Texans have long respected the dynamic voice of the late queen of Tejano, Selena Quintanilla. Now, Rolling Stone has named her one of the best singers ever.
The Jan. 1 issue of the magazine released its Greatest Singers of All Time list, where it ranked obvious choices such as Bob Dylan, Patsy Cline, Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin alongside less-conventional singers like Celia Cruz and Toots Hibbert.
Selena landed at No. 89, between country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers (No. 88) and Bahian beauty Gal Costa (No. 90).
“According to Quintanilla family lore, Selena was about six years old when she wandered into a guitar lesson her father was leading and showed off her natural, almost uncanny ability to sing” the magazine noted. “As she grew older, becoming a cross-cultural megastar with the family band Selena y Los Dinos, her husky vibrato and impressive belting power shaped cumbia hits that defined generations of Tejano music.”
The magazine placed Aretha Frankin at No. 1, Whitney Houston at No. 2 and Sam Cooke at No. 3, its rankings based on “originality, influence, the depth of an artist’s catalog, and the breadth of their musical legacy.”
Other Texans on the list include Beyoncé (No. 8), George Jones (No. 24), Willie Nelson (No. 54), Roy Orbison (No. 71), Janis Joplin (No. 78), Erykah Badu (No. 115), George Strait (No. 156), Buddy Holly (No. 174) and Kelly Clarkson (No. 194). Notable omissions? Patty Griffin, Norah Jones, Lyle Lovett and Natalie Maines, for starters.
Josh Abbott visited patients and staff members at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth Jan. 6 to share his music and to bring some smiles.
“I loved meeting the kids and the team caring for these incredible human beings,” Abbott says. “It was great to sing, laugh and learn about the Life Zones, where the kids can forget about why they’re in the hospital for a moment. It was also fun to be interviewed for Cook Children’s internal television station, CLZ TV.”
Abbott sang several of his songs for the kids and team, including his version of Dairy Queen’s iconic jingle (“That’s What I Like About Texas”), which he’s been offering up since June, when he was hired by the chain to create a fresh new sound for DQ restaurants in Texas. He talked about his musical journey, the band and his family, which includes his wife Taylor, daughter Emery and son Luck.
“I love what I do, and I get to entertain people because I have a supportive family,” Abbott says. “This visit was a wonderful opportunity to share music, which can be therapeutic and healing.”
Before his departure, Abbott handed out Dairy Queen Dilly Bars to the kids and staff.
Beyoncé and pop star Britney Spears had plans to work together again for the first time in almost 20 years.
Queen Bey reportedly invited the “Oops! … I Did It Again” singer to participate in a music video. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the collaboration fell through. The icons, who are both 41, previously teamed up for the noteworthy 2004 Pepsi Super Bowl commercial with singer Pink, featuring Spanish singer/songwriter Enrique Iglesias, where they sang Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”
The Renaissance singer hasn’t yet released any music videos for her latest Grammy-nominated album other than a teaser for “I’m That Girl” in August, which has left fans eagerly awaiting the accompanying visuals.
Beyoncé’s hit single “Cuff It” hit No. 10 on Billboard’s latest Hot 100 chart, her 21st Top 10 single, credited, in part, to the #CuffItChallenge that went viral on TikTok after the album dropped.
“Just like the songs I leave behind me, I’m gonna live forever now.” That, of course, is a memorable couplet from Billy Joe Shaver, who passed away on Oct. 23, 2020.
Since his passing, Shaver’s cousin, Mark Watson, has been spearheading an effort to make sure the singer-songwriter isn’t forgotten. Supporters have raised 80 percent of the money needed to build a statue of the country legend’s likeness in Waco, and, for the first time in two-and-a-half years, Watson says he can see a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I don’t think it’s a train either,” Watson quips. “Giving up was never an option. I promised Billy Joe we were going to do this.”
Raising the money hasn’t been easy. Watson and a handful of supporters have tried everything they could think of to raise the funds needed for the statue. “I’ve reached out to every country singer-songwriter I could think of, every music venue in the state,” Watson says.
Watson’s cousin, James Bishop, came up with a fundraising idea they hope will push them across the finish line: a raffle for a Takemine guitar signed by the king of country himself, George Strait.
Watson says he hopes the guitar will raise the $8,000 needed to fully fund the statue being sculpted by Texas artist Payne Lara. “If not, it should get us really close,” Watson says. Bidding on the guitar ends Jan. 15.
The Chicks are heading to wide open spaces out west. On Jan. 7, the Grammy-winning trio announced their first-ever concert residency, billed as “The Chicks: Six Nights in Vegas,” set to take place in May at the Zappos Theater — at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino — in Las Vegas.
“Finally getting to play live in 2022 left us hungry to continue our tour,” reads a press statement from Natalie Maines, Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer, who toured North America last year in support of 2020’s Gaslighter album. “After so many years without new music, last year felt like a long time coming.”
“We hope our fans are ready for more in 2023,” the statement continues, “because we’re not done! There’s a lot more to come this year, and we’re excited to get it all started the Zappos Theater.”
Held at the venue that previously housed residencies from Britney Spears, Shania Twain, Gwen Stefani and other notable acts, the Chicks’ concert residency will run for six shows on May 3, 5, 6, 10, 12 and 13.
When Justin Townes Earle, the son of Steve Earle, died at 38 in 2020, the Americana world was robbed of one of its brightest talents, a songwriter able to distill sadness, aspiration and an undercurrent of alienation into vibrant, well-crafted folk songs. On Jan. 4 in Nashville, those songs were brought back to vivid life during a pandemic-delayed tribute concert to Justin.
Originally scheduled for last year on what would have been Justin’s 40th birthday, A Celebration of Justin Townes Earle gathered some of the artist’s contemporaries, collaborators and those he admired onstage at the Ryman Auditorium. Amanda Shires, Willy and Cody Braun, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, Dustin Welch, Elizabeth Cook, Buddy Miller, Jason Isbell, and Shooter Jennings, son of Waylon Jennings, were among those who took the stage. So did Steve Earle, who organized the concert in his son’s memory and reunited his group the Dukes as the house band.
The performers offered their memories of the late singer. Jennings spoke about living in New York during the same time as Justin and then sang “Workin’ for the MTA,” off Justin’s high-water mark, the 2010 album Harlem River Blues. Isbell, having trouble with his electric guitar before his reading of “Slippin’ and Slidin’,” quipped that Justin would have chastised him for not playing an acoustic. Songwriter Joe Pug, meanwhile, spoke volumes in what he left out: during his stunning rendition of “Mama’s Eyes,” Pug, visibly wrought, couldn’t finish the line “I still see wrong from right.”
“If we’re measuring Texas’ mark on American culture, specifically through music, it’s hard to make an argument that any other territory comes close to the Lone Star State’s impact.”
That’s the thesis of veteran music journalist Joe Bosso in the latest edition of Guitar World, which lists the 30 greatest Texas guitarists of all time.
Bosso, a New Jersey resident, told KUT’s Texas Standard that many of the players on the list — Stevie Ray Vaughan, Willie Nelson, Johnny Winter, Billy Gibbons, Dimebag Darrell — are a given. But plenty of others are not as well-known, earning their spots on the list because of sheer musicianship, innovation or genre-defining presence.
Take David Grissom, for example. “Grissom to me is like the guy you want in your band,” Bosso noted. “And when I say the guy you want in your band, that could be any band. He’s versatile yet he’s authentic, no matter what he’s playing. He can play jazz. He can play country. He did long stints with Joe Ely and with John Mellencamp and fit right in.”
As for how he went about selecting the 30 players, Bosso says he asked himself, “Did this person make a mark in some way, some sort of significant way we can really point to?”
Bosso’s Top 10 are, in ranked order, Vaughan, Dimebag, Eric Johnson, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Willie, Charlie Christian, Trini Lopez and Winter. The lone female on the list, St. Vincent, is at No. 27.
Monaleo’s booming, diamond-hard rap songs turn emasculation into an art form. On “We Not Humping,” she ruins a man’s life in a single line, while the raucous “Body Bag” finds her flipping misogynist groupie tropes: “I’m in his mouth like a toothpick / Super slut, he gon’ give it up, he like my music!”
The 21-year-old Houston native wasn’t always so bold. In 2020, she was radicalized by a brutal breakup that’s informed everything she’s done since. “I was super, like, boo-hoo, crying about it,” she says. “It was such a big deal to me, because I thought we were gonna get married or something,”
In the wake of the breakup, she was inspired to channel her energy into something more positive — so she recorded ”Beating Down You Block,” a sweltering breakup anthem that went viral on TikTok last year. Since then, she’s recorded features for lauded Houston MC Maxo Kream and rising R&B star Muni Long, and found even more success with “We Not Humping.” As for the breakup? “Obviously doesn’t matter now.”
Monaleo says she “didn’t necessarily have any dreams to make aggressive rap music,” but the subject matter dictated the form. She wants her bossed-up anthems to inspire Black women who are being taken advantage of, whether in romantic relationships, friendships or business relationships.
“My message is to be the voice that you need for yourself — advocate for your wants, advocate for your needs,” Monaleo, who anticipates a 2023 album release, says. The breakup that inspired “Beating Down Yo Block” made her “feel like I was like dying,” she says. “I definitely never want to feel like that again — and I don’t want anybody else to feel like that.”
When Andre J E. Sam-Sin, who produces and spins as DJ Sun, decided to celebrate the release of his third album, Loveletter: Red Hook to Rotterdam, he could have simply hosted a party and played a few records. It would have been easy to set up: Sam-Sin owns the Flat, a venue in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood that regularly hosts an elite lineup of funk, soul, house and reggae selectors from the city and beyond.
But Sam-Sin, it seems, had bigger plans. This past summer, he got a full orchestra together, called a few of his live-performance friends — including rapper Fat Tony, drummer Chris Dave, Houston poet laureate Outspoken Bean and his own two vocalist daughters — and performed Loveletter in its entirety in Moores Opera Center at the University of Houston, Sam-Sin’s alma mater.
“That was an adventure,” Sam-Sin says. “I mean, I don’t even read or write music — I do everything on a drum machine. When people ask me, ‘Hey, what’s your DAW [digital audio workstation]?,’ I point to the MPC 1000. So we needed to take the sounds from that little box, sequenced in that particular unit, and translate it to sheet music — and therein lies the challenge.”
Sam-Sin worked with a number of Houston composers to get it transcribed, enlisted the help of conductor Marlon Chen, currently the director of the Manila Symphony and a graduate of Houston’s prestigious High School for the Performing and Visual Artists (Beyoncé and Solange Knowles are among the school’s other notable graduates), and met that challenge.
“It had to be right,” he says. “I really wanted it to match up with the sound of my own production. There were a lot of nerding-out moments, and there was a nervousness about it, but it ended up being a great show.”
If ever an album produced by loading samples up into an MPC deserved the orchestral treatment, it’s Loveletter, which has just been released digitally. Harkening back in sound to Sam-Sin’s debut LP, 2013’s One Hundred, the album merges the aesthetics of its lo-fi production to lushly instrumented source material, its dozen tracks teeming with beautiful old soul samples. And Sam-Sin had plenty of raw material to work with — the last time he checked, he estimated his record collection to be 20,000 strong, with about a third of them residing at the Flat.
Country music veteran Neal McCoy, who’s had two No. 1 hits on the Billboard country chart, is celebrating seven consecutive years of saying the Pledge of Allegiance without missing a single day. For 2,555 consecutive days, McCoy has recited the Pledge of Allegiance live on his Facebook page.
It started during a time of political tension. McCoy turned to the Pledge of Allegiance to unite people in 2016, when he went live with the pledge for the first time.
“The one thing I believe is no matter who wins from either side, this is still the greatest country on earth,” McCoy, who lives in Longview, says. “I just started thinking, ‘You know what? I’ll just start saying the Pledge of Allegiance and see what that does to anybody.’”
McCoy says that for the first few years, his page exploded with hundreds of thousands of views. He does the pledge, he explains, to remind people how good life in America is.
“I think it helps people remember when they first start to think, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t stand it anymore,’ then they’ll say the pledge with me and calm down and think, ‘It’s still the greatest country.’”
Over the years, McCoy has had fellow artists join him to say the pledge, including Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw and the late Charley Pride.
Miranda Lambert has several tattoos. However, this didn’t always go down well with her father, Rick Lambert. Reportedly, the elder Lambert wasn’t happy when Lambert decided to get a tattoo for the first time. Luckily, fellow country star George Strait was able to smooth things out between father and daughter.
Lambert has two prominent tattoos on her forearms, one of which is of two pistols with angel wings. Her dad initially disapproved of it, but the King of Country managed to change his mind.
“I got it when I was 22 on tour with George,” Lambert says. “It’s the first thing I ever did without asking my parents. My dad didn’t speak to me for a week.”
In a video on Strait’s Twitter account, Lambert explains how Strait helped her out. “Somehow George found out about the drama between me and my dad,” she says, “and he sent out for like 75 press-on tattoos, fake tattoos. And when we went in to take our end-of-tour picture, the whole group — like 60 people — all had fake tattoos. My dad started laughing, and my dad even had one.”
That helped to “break the ice” between Lambert and her father, and their relationship returned to normal.
Lizzo is sharing her thoughts on “cancel culture.” In a tweet shared Jan. 8, the “About Damn Time” singer-songwriter spoke about the widely used term and how it’s developed within public consciousness since its origin.
“This may be a random time to say this,” Lizzo, 34, wrote, “but it’s on my heart … cancel culture is appropriation. There was real outrage from truly marginalized people, and now it’s become trendy, misused and misdirected. I hope we can phase out of this and focus our outrage on real problems.”
Three-time Grammy-winning artist Scott Hoying, who’s sold more than 10 million albums worldwide as part of the multi-platinum-selling a cappella group Pentatonix, has released two live versions of his debut single “Mars.” Mars – Live includes both acoustic and choir versions.
Written by Hoying and produced by Jon Levine (Dua Lipa, Drake), “Mars” breaks new creative ground featuring deeply personal lyrics about self discovery, overcoming adversity and love.
“The song is special to me,” Hoying explained in a Jan. 11 statement. “It’s not only a song I’m proud of — releasing it is a symbol of all the self-work I’ve done over the years. It’s a song I wrote from an honest place about the love of my life and how much he impacted me as a person. I’ve always dreamed of releasing solo music, but for a multitude of different reasons I never did. This year has been special and transformative for me, so it felt like the right time to go for it.”
As a member of Arlington-based Pentatonix, Hoying has shared in the success of having two No. 1 albums on Billboard’s Top 200 Chart — 2015’s gold-certified self-titled album and the 2x platinum That’s Christmas To Me. The group has received multiple RIAA certifications for multi-platinum, platinum and gold-selling albums and singles, a Daytime Emmy nomination, starred in three holiday specials on NBC and appeared in the feature film Pitch Perfect 2.
Hoying and his Pentatonix mates are nominated for a 2023 GRAMMY Award for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Evergreen.
How do you stand out in the incredibly crowded and competitive podcast space? If you’re a Grammy winner like Norah Jones, you turn to what she calls her “secret weapon”— namely, singing every show.
On Jones’ new show, Norah Jones Is Playing Along, she’s joined each episode by a different musical guest. In addition to a deep conversation between Jones and her guests, some of whom are longtime friends — like Mavis Staples and Brian Blade — and some she’s never met — like Logic and Marc Rebillet — the artist plays both her songs and theirs.
So you get to hear Jones play songs she’s never performed anywhere else. And if you even casually like music, the show is well worth the time.
“I’ve had so much fun doing it,” Jones says. “And as for the talking part, I wasn’t ever nervous because I knew it would be more conversational. It’s definitely more talking than I’d planned on, but it’s always fun to hang out with people, play music and just talk. I feel like I’ve gotten deeper in some episodes with these people than I would have at a dinner or something.”
Here’s a provocative list to ponder. Three Texas cities were ranked among the best music cities in the U.S., according to Clever, a real estate website, while three Texas cities were also listed among the worst music cities.
The site compared the 50 most populous U.S. Metro areas with rankings based on criteria like concert ticket prices, the number of small-market venues within a 25-mile radius of the city, music festivals within a 100-mile radius, the number of working musicians per 100,000 citizens, and the average wage for working musicians. The site also heavily weighted Google Trends and “analyzed publicly available data from the U.S. Census Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Indie on the Move.”
No surprise that Austin is ranked highest among Texas cities, at No. 4, though, fittingly, the Live Music Capital of the World ranked first nationally for live music. The average concert ticket price is $111, the site notes, and residents spend about 2.1% of their income on monthly concerts. Additionally, there were nine major music festivals in 2022, and there are roughly 22 musicians per capita in the city.
Meanwhile, Dallas came in at No. 46 and Houston at No. 48 — but on the site’s listing of the worst music cities nationally, Houston was at No. 3 (after Miami and Las Vegas), San Antonio at No. 4 and Dallas at No. 5. “It’s clear that folks living in these cities aren’t as interested in music experiences as the residents of other metros,” the site claims. That’s some head-scratching stuff right there.
In case you’re interested, the best music cities, according to Clever, are Nashville, Indianapolis and Portland, Oregon.