Waco-bred Pat Green became a statewide celebrity 25 years ago with a song bearing a simple message: “I Like Texas.” In the early aughts, Green’s music bridged the gap between eras of Texas country; he drew comparisons to legends like Jerry Jeff Walker and Robert Earl Keen, as well as younger hitmakers like Cory Morrow and Jack Ingram. Fittingly, his new radio show for Apple Music, Don’t Mess With Texas Radio, aims to elevate the music from Green’s home state. “Since iTunes and Apple Music came along, they’re the big dogs on the block,” says the 48-year-old, who lives in Fort Worth. “So I felt honored to be their guy for the Texas music scene; and I felt, obviously, that any exposure we can get right now during the craziness of 2020 … I should just take that opportunity and run with it.” Green is one of Texas’ most admired musical figures, a warm frontman who worked his way up from college bars to become an enduring home state hero with a national following. Every month on Don’t Mess With Texas Radio, he offers swinging, shuffling, roots-rocking songs, as well as interviews with legendary Texans and must-hear up-and-comers. Featured guests on episodes thus far, which began streaming in November, have included Eli Young Band, Aaron Watson, William Clark Green and Bri Bagwell.
Susan Gibson, the songwriter behind “Wide Open Spaces” has released a new single that celebrates and thanks nurses across the country for what they’ve had to endure over the past year. “Compassionate Combat” was out on all streaming services March 10, and a new video, directed by Brent Tallent, has been posted for the song on YouTube as well. In conjunction with the release, Gibson has launched a new website, compassionatecombat.com, to create awareness, share stories, say thank you and raise money for the the American Nurses Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund.
The Chicks left no stone unturned during a recent interview on Apple Music’s Essentials Radio — especially when it came to discussing why they walked away from being called the Dixie Chicks. The 12-time Grammy winners — Natalie Maines plus sisters Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire — changed the group’s name in June 2020 during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests. Maguire reflected on facing pressure over the past several years to drop “Dixie” from the name due to the word’s affiliation with the antebellum South. “That needed to happen for quite some time,” she said. “With George Floyd’s murder and everything that started happening with Black Lives Matter, we were like, ‘Oh my God. We’ve got to do this and do this as soon as possible.’” Maines added that rebranding the band was unexpectedly freeing for them, adding, “You didn’t even know you were carrying that weight until it was gone.” With a laugh, Maines also noted that changing their name to the Chicks was an eye-opening experience. “That’s a way cooler name,” she notes. “What were we so scared of?”
Coming 2 America, starring Eddie Murphy and released March 5 on Amazon Prime Video, is a Hollywood project by way of Denton. “I can honestly say I scored my first film at the University of North Texas,” University of North Texas alum and composer Jermaine Stegall says. Stegall has scored about two dozen films but none bigger than his latest project, which came about after he connected with Paramount’s director of music. “Coming 2 America was the next movie they were going to be tackling,” Stegall explains. “And he had this look in his eye like, ‘You might be a good fit for that.’” Stegall got to work composing even before he got the gig. “Two weeks later, I’m sitting in a room with the director, playing him music I’d written,” Stegall recalls. “Everyone was looking at each other like, ‘Ah, not only do we like it but we need to use it before shooting.” Among the musicians Stegall hired for his orchestra was Scott Tixier, a Grammy-winning jazz violinist and assistant professor at UNT. The movie is a sequel to 1988’s Coming to America, also starring Murphy.
A shooting on Interstate 85 in suburban Atlanta March 5 claimed the life of rising Texas rap artist Corey Detiege. Detiege, from Sugar Land, who performed under the stage name Chucky Trill, died at an area hospital after the predawn shooting, police said. Cpl. Collin Flynn, a department spokesman, said someone pulled up beside Detiege’s car and opened fire around 3 a.m. Rapper Bun B was among several artists who expressed condolences on social media after Detiege’s death. “This was a good man — humble, hard-working, loyal, determined, focused,” Bun B posted. “He had the talent, and he put everything he had in it. We’re heartbroken this morning. Buy or stream his music and let’s keep his memory alive. #RIPChuckyTrill.”
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Annie Clark has been teasing her upcoming album of late, with posters touting its “warm Wurlitzers and wit, glistening guitars and grit” and “sleaze and style for days.” But now it’s official: St. Vincent’s sixth album, Daddy’s Home, comes out on May 14. The title comes from the inspiration behind the album: Clark began writing this record following the end of her father’s prison sentence, a nine-year incarceration for what she’s described as “white-collar nonsense.” According to the Daddy’s Home press release, the music is inspired by old vinyl records Clark listened to with her dad growing up, so the album is taking on a ’70s-influenced sound, particularly tied to “music made in sepia-toned downtown New York from 1971-1975.” Jack Antonoff is back as co-producer, but the album promises to be miles removed from 2017’s Masseduction. As Clark says in the release, “Daddy’s Home collects stories of being down and out in downtown NYC. Last night’s heels on the morning train. Glamour that’s been up for three days straight.”
A music business in one small East Texas town is popular with heavyweights in the music industry, so much so that it gets its business from around the globe. Action Sound, almost hidden in the quiet downtown of Hawkins, is known to lots of people in the music industry — those who’ve have played with the likes of Bob Dylan, Lefty Frizzell and David Bowie. “There’s only one Kelly Barber, thank God,” says musician Doyle Dukes, “but thank God there is one.” Mind you, Barber (pictured, above) is modest about his fame. In fact, he began selling and repairing instruments part-time. Then, thanks to word of mouth, “it just took off like wildfire.” People from all over the world come to his shop to get their instruments repaired. “We’ve had people from Russia, England, Sweden, Switzerland,” Barber says. “A gentleman came in and had this accent. I asked ‘Where are you from?’ He said Australia. And I started singing that Men at Work song, ‘I come from the land down under.’ And he said, ‘I was the drummer in that band!'” Barber is known for making or repairing instruments that are perfect. So perfect, in fact, that Dykes, a former musician on the television show Hee Haw, says that’s precisely what brings artists to Barber. “I’ve entrusted some pretty special instruments to Kelly,” Dykes says, “and there aren’t too many people in the world I’d do that with.”
Willie Nelson’s new Frank Sinatra–inspired album, That’s Life, opened at No. 1 on Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart (dated March 13). It’s his third chart-topper on that list, but the album also sits atop the Traditional Jazz Albums list, Nelson’s fourth No. 1 there. (On both charts, ironically, Sinatra himself is runner-up at No. 2 with the popular 2015 hits set, Ultimate Sinatra. At 87 years old, Nelson is still writing music and says he “wouldn’t change a thing” about his life. “If I changed anything in the back,” he explains, “it would change where I am now. And I really like where I am now.”
Nelson also says he’ll have a new book on shelves this summer. According to a release, Willie Nelson’s Letters to America, due out June 29, is a reminder to readers of the “endless promise and continuous obligations of all Americans — to themselves, to one another, and to their nation — to stand with unity, resolve, and faith.” Along with ruminations on our country, Letters to America includes Nelson’s thoughts on family, leadership and, naturally, music. His lyrics are woven throughout the book, which includes letters titled “Dear America” and “Dear Road.” Nelson collaborated on the book with Turk Pipkin, a contributing editor at Texas Monthly, who also teamed up with the songwriter on 2006’s The Tao of Willie.
The Texas Chapter of the Recording Academy will gather members, including past and current Grammy winners and nominees, for Texas Music Advocacy Day on March 30. The members will meet with state representatives and senators to advocate for music professionals and address additional relief needed for music makers, venues and live event professionals affected by the pandemic. Participants will include multi-Grammy winner Yolanda Adams, multi-Grammy nominee Bun B and Grammy-nominated rapper Paul Wall, all from Houston; Grammy-nominated engineer Tim Palmer, of Austin; Grammy-winning producer Gilbert Velasquez from San Antonio; and San Marcos’ multi-Grammy nominee Ruthie Foster.