More than 20 years ago, a pre-teen Alejandro Rose-Garcia (better known today as Shakey Graves) boarded a yellow school bus for a field trip to Longhorn Cavern. This past December, the songwriter returned to the Texas state park for a one-of-a-kind recording project with a different perspective. “The Cavern was an hour drive from here, but in middle school it seemed like it was five hours away,” Rose-Garcia says. “It’s what you imagine when you think of a cave—rooms of crystals and cute little bats everywhere.”
Appreciation of Texas’ wonders—both musical and natural—is the inspiration behind a compilation album that features a new song by Shakey Graves and songwriter Jess Williamson. On Texas Wild, artists like Adrian Quesada (Black Pumas), Ryan Bingham, Fat Tony, Paul Wall, and Sir Woman cover other great musicians from the Lone Star State, including Destiny’s Child, Kelly Clarkson, and the Texas Tornados. The diverse pool of musicians represent a wide range of genres that includes rock, pop, hip-hop, cumbia, country, and more. The record was produced by Austin musician Walker Lukens.
For the compilation, Rose-Garcia and Williamson not only recorded a version of Daniel Johnston’s classic “True Love Will Find You in the End,” but also made a live video of the duet from inside Longhorn Cavern. The pair’s slow, atmospheric approach to the song employs reverb and drifting pedal steel notes that work perfectly with the natural acoustics of the underground chamber.
“We both sang into microphones, and we didn’t really have to amplify things that much,” Rose-Garcia says. “It’s kind of a delicate song.” In the video, he and Williamson croon casually from a perch on some huge, subterranean rocks while members of The Bright Light Social Hour serve as their backing ensemble.
Reflecting on what Johnston’s legacy has meant to her, Williamson recalls some of her earliest days in Austin, when she attended UT and would often walk by his classic “Jeremiah the Innocent” mural on Guadalupe Street. “Daniel Johnston is one of the people that was inspirational for me at that time because I felt like, Oh, a song can be simple and that’s okay, and there can be power in that,” Williamson says.
Initially released in November 2023, the Texas Wild compilation sold out quickly. Now, the album is being reissued and is available for pre-order, with an expected delivery date of March 2024. Sales from the project will benefit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
For Rose-Garcia, the music of Daniel Johnston and the gems of Texas State Parks are alike in one regard: despite their ubiquity, plenty of people still take them for granted. “I don’t want to feel jaded or overlook beautiful things about this place that I grew up in just because I’m used to them,” the songwriter says. With the Texas Wild project, he gets the chance to shine a light on both.
Watch the performance inside Longhorn Cavern in the video below.