What is Red Dirt Music?
It’s a question we get asked often: “What is Red Dirt?”
Those of us who live and breathe the music can spout off names such as Jason Boland, Mike McClure and Cody Canada, and sing along to songs like “Carney Man, “Oklahoma Breakdown” and “Good Lord Lorrie.”
Bob Childers is often referred to as the “Father of Red Dirt,” or “Grandfather,” depending on how old the person is who you ask. Tom Skinner is cited as a big influence by most.
But what is it?
It’s music. More precisely, it’s music based in Oklahoma, beloved by people of Texas and Oklahoma who actually take ownership of it. To us, it’s ours.
According to Wikipedia: “Red Dirt Music is a music genre that gets its name from the color of soil found in Oklahoma. Although Stillwater, Oklahoma is considered to be the center of Red Dirt music, there is a separate Texas Red Dirt subgenre as well.”
C’mon, man. I mean that definition is not wrong, technically. But it’s so much more than that. Red Dirt is the music we listen to as we float rivers, drink beers and drive backroads (not at the same time). We walk down the aisle to it, hell we make babies to it — then we make our babies listen to it too. We download the albums, go to the concerts, drive hundreds of miles to get into the festivals. It belongs to us, it belongs to the people.
And it’s not something we take possession of knowingly, really. It’s more natural than that.
Although “Red Dirt” has become a catch-all for many Texas and Oklahoma-based bands, especially nationally (it’s less divisive than the term “Texas Music,” or “Texas Country”), those in the know know that there is a line. And however thin that line may be between Texas Music and Red Dirt, it’s there.
The “sub-genre” really hit its stride in the 2000s. Fittingly, and almost seemingly by divine intervention, the three biggest bands at the time offered fans a superb balance of music. There was something for everyone. Cross Canadian Ragweed was rock, Stoney LaRue had more the folk flare, and with his steel guitar and fiddle, Jason Boland brought a more traditional country side to Red Dirt.
And the people came.
Here are nine songs (and a Tom Skinner Tribute) to help someone unfamiliar with the scene merely begin to grasp the answer to, “What is Red Dirt?”