One of the best things about the Texas, Red Dirt and Americana music scene is the rabid nature of the fans. These are the type of fans who can't wait to shout the name of the next big thing from the rooftops.
Sometimes, it might take a while for those next big names to catch on to the masses. And sometimes it really never happens. But that doesn't mean the killer music doesn't exist.
I'm constantly asked for new music recommendations or who I'm listening to these days, and lately I always find myself going back to a new group of 10. So, why not share?
Some of these artists or bands will likely be well known or familiar to most of you, especially since you're a regular listener to Radio Texas, LIVE! But if just one person is exposed to the greatness of these names, then it's a success.
So, I present to you these 10 bands/artists that you should make regulars on your playlist. If not, you're missing out on some of the greatest music around.
Listen, and spread the gospel.
Prophets and Outlaws are a self-labeled "Texas soul" band from Dallas that is playing to larger and larger crowds by the weekend. Their songs love to pay homage to the greats who came before them, such as Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings. Matt Boggs and gang play genuine music that is good for the soul.
Start with: 'Texas Home,' 'Shine on Me,' and 'Soul Shop.'
Ashamedly, I was about six albums late catching on to The Band of Heathens train, but better late than never, right? Their 2008 self-titled debut (still my favorite) was produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard and launched the band into the forefront of the Texas rock and roll scene. Their songs feature great riffs, some harmonica here and there and much more.
Start with: 'Jackson Station,' 'Shake the Foundation' and 'You're Gonna Miss Me.'
You can pick out plenty of Tom Waits and Bruce Springsteen in the alt-country songs by Memphis-based Lucero. I was introduced to these guys less than a year ago, but I can't get enough. Ben Nichols' voice is infectious, honest and has the insatiable ability to make you sad even if he was singing about dancing puppies.
Start with: 'Texas & Tennessee,' 'Nights Like These,' and 'Sweet Little Thing.'
Lincoln Durham plays with a certain intensity that can't be matched. The one-man band from the small town of Whitney, Texas, is as raw as you can find. He calls his style of music "obnoxious Southern-Gothic Psycho-Blues Revival-Punk," and it's a pretty perfect description. And you'll even find some hints of Gospel in there. From a kick drum, to a cigar box guitar or a suitcase, he plays it all. Durham is never surrounded by a band, but you won't notice.
Start with: 'Sinner,' 'Annie Departee,' and 'Clementine.'
American Aquarium, fronted by BJ Barham, has been around for nearly a decade. They're often considered one of the hardest-working bands in the industry (these guys play 250-plus shows per year), and they play like it. The band was ready to call it quits after their 2012 release 'Burn. Flicker. Die.' (produced by Jason Isbell), but it wasn't long after that their name finally reached the right ears. American Aquarium's latest album 'Wolves,' released this year, is nothing short of stellar. Barham's lyrics can be brutal, but these are the types of songs that make music great.
Start with: 'Man I'm Supposed to Be,' 'Casualties,' and 'I Hope He Breaks Your Heart.'
Yes, William Clark Green is quickly becoming a household name in the Texas country scene. But there's still plenty of ceiling for him. WCG, whose 2013 album 'Rose Queen' featured the most played song of the year in 'She Likes the Beatles,' followed that record with 'Ringling Road' this year, and it's just as great. His songs are powerful, well-written and all come from incredible life experiences. Most would raise their eyebrows at the thought of a Texas country album centered around a circus theme, but WCG mastered it.
Start with: 'Rose Queen,' 'She Likes the Beatles,' and 'Next Big Thing.'
Another name that's been around for years and oft-publicized here, but whatever amount of praise you can heap on Uncle Lucius still isn't enough. Kevin Galloway has the best voice in Texas music and if you didn't think this band couldn't pull off another masterpiece after 2013's 'And You Are Me,' they did it with 'The Light.' It's a different sounding record than those before it, but it still lies on the Uncle Lucius foundation -- a blend of rock, soul and blues that is unmatched. These guys have been my favorite Texas band for years.
Start with: 'Pocket Full of Misery,' 'Nothing to Save,' and 'All Your Gold.'
I first learned about Chris Stapleton when he played with The SteelDrivers and at the same time was writing huge country hits for names such as George Strait, Kenny Chesney and Darius Rucker. He's another one of those guys whose voice you just can't stop listening to. And when he released his first solo record, 'Traveller,' this year, the music world finally got the big punch in the gut from just how good this guy's music is. NPR says he "sings with the power of a classic Southern rocker, but modulates his rawness with a great sense of soul phrasing and a seasoned balladeer's ability to scale down." Far be it from me to try and say it any better than that.
Start with: 'Tennessee Whiskey,' 'Traveller,' and 'Whiskey and You.'
Any time someone asks me about or mentions Jason Isbell, my response is always, "Isbell is a god." The music he plays is beautiful, but it will always take a back seat to his masterful lyrics. His fall and rise from drugs and alcohol is well-documented, and his 2013 album 'Southeastern' is largely that story. The former Drive-By Truckers guitarist recorded it after going to rehab, and the result was a true masterpiece -- I'm not even afraid to call it the best album of this century. Isbell earned Album of the Year, Artist of the Year and Song of the Year ('Cover Me Up') at last year's Americana Music Awards. If you can get through the entire album without getting choked up (or even watch the video below of 'Cover Me Up' with Isbell and his wife), you're a hell of a lot stronger than I am. His newest album, 'Something More Than Free,' is out this month and from what I've heard, it's a damn fine one, too.
Start with: 'Cover Me Up,' 'Elephant' and 'Flying Over Water.'
You probably won't find a bigger fanboy group for Sturgill Simpson than myself and Buddy Logan. But we don't mind. He's gone from playing near-empty clubs a little more than a year ago to packing 4,000 in Billy Bob's and playing at nearly every festival imaginable. Sturgill Simpson is Waylon Jennings with a stronger voice ... an intense, psychedelic take on country music who is simply the best living country singer on the planet.
Start with: 'Living the Dream,' 'Just Let Go,' and 'You Can Have the Crown.'