Pickers and Poets: The Ruthlessly Poetic Singer-Songwriters of Texas

Pickers and Poets: The Ruthlessly Poetic Singer-Songwriters of Texas

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Many books and essays have addressed the broad sweep of Texas music—its multicultural aspects, its wide array and blending of musical genres, its historical transformations, and its love/hate relationship with Nashville and other established music business centers. This book, however, focuses on an essential thread in this tapestry: the Texas singer-songwriters to whom the contributors refer as “ruthlessly poetic.” All songs require good lyrics, but for these songwriters, the poetic quality and substance of the lyrics are front and center.

Obvious candidates for this category would include Townes Van Zandt, Michael Martin Murphey, Guy Clark, Steve Fromholz, Terry Allen, Kris Kristofferson, Vince Bell, and David Rodriguez. In a sense, what these songwriters were doing in small, intimate live-music venues like the Jester Lounge in Houston, the Chequered Flag in Austin, and the Rubaiyat in Dallas was similar to what Bob Dylan was doing in Greenwich Village. In the language of the times, these were “folksingers.” Unlike Dylan, however, these were folksingers writing songs about their own people and their own origins and singing in their own vernacular. This music, like most great poetry, is profoundly rooted.

That rootedness, in fact, is reflected in the book’s emphasis on place and the powerful ways it shaped and continues to shape the poetry and music of Texas singer-songwriters. From the coffeehouses and folk clubs where many of the “founders” got their start to the Texas-flavored festivals and concerts that nurtured both their fame and the rise of a new generation, the indelible stamp of origins is inseparable from the work of these troubadour-poets.

Please see the listing for the print edition to view the table of contents for this title.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781623494476
Publisher: Texas A&M University Press
Publication date: 10/01/2016
Series: John and Robin Dickson Series in Texas Music, sponsored by the Center for Texas Music History, Texas State University
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 280
Sales rank: 745,833
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

CRAIG CLIFFORD, author of In the Deep Heart’s Core: Reflections on Life, Letters, and Texas and other titles, is a professor of philosophy and directs the Honors College at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas. With his group, the Accidental Band, he performs and records classic Texas singer-songwriters’ music, along with his own songs. Based in Austin, CRAIG D. HILLIS toured and recorded as guitarist with Jerry Jeff Walker and the Lost Gonzo Band from 1972 to 1976. A member of the Lost Austin Band, he maintains active involvement in the state’s live music scene.

Table of Contents

Introduction Craig Clifford Craig D. Hillis 1

Part 1 The First Generation: Folksingers, Texas Style

Too Weird for Kerrville: The Darker Side of Texas Music Craig Clifford 17

Townes Van Zandt: The Anxiety, Artifice, and Audacity of Influence Robert Earl Hardy 27

Vignette-The Ballad of Willis Alan Ramsey Bob Livingston 36

Guy Clark: Old School Poet of the World Tamara Saviano 39

Kris Kristofferson: The Silver-Tongued Rhodes Scholar Peter Cooper 49

Vignette-Don Henley: Literature, Land, and Legacy Kathryn Jones 59

Steven Fromholz, Michael Martin Murphey, and Jerry Jeff Walker: Poetic in Lyric, Message, and Musical Method Craig D. Hillis 61

Vignette-Kinky Friedman: The Mel Brooks of Texas Music Craig Clifford 83

Billy Joe Shaver: Sin and Salvation Poet Joe Holley 85

One Man's Music: Vince Bell Joe Nick Patoski 92

Vignette-Ray Wylie Hubbard: Grifter, Ruffian, Messenger Jenni Finlay 101

The Great Progressive Country Scare of the 1970s Craig D. Hillis Gary P. Nimn 103

Plenty Else to Do: Lyrical Lubbock Andy Wilkinson 109

Roots of Steel: The Poetic Grace of Women Texas Singer-Songwriters Kathryn Jones 115

From Debauched Yin to Mellow Yang: A Circular Trip through the Texas Music Festival Scene Jeff Prince 136

Vignette-Bobby Bridger: "Heal in the Wisdom," Creating a Classic Craig D. Hillis Bobby Bridger 145

Interlude: What Do We Do with Willie? 148

I Willie (An Early Encounter) Craig D. Hillis 148

II Willie (On Everything) Craig Clifford Craig D. Hillis 151

Part 2 The Second Generation: Garage Bands, Large Bands, and Other Permutations

"Gettin Tough": Steve Earle's America Jason Mellard 161

Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen: Cosmic Aggies Jan Reid 166

Vignette-Walt Wilkins: Spirituality and Generosity Craig Clifford Tim Jones 174

Lucinda Williams: Poet of Places in the Heart Kathryn Jones 176

Rodney Crowell: Looking Inward, Looking Outward. John T. Davis 185

Vignette-Sam Baker: Short Stories in Song Robert Earl Hardy 192

James McMurtry: Too Long in the Wasteland Diana Finlay Hendricks 193

Part 3 Epilogue: Passing of the Torch?

Drunken Poet's Dream: Hayes Carll 203

I Good Enough for Old Guys Craig Clifford 203

II Good Enough for Young Guys Brian T. Atkinson 207

Roll On: Terri Hendrix Brian T. Atkinson 209

From Riding Bulls to Dead Horses: Ryan Bingham Craig Clifford Shaina Post 212

Bad Girl Poet: Miranda Lambert Craig Clifford 218

Challenge to Bro Country: Kacey Musgraves Grady Smith 221

Beyond the Rivers Craig Clifford 224

Notes 231

Selected Sources 233

Contributors 243

Index 251


Fort Worth, Austin, TX

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