Since we are only days away from Halloween, I wanted to do a post about songs that have the ability to make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.
I can’t wait to hear from each of you, about your favorite haunted song.
I think for most of us growing up in the seventies, we automatically think of Hotel California by the Eagles. “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave…” The songwriters on this classic are Don Felder, Don Henley and Glenn Frey.
I have a couple of favorites that never fail to cause the hairs on my arms to stand on end. The first is a song by Guy Clark.
The Guitar was co-written by Guy Clark and Verlon Thompson.
“The guitar almost played itself and there was nothing I could do. It was gettin’ hard to tell just who was playing who…”
But it’s the last line that really gets to me. “There was something spooky in his voice, and something strange on his face, and when he shut the lid, I saw my name was on the case…”
Welcome to another Sunday Spotlight! I am super excited to introduce today’s artist! He has released two new albums in 2020 and the one I am going to let him tell you about today is Under A Texas Sky.
The album cover alone conjures up all sorts of musical visuals! But just wait until his voice and delivery of these tribute songs! I love to listen to couples make music together and Jarrod’s wife, Claire, can be heard on each of the songs along with him.
But I’ll let Jarrod tell you about it in his own words!
Texas. The word alone conjures up images of larger than life characters, and a vast and sprawling landscape. The lines between reality and myth are often blurred when it comes to The Lone Star State, and the truth is you can’t truly have one without the other. Texas is a world unto itself, and its inhabitants are as unique as the state they call home.
I grew up in a medium-sized city in Texas called Waco, which is situated equidistant between Dallas and Austin along Interstate 35. As a native Texan, I’ve always been aware of the rich musical heritage of my home state, but as one often does with the place they’re from, I took it for granted. It wasn’t really until I moved away from Texas that the music that grew out of that same soil from which I came truly started to grab a hold of me. For quite a while now I’ve wanted to pay tribute to the many great artists from The Lone Star State, and thus Under A Texas Sky was born.
Under A Texas Sky is a collection of songs by classic, fellow Texas-born artists that have inspired me and my own musical journey. Choosing just five artists from the state of Texas was a feat in itself, and one can’t even begin to scratch the surface of the incredible music that has come out of Texas in just five songs. That said, I wanted to show the diversity of the music that has come from my home state, and I wanted to choose artists and songs that maybe weren’t immediately obvious to the listener. With that in mind, this EP features my own renditions of songs by Roy Orbison, Esther Phillips, Willie Nelson, Doug Sahm and Guy Clark. Each of these artists, along with so many others, have made an enormous impact on my own musical path.
1. Uptown – (Roy Orbison)
Roy Orbison, born in Vernon, TX, is one of the early pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll, and the epitome of cool. He had an unmistakable sound and a golden, crooner-like voice that most singers would give their right arm for. With artists like Roy, I wanted to be careful not to choose a song that was too obvious, or too big a hit, but rather dig a little deeper into their catalogs to find hidden gems. ‘Uptown’ was originally released as a single by Roy Orbison in 1959, and later made another appearance on his ‘A Black & White Night’ concert special from 1988. The song itself is a straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll shuffle, with big, roomy drums by Josh Hunt, a driving bass line by Ted Pecchio and call-and-response backing vocals by Claire Dickenson and Stephanie Jean, who became affectionately known as “The Ward Sisters” during this session. This was the first song we recorded for the Under A Texas Sky project, and it set the mood for the rest of the session.
2. Try Me – (Esther Phillips)
When thinking of artists born in Texas, Esther Phillips is likely not one of the first names that would jump to mind, but this native of Galveston, TX was a powerhouse R&B singer who heavily influenced many artists who came after her. “Try Me” is a song written by Jimmy Radcliffe and Buddy Scott that she released as a single in 1966, and which featured the horn of King Curtis on the recording. Esther Phillips’ voice is haunting and full of yearning. This minor blues song knocked me off my feet the first time I heard it, and it has been a favorite of mine ever since. I wanted to try to capture the energy and longing and tension that her original version featured, while also putting my own spin on the tune. I played a warbling, staccato Leslie guitar part on this song that provided the bed that everything else sat atop. JP Ruggieri played a blistering guitar solo, while my wife Claire and Stephanie Jean, of the duo Ida Mae (known together as “The Ward Sisters”) provided hypnotizing backing vocals that glue the entire track together.
3. Seven Spanish Angels – (Willie Nelson + Ray Charles)
Any collection of Texas music, no matter how big or small, would be woefully incomplete without the inclusion of The Red Headed Stranger. Willie Nelson, born in Abbott, TX, has never been one to simply go with the grain, and do what’s expected. He has spent his entire career effortlessly weaving in and out of countless genres while always staying true to his unique voice and style. Willie was another artist with whom I was careful not to choose the most obvious song for this project. In fact, the song we recorded was originally a duet between Willie Nelson and Ray Charles for Ray’s 1984 album “Friendship”. Now, obviously Ray Charles was not born in Texas, so you may ask why he’s included in a collection of songs by Texas-born artists? To that I would say that Ray Charles is an American treasure who should be celebrated at every possible opportunity, and also that it’s my EP, so I make the rules! We wanted this song to be a big, gospel singalong, with foot stomps and hand claps and big Hammond organ swells. Chris Turpin, one half of the husband-wife duo Ida Mae, plays a beautifully musical resonator solo on this track, while Stephanie Jean, who makes up the other half of the bluesy duo holds down a throbbing Wurlitzer groove, and joins the chorus of voices.
4. I’m Glad For Your Sake (But Sorry For Mine) – (Doug Sahm)
Doug Sahm is hardly a household name these days, but those in the know are devout followers of this San Antonio native’s music. Sahm was a young musical prodigy, being offered a permanent spot on The Grand Ole Opry at the age of thirteen. Sahm, however, chose a different musical path, and with his bands The Sir Douglas Quintet and later the Texas Tornados, he became a trailblazer for what we now call “Americana music”. Sahm was one of the first to mix genres like Blues, Jazz, Country, Tejano and Rock ‘N’ Roll together to form an entirely new and unique sound. He was also among the first white artists to form a band with Hispanic musicians at a time when the American south was still a fairly segregated place. The song “I’m Glad For Your Sake” was originally recorded by Ray Charles in 1952, but it’s the Sir Douglas Quintet version from their 1968 Honkey Blues album that first really turned me on to the music of Doug Sahm. It had everything; Texas Blues at its finest. It swung, Sahm’s vocal was soulful and strong and the horns were out of this world. For our version, we didn’t have the brass, but we had a grooving rhythm section, a big Hammond organ and ‘50s Doo-Wop style backing vocals laid down by The Ward Sisters.
5. Dublin Blues – (Guy Clark)
When I had the initial idea of the Under A Texas Sky project, Guy Clark was the first artist that I knew I had to include. I discovered Guy’s music later than perhaps I should have since I grew up in Texas. It was until I had moved to Nashville (for the first time) in 2010 that my roommate at the time got me hip to his music. His songs stopped me in my tracks, much like John Steinbeck’s novels had stopped me in my tracks when I first discovered them. Guy Clark changed the way I thought about writing songs and telling stories. He was an absolute master of the craft, and remains a giant inspiration to me to this day. Clark grew up in Monahans, TX, which he described as being “between Pecos and nowhere”. His song “Dublin Blues” has been a song that my wife, Claire and I have sung together for several years now, and it’s always been a favorite in our live sets. This is the most stripped back song on the EP. We recorded it live, all in a circle with myself on acoustic guitar, Claire and I singing together, JP Ruggieri on pedal steel, Ted Pecchio on bass and Chris Turpin on his National resonator. It was a magical moment in the studio, and a fitting closer to the EP.
Under A Texas Sky was recorded live alongside good friends and musical cohorts in our current home of Nashville, TN at Johnny Duke’s Spirit Radio Studio. I tried to inject myself and put my own spin on these classic songs that have meant so much to me over the years. I hope you enjoy listening to these songs as much as I enjoyed recording them.
Once in a great while, in life, someone walks into it that leaves such a large footprint you are forever touched. And so it was with Richard J. Dobson (aka Don Ricardo).
Roxy Gordon was an American Indian activist, a poet, and storyteller. And, he was a friend and spirit brother to Rick and myself. It was he and his wife, Judy, who introduced Rick and myself to Ricardo in December 1999. He and his bride-to-be, Edith, had come to Coleman to visit Roxy and Judy and to get married in the Coleman County Courthouse. I didn’t get to attend the actual wedding ceremony because I had to work, but this picture was taken in our music room the night before.
The first song I heard Ricardo play and sing in our home, was “Piece of Wood and Steel.”
There was a little controversy that arose when David Alan Coe released it on an album and listed himself as the writer. That eventually got straightened out.
“Richard is a huge, gentle bear of a man with a rollicking, roll-with-the-punches attitude toward show business success or lack of same,” Robert Oermann wrote in The Tennessean in 1983. He added, “He’s a man-child who has retained the wide-eyed wonder of youth as he has become a godfather to the new generation of struggling pickers.”
That description fits the man perfectly. He made more than twenty albums and had songs recorded by artists such as Johnny Cash and Guy Clark. He is mentioned in Rodney Crowell’s song “Nashville 1972” as a poet. Another apt description.
But on a deeply personal level, Ricardo’s music touched me in a way that only “truth” and “real” can do.
Anytime life gets tough for me, I have one go-to as far as soothing music for my soul. It is none other than “Rockin’ To The Rhythm of the World.” It always puts me back in sync.
And there is another that I carry the lyrics to in my wallet and have for well over fifteen years called “Useful Girl.” I was that useful girl and it spoke to me in ways I can’t explain. The song was written from a true story (as many of Richard’s songs were). He loved history and loved, even more, expressing it in the poetry of song.
When the news came that Richard J. Dobson had passed away, my heart broke into a million pieces. I know that death is as much a part of life as is birth, but it doesn’t lessen the blow or the grief. I want everyone to know what an amazing artist and person Richard J. Dobson was. He was a true friend to Rick and myself and continued to be to me, after Rick’s passing.
This picture was taken at our music store a year or so before Rick passed away.
Ricardo wrote a song telling Rick’s story, “The Old Rhythm Rebel.” I am happy that he wrote and recorded it while Rick was still alive to hear it and be able to appreciate and acknowledge the honor he felt.
This post is longer than I normally make, but there isn’t any way to make it shorter and express what’s in my heart. I loved Ricardo like a brother. I was thrilled for him when I received his email telling me that his work was being archived in the Woodson Research Center at Rice University in Houston, Texas. Well, there simply isn’t enough room in this post to list all of his accomplishments including a film debut in “Heartworn Highways.”
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