Nearly three decades ago, on July 17, 1993, the group Little Texas released “God Blessed Texas,” which would become one of the band’s signature songs, reaching the Top 5  on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.

The tune, written by the group’s lead guitarist Porter Howell and keyboardist-vocalist Brady Seals, appeared on the group’s second album, Big Time. Tim Rushlow provided lead vocals on the track.

Now, a slate of Texas artists have teamed up to celebrate the song’s 30th anniversary by offering a revamped version of the hit. Randy Rogers, Casey Donahew, Josh Abbott, Aaron Watson, Rodney Crowell, Kevin Fowler and Pat Green each contribute their own styles to the revised version of “God Blessed Texas.”

“This song made me proud to be from Texas,” Rogers said in a press release. “I discovered my love for country music right as this song was released, and I watched the video a thousand times. So this is truly a full-circle moment for me.”

“Like many other Texans, this song is part of my DNA,” Donahew added. “I wish I’d written it. What an honor to be asked to collaborate on the new version. I’ve toured all 50 states, and I can say one thing for certain — God definitely blessed Texas!”

The new version was released July 14.


Beyoncé was a proud wife this week, supporting her husband, Jay-Z, as the Brooklyn Public Library unveiled an honorary exhibition for the superstar.

The “Break My Soul” singer took to Instagram July 14 to share a series of snaps from the grand opening event. Throughout the snaps, Bey is seen posing with Jay and the couple’s daughter, Blue Ivy.

“The Book of HOV” exhibition — based on the rapper’s lyric in DJ Khaled’s 2022 Grammy-nominated anthem “God Did” — features “archived objects, including original recording masters, never-before-seen photos, iconic stage wear, prestigious awards, and recognitions, as well as videos and artifacts from every facet of Jay-Z’s professional life.”


Promo photo by Preston Hoffman

Austin-based Shane Smith and the Saints have a new album in the works, and Smith says it will include a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty,” featuring Hayes Carll.

While Van Zandt wrote and originally released the song, a story of lawlessness and betrayal, in 1972, it wasn’t until Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard teamed up for their Pancho & Lefty album in 1983 that it became the certified classic it is today.

Van Zandt once said he wrote the song in a few hours during a stay in a cheap hotel near Denton. “‘Pancho and Lefty’ drifted through the window,” he said, “and I wrote it down.”

It’s good to see contemporary artists like Smith and Carll breathing new life into the gritty outlaw spirit of the song.


Courtesy HBO Max

Amanda Shires is the scene-stealing star of an HBO documentary that chronicles the making of Reunions, an album by her husband, Jason Isbell, and his band, the 400 Unit. Jason Isbell: Running With Our Eyes Closed, now streaming on the premium channel, touches on the couple’s sometimes contentious marriage — and documents their isolation during the pandemic, including footage of Shires and Isbell recording themselves.

The filming process was more complicated than Shires originally expected. “I’d already said yes,” Shires explains. “What was I supposed to do? It’s not very Texan of me to not do what I said I would.”

Shires says it’s vital for artists to expose their vulnerabilities. “It’s more important now than ever to be vulnerable and be human and not AI robots,” she says. “Our job is to explain hard things, because many of us don’t have the vocabulary and haven’t been taught how to describe our feelings accurately.”

In addition to the documentary, Shires has released Loving You, a collection of covers of classic songs recorded with Bobbie Nelson, the late sister of Willie Nelson. The album was released June 23.


Courtesy Shaq’s Fun House

NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, otherwise known as DJ Diesel, is bringing a bass music festival to his new home state.

“I love Texas,” O’Neal, who now lives in Dallas, says. “Dubstep is what the kids like, and so I’m gonna give them what they like. They call me the ‘dubstep dad.’”

On July 11, O’Neal announced that Shaq’s Bass All-Stars Festival will take place at Panther Island Pavilion in Fort Worth Sept. 16.

The festival will have two stages with 14 different bass music artists and top dubstep DJs, including Alison Wonderland and O’Neal as DJ Diesel.


Press photo courtesy ZZ Top

Billy Gibbons says the next ZZ Top album will feature late bassist Dusty Hill and his replacement, Elwood Francis, trading licks on several songs.

The follow-up to 2012’s La Futura was already being recorded when Hill passed in July 2021. Gibbons predicts the new record could arrive this year, though he previously said he expected it to be released in late 2021 or 2022.

“Are things coming to the boil yet? Yeah,” he confirms. “In fact, we’re currently reviewing the tracks that deserve completion. Dusty is on some of those, so is Elwood. What’s fascinating is that we have three or four tracks with them both. They’re trading off. The only tell-tale difference is that Dusty, playing with his fingers, sounds a little warmer.”

He said his late bandmate was a “great guy, a swell singer. He provided a solid platform for me to solo without having to look back. He was always on it. Dusty used to say, ‘If I’m late to the stage, be sure to give my guitar to Elwood.’ Elwood is a family member; he’s been with us for three decades.”

ZZ Top and Lynyrd Skynrd begin a joint North American tour July 21. The two Texas dates are July 29 at Dickies Arena in Fort Worth and July 30 at the Cynthia Woods Pavilion in Woodlands.


Courtesy Atlantic Records

Lizzo showed some love to Taylor Swift during her tour opener in Australia July 14.

While chatting up the audience at Perth’s RAC Arena, the “About Damn Time” singer spotted a concert-goer holding up a sign that read, “I Chose You Over Taylor Swift [Heart] Can I Get a Hug?” Before addressing the complimentary message, Lizzo thanked fans for attending the performance.

“I’m going to start by saying thank you for coming to my show,” the pop-rap star said. “I know tickets are expensive to everybody’s shows, so it means the world to me that you’re here.”

She then added, “Taylor Swift is amazing as well. And you don’t have to choose, because I’m going to get you tickets to Taylor Swift! I’m just kidding.”

The singer then autographed the sign and commented, “I love TayTay too … there’s no competition here.”

Watch Lizzo react to the Taylor Swift sign at her Australia concert on Twitter here.


Courtesy VMP

The music subscription service Vinyl Me, Please has released The Story of Waylon Jennings, a vinyl box set that collects eight of the legend’s albums. It’s part of its VMP Anthology series, which includes a podcast telling the story behind the albums in the set.

The limited-edition set covers Jennings’ “Imperial Period,” from 1973 through 1981, a time where he dominated the country charts with No. 1 hits and was artistically fruitful.

The eight albums — Lonesome, On’ry and Mean (1973), This Time (1974), The Ramblin’ Man (1974), Dreaming My Dreams (1975), Are You Ready for the Country (1976), Ol’ Waylon (1977), I’ve Always Been Crazy (1978), and Leather and Lace (with Jessi Colter, 1981) — have all been remastered by Ryan Smith at Sterling Sound. The LPs come on 180g colored vinyl.

“After we did our VMP Anthology devoted to Willie Nelson [The Story of Willie Nelson], I knew our next country-focused box needed to focus on Waylon,” Andrew Winistorfer, VMP senior director and the liner notes writer for the project, said in a statement. “So many of his albums haven’t been reissued in forever, and the copies you find in record stores are among the most beloved, played and ultimately beat up records you can find.”


Morris (l) and Murph (promo photo by Sophia Matinazad)

Maren Morris has teamed with Jessie Murph to sing about broken hearts and a lover leaving them for the Lone Star State on the new single “Texas.”

“You got all the good shit, and I got consequences,” Murph sings, her voice cracking, over plaintive piano chords. “I’m cold, I’m lost, I’m ruined / And you go back to Texas.” Morris then takes over: “You came in like a one-man show / Out of town, had a couple of years on me, knew that shit I didn’t know.” A swinging rhythm comes in, and together they sing Murph’s first line of the chorus.

In the video, directed by Nicki Fletcher and Mason Allen, the two women walk around a rodeo as men ride bucking broncos, Murph raps a little, and the two women end up telling the cowpokes off.

“I’ve been singing Maren’s songs since I was a little girl,” Murph, 18, says. “She’s someone I’ve always looked up to, and I’m so grateful to have her as my first-ever feature — especially on a song I love so much.”

“Being a Texan, the title alone grabbed my attention,” Morris says. “It’s a vulnerable breakup song with teeth. Jessie is so grounded and thoughtful in what she’s doing, and I love that we got to collaborate.”


All it needs is a bandana and braids — ‘Melanoplus nelsoni’ (courtesy JoVonn Hill)

Two new species of grasshoppers recently discovered by researchers in the Lone Star State have been named after Texas music legends Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker, reports the Houston Chronicle’s Ariana Garcia. Dubbed Melanoplus nelsoni and Melanoplus walkeri, the famously named grasshoppers were found in Central Texas.

The two species are among seven previously unknown flightless grasshopper species identified by JoVonn Hill, an assistant research professor at Mississippi State University and director of the Mississippi Entomological Museum, and his team. Six of the newly discovered creatures are endemic to the Edwards Plateau. The team’s study, “Diversification deep in the heart of Texas,” was published in the scientific journal ZooKeys in June.

The researchers say they were inspired by long car trips traveling between field sites and listening to country music. “In Texas, there’s a lot of roads and a lot of time in the car between sites,” Hill says. “So you gotta listen to Texas music. I thought it would be a cool way to honor Willie and Jerry Jeff for their contributions, but also for the joy they brought us.”

Both Nelson and Walker have connections to the Edwards Plateau. Nelson, who turned 90 in April, reinvented his career in 1972 when he moved from Nashville to Austin, located just east of the region. And Walker, who died in October 2020, recorded his legendary 1973 album Viva Terlingua! in Luckenbach.


Promo photo by Vivian Wang

On her latest single, “Can You Believe,” Norah Jonas wants us to know she isn’t invisible or alone. Co-written with producer Leon Michels, the record arrived ahead of the singer’s extensive summer tour through Europe, which began July 5 in France.

“Tell me you can hear me / Tell me I’m not alone / In this whole world,” Jones sings on the single layered with soulful gospel overtones. “Can there be someone / Who I can call / Call my own?”

“Can You Believe” marks Jones’ first original release in over a year that didn’t arrive through a deluxe release or reissue, or even via a holiday record. Michels last worked with the singer on her 2021 holiday album I Dream of Christmas, which she expanded through a deluxe version last year.

But most of Jones’ latest offerings have come from the covers she has performed with guests on her podcast Norah Jones is Playing Along and the deluxe edition of her 2012 album Little Broken Hearts. She also joined the rapper Logic on the single version of his song “Paradise II” earlier this year.


Courtesy State Fair of Texas

The State Fair of Texas has revealed its music lineup for the 2023 season. Over the span of 24 days — from Friday, Sept. 29, to Sunday, Oct. 22 — at least 90 artists are set to perform on three stages, featuring, of course, many Texas acts, including headliner Lonestar, a country group consisting of five native Texans.

Other Texas performers include Brave Combo, Bowling for Soup, Matt Hillyer, Saborcito Puro, the University of North Texas’ Four O’Clock Lab Band, Rosie Flores, Cory Cross and the Burden, Courtney Patton, South Texas Homies, Vanita Leo, Clayton Mullen, and the O’s, among others. There’s also a Selena tribute band, the Selena Experience.

“It’s an honor to bring music to the Fair that is as expansive and varied as the great state of Texas itself,” says R.J. Romeo, president of Romeo Entertainment Group. “We’re thrilled to partner with the State Fair to curate an immersive and inclusive music experience. The diverse lineup spans a spectrum and styles, and it’s free to all fairgoers.”

See the full lineup here.


Courtesy Cindy Walker Foundation

One of Texas’ most accomplished songwriters and performers is the subject of an upcoming festival and fundraiser. Cindy Walker, who wrote Top 10 hits that spread over five decades — and had a Top 5 single of her own — was born in Mart, Texas, near Mexia, east of Waco. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997 before passing in 2006.

Mexia will welcome thousands to Cindy Walker Days, a downtown music festival July 21 and 22 that boasts four stages and more than 30 artists over two days. The festival is a fundraiser to help restore the historic home of Walker, who called Mexia home for more than five decades.

The festival kicks off Friday, July 21, at 10 a.m. on the Cindy Walker Stage at the corner of McKinney and Commerce Streets. The stage will face a mural of Walker that’s drawn tourists over the years.


The main stage is at Old Fort Parker between Mexia and Groesbeck. Gates will open each night at 6 p.m. Headliners including the Bellamy Brothers, Bob Wills’ Texas Playboys, Kaitlin Butts, Brennen Leigh, Sunny Sweeney, Melissa Carper and Rick Trevino.

The official after-party both nights is at the legendary Cowboy Western Club on Highway 14 in Mexia and will feature sets by the Texas Playboys, Diamondback, and Monte Warden and the Wagoneers. Doors open each night at 8 p.m.


Courtesy Houston Public Media

For the past two years, Houston’s Micah Edwards has entered National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Contest, and last year he was invited to perform a Tiny Desk Concert, the long-running music series where artists perform at the desk of NPR producer and host Bob Boilen.

Edwards, who performs a retro-soul style and describes himself as “Mr. Texas Soul,” has a unique way of describing his music. “I say ‘butter with a touch of twang,’” he explains. “It’s Motown inspired with a lot of twangy instruments on it — steel guitar, fiddle. I don’t shy away from having a flute solo and a pedal steel solo on the same song.”

And while Texas has clearly influenced his style, that wasn’t always the case. He spent his early years in California where he listened only to smooth jazz and ’70s music. However, when he moved to Humble at the age of 8, he got hooked on country. And, more recently, he’s been drawn to Tejano.

“That’s what’s so cool about Houston that we shouldn’t take for granted — the exposure to all of that,” Edwards says, “all of the cultures we have here.”

Watch his impressive video contest entry here.

Cover photo of Amanda Shires courtesy HBO Max