of Holly - "Learning The Game", the son of Bob (producer, friend and former duo partner with Buddy) Kevin Montgomery, who teamed up with Mary Chapin Carpenter to do "Wishing." Texas stand-outs Joe Ely and Todd Snider teamed up for quite a raunchy version and true the spirit of Buddy of "Oh Boy!."

But most of that record was dominated by big names and not enough energy recordings. It sounded like the put a governor on the bands while they were in the studio and therefore completely missing Buddy Holly's point.

Peggy Sue Gerron, who finished high school in California, but came back to Lubbock to be and even marry Cricket member Jerry Allison, got immortalized in one of the first world wide hits. Peggy Sue - upto this day - keeps a website, still soothing in her 15 minutes of fame.

Sources: YouTube,, personal recollections

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Newcomer Seth Ennis - "Woke Up In Nashville" - Single Review

Even so he grew up all around the world thanks to his colonel dad, Seth Ennis calls Valdosta, Georgia home.

The 23 year old is the newest signee by a major label, putting ink on a contract today (9/6/13) with Arista, which belongs to the Sony Music Nashville family and releasing a first official and thematically fitting single "Woke Up In Nashville."

According to a press release, Randy Goodman, Chairman & CEO of Arista parent Sony Music Nashville, is excited to sign the new talent: “He represents everything good about our format and its future; young, energetic, incredible songwriter and performer. He’s the whole package and the real deal!”

Seth tried for some time, after funding and releasing an EP "HOPE IS ALIVE" in 2012 through crowd-funding, he moved to Nashville a year later. He also came up with a first own promo video, introducing himself to Nashville and the world.

Seth Ennis from Lucas Hicks on Vimeo.

During the three years in Nashville, he was able to get a solid team (management, publishing and booking) behind him and was now awarded with a record contract.

Seth co-wrote his debut single "Woke Up In Nashville" with a couple of heavy-hitters, David Hodges former member of Evanescence and other groups and Blair Daily, who penned hits for Kip Moore - "Beer Money", Kelly Clarkson - "People Like Us", Rascal Flatts - "Stand" and Uncle Kracker "Smile". Fellow Georgian Corey Crowder, who writes for the same publishing company as Seth does, produced the debut single. Crowder had success as a producer with a top ten digital single for Jamie Lynn Spears "How Could I Want More" and is the featured songwriter on Eric Paslay's latest two singles.

"Woke Up In Nashville" is now available at all digital retailers and can also be heard on Apple Music and Spotify. Ennis who started playing piano, when he was 7 later added drums and guitar. On his new single he played all the instruments and sang all the vocals. Even though sounding quite generic like everything coming out of Nashville, he has a nice vocal range, between Pop, R'n'B and Country. (Whatever happened to just simply singing a song and setting the accents by voice modulation and not by over-singing and over-layering the vocal tracks.) The arrangement is definitely leaning more towards a piano driven Rhythm'n'Pop side.

The lyrics are a bit syrupy but still better than a lot of what I've heard lately - the theme in it's widest sense actually has a big tradition. Boy is leaving hometown and girlfriend in search of new opportunities and success, chasing his dreams and encountering a lot of hardship and loneliness. It's no "Sunday Morning Coming Down," "Guitar Town" or "Detroit City" but it definitely has it's moments. Below are a couple of lines from different verses:

I loaded up the hand-me-down car

Went for broke, broke your heart

I woke up in Nashville

Cause those Broadway lights don't shine

The way that your eyes did

When they were staring back

Right back in mine

Been trying to live

With only half of my heart

Just sleep walking in the Tennessee dark

The song lives because of its strong lyrics, instrumentation and especially vocal over-production pull it some down, but overall it's quite a solid debut for a new artist. There is currently no word yet, if Arista will try to get the song into radio for airplay.

★★★/★★★★★ (3/5)

Sources: Press Release SMN,, Vevo, Vimeo,

The !!!! Beat - Goes On

Austin journalist Michael Corcoran recently had a cool facebook post which sent me looking for a rather obscure TV show from 1966 that played a lot of Rhythm'n'Blues, Blues & Soul called "The !!!! Beat." Trying to find some footage of Freddie King to celebrate his birthday on September 3, he stumbled upon the series - but read for yourself:

Watching several shows on youTube I was hooked and watched all shows that were available, some wouldn't play, as they were taken down due to obvious copyright infringement. But bits and pieces, even single clips with some of the performances of the 26 episodes can be found all over the internet. Spending some time with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown in 1980 in Bern, Switzerland, he was always a favorite of mine, glad to see him being the leader of the backing band, The Beat Boys, which also included saxophonist David "Fathead" Newman.

Through Dallas journalist Robert Wilonsky and his piece in the Dallas Observer, I later found that Dallas was chosen as a production hub, because Nashville at that point in time didn't had any color TV station / production yet. After the show disappeared, the tapes were thought lost, but as to Wilonsky, rumor has it that they were bought at one time by Willie Nelson:

... for decades the show was thought to be lost -- till, that is, Willie Nelson began going through and selling off his personal belongings when he had the taxman breathing down his neck in the early '90s. Rumor is, the entire collection was in his possession.

Bill "Hoss" Allen, originally a radio DJ out of the Tennessee area was one of the first DJs to spin black music on the radio, according to some sources as early as in the mid 1940s. Unfortunately the show didn't last but a year, and the story has it, that "Hoss" didn't take the end to lightly:

Allen hosted all but the final episode: Legend has it he was so distraught over its cancellation he fell into a bottle and couldn't make it to say farewell. Which is why Otis Redding is seen below hosting an episode -- the final one, which appears to have been shot in October '66. Yes, Otis Redding hosted a show taped at WFAA.

I also found out that prestigious German re-issue label Bear Family bought the whole series and released a 6-DVD set for the greater public in 2005 with extensive liner notes in the booklets accompanying the sets. A search revealed that the discs are currently on sale (and much cheaper than at amazon). Well, the whole set is now in my Christmas wishlist.

Sources: Michael Corcoran,, youTube, Robert Wilonsky,