Texas Music Mourns the Loss – Johnny Bush – Jerry Jeff Walker – Billy Joe Shaver

Billy Joe Shaver photo credit Texas Red Photography

The Texas music world has been hit hard within the past few days with the loss of three of our most iconic artists. While it is easy to say that the losses came as no shock due to their ages and health issues, it sent the entire Texas music industry reeling with the rapid sequence. We barely had time to draw in a deep breath and mourn one until another was gone.

2020 has been quite a year. I think that fact is indisputable. My intention here today is to pay tribute to these three men who dared to walk to their own beat and entertained millions of folks throughout their lifetimes.

Johnny Bush was the first to check out on October 16, 2020. Bush was probably most well known as the composer of the Willie Nelson theme song, “Whiskey River.” His given name was John B. Shin. It was an interesting mix-up that gave him the performing name of Johnny Bush when television announcer introduced him that way. When he went to pick up his musician’s union card, it was already typed up as Johnny Bush, so he went with it. He became a member of Ray Price’s band in 1963 and from there launched a solo career. But life was not kind to Bush. RCA signed him to their label in 1972, and in 1974 he developed a rare neurological disorder called spasmodic dysphonia. Although this did not prevent him from recording, Bush’s career began to take a downturn. He worked with a vocal coach in 1985, and was able to regain 70% of his original voice. His last public performance was to celebrate his 85th birthday in February 2020.

In his biography, Bush tells the twin stories of his life.

Jerry Jeff Walker is probably best know for his iconic song, “Mr. Bojangles.” He settled in Austin, Texas, in the 1970s, associating mainly with the outlaw country scene that included artists such as Michael Martin Murphey, Gary P. NunnWillie NelsonGuy ClarkWaylon Jennings, and Townes Van Zandt.

Photo Credit Austin American Statesman

Walker had a string of records for MCA and Elektra before he gave up on the mainstream music business and formed his own independent record label, Tried & True Music, in 1986. Another series of increasingly autobiographical records followed under the Tried & True imprint. The latest, Moon Child, brings Jerry Jeff’s album catalog to the grand total to thirty-three.

But it was his deep friendship with the legendary Hondo Crouch that truly set Walker on the path of making his own brand of Texas outlaw music. He was way ahead of his time with recording a live album, as it simply wasn’t being done in 1973.

¡Viva Terlingua! is a live progressive country album by Jerry Jeff Walker and The Lost Gonzo Band recorded August 18, 1973 at the Luckenbach Dancehall in Luckenbach, Texas, and released later that year on MCA Nashville Records. The album captures Walker’s strived-for “gonzo country” sound, a laid-back country base with notes of “outlaw” rock, blues, and traditional Mexican norteño and Tejano styles.

Mr. Gary P. Nunn shared this about the Viva Terlingua album in a recent interview with Texas Monthly.

“Jerry Jeff grabbed me and said, “I found this place down in the Hill Country, and it’s just got a lot of magic about it. And there’s a man down there, Hondo Crouch, and he’s got a lot of magic about him. And I want to go there and make a record. I can’t stand to go back into the studio with producers and engineers and studio musicians, they just don’t have the feel. They don’t have the magic in ’em.” That was the reason we went to Luckenbach in the first place, and he was absolutely right about that. 

So we went down there and we set up in the old dance hall. We set hay bales out on the dance floor to baffle what little instruments we had. We’d work from about one or two in the afternoon to midnight. It was just us and a few people hanging around. “

“The thing about it is, the Lost Gonzo Band guys, we just didn’t know what Jerry Jeff was going to do. And half the time, he didn’t really know what he was going to do. We were kind of just flying from the seat of our pants and Jerry Jeff was just on this magic edge. Gosh, we never went to sleep the whole time we were down there.”

Without a doubt, there will never be another Jerry Jeff Walker!

photo credit unknown

And last, but certainly not least, known as the working man’s poet, Billy Joe Shaver died from a massive stroke on October 28th.

I honestly don’t know where to start about this man. He had an eighth grade education. His mother worked in the honky-tonks in Waco and often Billy Joe went with her. That was where he first got acquainted with country music. He joined the military when he turned seventeen and took a job in a saw mill after his discharge. One day, his right (dominant) hand became caught in the machinery, and he lost the better part of two fingers and contracted a serious infection. He eventually recovered, and taught himself to play the guitar without those missing fingers.

It was said that sometime in the sixties, Shaver set out to hitchhike to Los Angeles. He couldn’t catch a ride, so he walked to the other side of the highway and caught a ride into Nashville.

But Billy Joe was a true songwriter. His songs told about “real” things in life. “Georgia on a Fast Train,” was semi-autobiographical. “I’ve got a good Christian raising and an eighth grade education, ain’t no need in y’all treating me this way…”

In 1973, Waylon Jennings recorded a full album of Shaver songs except for one. “Honky Tonk Heroes,” is touted as an important piece in the development of the outlaw subgenre in country music as it helped revive the honky-tonk music of Nashville by injecting a rock and roll attitude.

Shaver lost his wife, Brenda (who he’d married and divorced several times) and his mother in 1999. Then on December 31, 2000, Shaver lost his only son, Eddy to a heroine overdose.

Billy Joe Shaver lived a life that was bigger and wilder than any legend could contain. Shaver’s songs, full of wit, heart and plainspoken truths, could make listeners laugh, then cry, then laugh through the tears. 

If you are not familiar with this iconic songwriter and Texas legend, I highly suggest a visit to YouTube for a different view of life as told through the eyes of Billy Joe Shaver.

I’ll leave you with this one.

There is a gaping hole in the heart of the Texas Music world that will never be filled.

Through tear-filled eyes, I honor these men who blazed trails for others to follow for generations to come.

#SUNDAYSPOTLIGHT – JARROD DICKENSON @jarroddickenson

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.

PURCHASE LINK

Photo Credit: Tatsuro_Nishimura

FOLLOW JARROD DICKENSON ON SOCIAL MEDIA:

Website – https://jarroddickenson.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/jarroddickensonmusic

Instagram – https://instagram.com/jarroddickenson

Twitter – https://twitter.com/jarroddickenson


#SundaySpotlight – John ‘Pops’ Dennie – I’ve Got Something To Say @johndenniemusic

Welcome to another Sunday Spotlight! The artist in the spotlight today has something to say! He is a true-blue genuine-to-the-core man who chooses his words carefully. Then he delivers them with passion.

John Pops Dennie…honest, contemplative, sometimes…his voice is almost as thick as his big, grayish beard.” – Dallas Observer

His new album, “I’ve Got Something To Say” is timely as America trudges through a surreal 2020.

The first song on the album, “Rose Garden,” is nothing at all about the flowers and everything about the injustices of life. “We can’t feed our families on a seven dollar bill, work eighty hour weeks in conditions that kill, and we ain’t gonna live on scraps anymore…”

Since the album started out with a protest song, I thought the title track, “I’ve Got Something To Say,” would carry on that theme and to my surprise I found a great love song with a funky beat! “People say I talk too much, but I got a lot to say. When I think about your touch, I’m gonna shout it out night and day…”

“Adrift” is a poignant look at the state of affairs in America today. “I say it’s raining outside, my brother says it’s not. Sees only what he’s learned to see and he doesn’t learn a lot…He doesn’t see the fire. He doesn’t smell the smoke…”

One of the most melancholy songs I’ve ever heard, “Long Black Cadillac Train,” is a mournful refrain.

A compelling story, “Creole Lady,” is filled with powerful imagery and an easy melody. This song is the perfect example of how a writer can weave an entire story in just over four minutes. It is my #1 pick on the album. “It was a helluva day back in ’39, when they took her away to pay for her crime. Falling in love was how it all began, but she fell in love with a poor white man…”

Slowing it down, “You Can’t Hear Me” is another persuasive story song that tugged at my heartstrings.

Reminiscent, “Loving You Like Old Times,” speaks of lost love that will never be reclaimed, and it brought me to tears. “If I were a king, I would sell everything just to have you here with me again…I’d write your name across my heart in flames, if it would bring you back to me…”

“Gonna Move” is an upbeat story about a young man coming into his own.

A haunting melody, “The Pendulum Swings,” is the perfect depiction of Karma, and an addict you cannot save.

Another song that shows the versatility of this artist, “Escape From Bull Run,” takes us to a time in early American history.

The album closes with a strong statement with “Here We Are.” The lyrics say it all! “Never dreamed the likes of them would ever fall for the likes of him, oh, but but somehow, here we are…”

I cannot say enough about this album. The musical stylings run deep and wide with versatility and relevance. You’ll find everything from vintage country to rock, blues and folk. John ‘Pops’ Dennie’s twenty-four carat vocal delivery is warm and full. He is America’s conscience!

Please take a listen and pick up a copy! You will not disappointed, and at the same time, you will be supporting a music artist who is giving his heart and soul to the craft!

Follow John ‘Pops’ Dennie

FACEBOOK

WEBSITE

TWITTER

Cut out the middle man and purchase the music direct from the artist!

https://johndennie.com/

#SundaySpotlight – Tommy Alverson (Alverson 5 and 10)

Welcome to another Spotlight Sunday, where I feature talented music artists. Today, I want to introduce you to a Texas music legendary singer/songwriter, Tommy Alverson.

Tommy Alverson could easily be called the permanent face of the independent Texas country music movement. He embodies all the hallmarks of the sound, and the mindset. Rick and I first met Tommy in 2006. Tommy and his band were playing at the Comanche City Park, and a mutual friend had commissioned Rick to do a pen-and-ink-drawing of Tommy. We took it to him that day and heard him play live for the first time. We were hooked!

Pen-and-ink drawing of Tommy Alverson by Rick Sikes 2006

The next day, Tommy and the band came to our home in Coleman and visited with Rick. I’ll never forget the kindness and respect they showed to Rick that day.

At any rate, Tommy has a new CD release that I want to tell you about. When I asked why he felt compelled to release it in the midst of this pandemic, here’s what he had to say:

“I just thought it was time I put something out. It’s been a while. The songs have all been released on other projects but I thought these needed a little more attention. I felt like they fell through the cracks and I haven’t really promoted anything in along time. All this time at home has given us a lot of time to think about what we wanted to do next. We had already backed off on touring anyway, so from that aspect, the pandemic didn’t affect us that much. Our Facebook live shows have really worked out well, and we’re grateful for the support everyone has shown.”

The CD kicks off with If I’m Dreamin’. Written by Roy Robinson, Earl Musick and Mark Meritt, it talks about those times in life where the impossible happens, and if it’s a dream, don’t wake me!

Welcome To Paradise is a ‘take me back to the island’ song. And the song proves that you can have an island party anywhere. All you need is good music, good friends and good food.

One of my favorite tunes on this CD is Be Back Tuesday. Tommy’s father was a barber in the tiny town of Itasca, Texas, and this song is a childhood recollection of when Mr. Alverson would put a sign in the window of his barber shop saying, “Gone Fishing. Be Back Tuesday.” He’d load up the family and head to the coast.

Hard To Say For Sure is a Texas swing tune that will get your toes tapping. “We may have had the time of our life last night, but it’s hard to say for sure…”

A tribute to the road, Lonely Texas Highway always takes you home.

While most Texas songs about liquor consist of beer and whiskey, Tommy sings a Wine Song.

The first time I heard Troubles, I fell in love with it. The emotion, the raw grit and honesty tugged at my soul. “I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. I’m walking around blind. I think about you darlin’ nearly all the time. I haven’t punched the clock in three weeks or more. And my ol’ boots are full of holes from walkin’ the floor. Troubles, I’ve got ’em, they’re all over me…”

But my number one pick from this album is How Good a Bad Woman Feels. This song could easily be the intro to a western movie. The powerful imagery the words provide is a rare and beautiful thing. When a writer can depict such a strong scene with just a few well-placed words, it’s pure magic. “Well, his voice was gruff and his boots were scuffed as he entered those swinging doors. With a back that was bent he ordered whiskey straight up, drank it down, wanted more. With a stare as sharp as a razors edge, his vision was not all clear. But he said, “Boys, I’ve got memories of how good a bad woman feels.” If you listen to nothing else on this album, click over and listen to this one! While this is a version from another CD, the lyrics are the same.

Tommy has had the privilege of playing shows with Willie Nelson, and his song, Watchin’ Willie’s Hands shows how far back his love for this man goes.

Another favorite of mine, Lucky Ol’ Sun always gives me a carefree feeling. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just roll around heaven all day like that lucky ol’ sun?

There are love songs and then there are Tommy Alverson kinds of love songs, and Fallin’ Off a Log is one of them. “It’s like a one, two, three, abc, Sunday morning, you and me, it’s so easy, it’s so easy, like fallin’ off a log, it’s so easy…”

Take a trip south of the border for a steamy love affair on Tequila Rose, another of my favorites, and another written by Roy Robinson (aka Amos Staggs.) This song has that same powerful imagery that I talked about earlier.

The CD comes to a close with I Wish I Didn’t Love You.

I sincerely hope my humble opinion of this compilation intrigues you enough that you send for a copy. I know Tommy would appreciate it greatly.

Tommy has not set a price for this CD. He is asking for donations – whatever you think it is worth to you. I’d suggest a price, but I’d rather you choose.

Order your copy of Alverson 5 & 10 through:

VENMO: @amy-alverson-2

PAYPAL: tommy.alverson@gmail.com (Don’t forget to select the “Family and Friends” option!)

Thank you for your support of Texas Music!

SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT – DERYL DODD @Deryl_Dodd

Welcome to another SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT!!

Deryl Dodd is a Texas singer/songwriter that I’ve followed and been a huge fan of for a very long time. And, I am thrilled to turn my blog over to him today and let him share a story a new/old song with you!

Hello friends!!

I want to share a story behind a song, “Let Me Hold You Tonight.

This song is an old-fashioned country waltz. Nothing flashy about it. But it’s pure and it’s honest. And it lends itself perfectly to a cryin’ steel guitar, ( played by my friend and legend, Junior Knight ) and lonesome harmonies ( sung by the great Courtney Patton Eady, and myself ). I wrote it after a break-up at the ripe old age of 19, and man was I feelin’ blue. I had only written a few songs at that time, and the lyrics sound like it. But ya’ know, ya’ just can’t write from that place ever again … that place of innocence … of being 19 years old and having all those feelings. And to me, that’s the charm, and why I wanted to record it and share it with you. It’s how I felt my music was supposed to sound. I used to play this song acoustically in the bars back in the late 80s and early 90s. But I never recorded it until last summer – 2019. Something moved me to finally do it.

And partly because of this: It was 1991 and I had been playing music full time for about 4 years. And at this particular time, it seemed that things had kinda run their course. I thought the music ride I was on was coming to an end. But then my good friend Nancy Davis Clark, who managed a club called Cody’s in Waco TX, asked me if I’d open up for Dean Dillon who was coming to play. And of course I did. It’s DEAN DILLON !! So we did like a 20 minute set and I played this song. It was the only original song I played in the set that night. But apparently Dean was listening. Because after his show, his road manager came over to me and said that Dean would like to meet me. Yes it happened just like that. So I went backstage. He asked me if I wrote this song, and I said yes. Then, he said it was a damn good song and that I should come visit him in Nashville.

WHAT !! So I did. I packed up a few things, loaded up my little red truck and drove there. I hung out with Dean for about a week and I met all kinds of great people. It was so dang incredible. And one of these people happened to be a booking agent who asked me if I wanted a job playing at the Opryland Hotel. WHAT!?! I said yes sir !! So I drove back to Texas. But this time, when I got home, I packed up everything. And like another song I wrote says, “I moved to Nashville back in, 91…”

Never Ever Give Up On Your Dreams… God Bless You All…dd

This is an exciting moment for me! Thank you for allowing me to share with you for the very first time, the new and never before recorded, studio version of “Let Me Hold You Tonight.” Studio – Bart Rose Fort Worth Sound Acoustic – Deryl Dodd Vocals – Courtney Patton Eady Drums – Andrew Raley Bass – Kerry Wilson Steel Guitar – Junior Knight Piano – Frank Hames.

Me and Deryl Dodd several years ago.

I hope you enjoyed this story from Deryl. I’m posting links to his website, facebook, twitter and music below. If you have enjoyed this segment of Sunday Spotlight, please follow him and let him know!

WEBSITE

FACEBOOK

TWITTER

INSTAGRAM

MUSIC ON Itunes apple

SPOTIFY

AMAZON

Flowers And Stone – Book Review

I want to offer a HUGE “Thank You” to Rox Burkey for this incredibly poignant review of “Flowers and Stone!”

Honestly, I have known this author for a long time. I’ve listened to her play guitar, heard the sadness when she shared some details of her life and love of Rick Sikes, and cheered loudly at her achievements and awards. I had only read a few of her poems and a short story, until she suggested I consider Flowers and Stone.  

After book one of this first series, I am truly hooked on her writing. In this debut novel, Jan Sikes creates the scenes in a way that makes you feel you are a part of the story. I could hear the music, see characters with their smiles and tears, and more than once had to dry my eyes as emotions coursed through me at different places in this story.

This complex love story centers around Luke Stone and Darlina Flowers, an unlikely couple at first glance. Luke, an experienced musician and older man, and Darlina a young inexperienced woman, learn many lessons from each other. I like how Luke, smitten early on for this special girl, goes to extraordinary lengths to find out if he should be serious. Ms. Sikes details the steps leading up to this meeting, though this meeting touched a chord of sweetness in my heart and kept me until the end of this book.

“             The bell rang, announcing someone’s arrival.  She half turned. “May I…” She paused in mid-question, shocked to see Luke standing there with the trademark crooked grin on his face. “…Help you?” she finished.

               “That is exactly what I’ve been asking myself,” Luke replied.

               “What are you doing here?”

               “I came to see if you were for real or a figment of my imagination.”

               “For real?”

               Luke’s smile widened, “Yes, for real. You see, I thought maybe I just made you up so had to come and see.”

               Darlina didn’t reply, and Luke quickly continued, I brought you a little something.”

               She stood and walked to the open window that separated her and Luke. “Okay, what did you bring me and more importantly, why? After all, you barely know me.”

               She wondered what kind of strings might be attached to any gift from Luke Stone.

               Luke fished the small box out of his pocked and handed it to her. Their hands briefly touched, and an electrical current passed between them. She looked up at Luke, then down at the box.

               “Open it,” Luke encouraged.

               Darlina gasped as she opened the box to find the delicate gold heart necklace. “Oh, Luke, how beautiful. I’m not sure what to say.”

               “Well, you could say thank you, and you could say that you’ll have dinner with me, just me, and you could say that you’ll give a chance to redeem myself.”

From this point forward I was drawn into the story as these people travel down the road of growing up, growing together, and realizing their differences are key to their magic. In many ways he is a rogue and she is naïve, but in the 70s the music and freedom was what they both wanted and needed. Its easy to recommend this love story to college age and above. There is more to the story and thankfully more books in the series.

About the author

Author Jan Sikes

Multi-Award-Winning author, Jan Sikes, has been called a wordsmith by her peers. Jan openly admits that she never set out in life to be an author, but she had a story to tell.  Not just any story, but a true story that rivals any fiction creation.

She published four biographical fiction books about the journey of two people moving through adversity in order to grow and learn to become better humans. She believes with all her heart there is something worthy of sharing in these stories. Bits and pieces of wisdom, hard-learned lessons and above and beyond all, love. True love that you read about in fiction stories and yet this is truth. The old saying that truth is stranger than fiction fits these stories.

Jan also releases a music CD of original songs along with each book that fits the time period of the story. Why? Because the stories revolve and evolve around a passion for music.

Jan has published a book of poetry and art and nine short stories.

Author Jan Sikes is widowed, lives in North Texas, volunteers at music festivals, has five incredible grandchildren and serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas Authors Institute of History, and the Executive Council at Rave Writers’ Int’l Society of Authors. She is also a member of the Writer’s League of Texas and Authors Marketing Guild.

Connect through Jan’s website: http://www.jansikes.com
Follow Jan on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorJanSikesBooks
Follow Jan on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/rijanjks
Follow Jan’s Blog: http://www.rijanjks.wordpress.com    

I want to invite you to visit Rox Burkey’s blog site and if it interests you, please follow her! She is an avid book reviewer!

Looking Back – 2019 Music

As most of you know, I am a staff-writer for Buddy Magazine, The Original Texas Music Magazine. Because of that, I review lots of newly released music CDs throughout the year. This is a look back on some of the best of the best from Texas! The Albums are not listed in any particular order, so this is not a Top Ten list. It’s a recap of music that moved me!

An Indie artist that broke all the rules this year and came out on top was Cody Jinks!

He released an album on October 11 that premiered on the iTunes all-genre chart at #1. Then one week later, on October 18, he released a second album that did the same thing. The most impressive part of this is that, as an indie artist, he has no record label backing him and pouring tons of money into promo. He did it all on his own. So, it is my pleasure to honor these two albums.

“Each album has a theme,” Jinks said. “The Wanting is about the road life and going deeper into your art, while After The Fire is more about the home life, the settling and coming down period.”

Another album that touched me deeply was RIDE ME BACK HOME by the incomparable, Willie Nelson!

Part of this album’s appeal is that the title track, “Ride Me Back Home,” was written by a good friend of mine, Sonny Throckmorton. But, aside from that fact, it’s possibly one of Willie’s best!

Native Texan Bianca DeLeon writes about what she knows, her life growing up in the Texas-Mexico borderland. She’s lived through a lot, and it shows in her music. Her byline is “Texas Songwriter and Troubadour.” I absolutely loved reviewing her album, DANGEROUS ENDEAVOR. The first thing that struck me about this album is DeLeon’s voice. She’s gritty and gutsy with her delivery of the lyrics.

Pint-sized Jack Barksdale is making quite a name for himself in every music circle from the local DFW area to songwriter’s events across the United States. He’s twelve. Not only is he writing original material, but he also releases podcasts where he interviews other artists. Check out his YouTube page. He is one of the most amazing young artists I’ve ever seen! He released a new EP this year, Live From Niles City and it deserves to be on this list!

Here’s a YouTube video. You’ve gotta hear this kid!

Another incredibly diverse album that crossed my desk this year was FOG AND BLING By Shinyribs! It’s difficult to categorize this Austin-based band’s music. I’d say Shinyribs is an eclectic blend between New Orleans Jazz, R&B, Funk, Rock, and Psychedelic Country. It could aptly be called Swampadelic R&B.

Tom McElvain is known far and wide for his vocal prowess. But he is also fast rising to the top of the songwriting spectrum with songs like the ones found on his EP, DRIFTER. As he says, “This time it’s for the music, not the man.”  

On a side note, I am working with Tom McElvain on a book, “Lady In Red,” that will be released in May 2020! Believe me, I will be promoting it here on my blog!

Smile Into Life from Austin-based Blues-Funk Rocker, Hector Ward and his eight-piece Big Time band, is one of the most dynamic I heard all year.From start to finish, it’s solid with not one track that I wanted to skip. Ward is quoted as saying, “Listen to music…it will change your reality.”

I want to share a picture with you because, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Let me just say this man is inspiring. That is Hector Ward in the wheelchair. Listen to his music and see if you find one spec of self-pity. You won’t!

The Walk is singer/songwriter, Bonnie Bishop’s eighth album. Produced by Grammy-winner, Steve Jordan, the music connects listeners to the Texas vocal powerhouse in an intimate and personal way. I am a huge fan of her music and her honesty. She is an inspiration to women artists!

I love these two people, Andrew Jr. Boy Jones and Kerrie Lepai Jones! They are perfect ambassadors of the Dallas Blues scene and it was an honor to not only review their new CD, but to interview them for a feature in Buddy Magazine. You can read it here. Jr. Boy has been playing the blues for over five decades and no one does it better! Their new album, Jr. Boy & Kerrie’s Blues is nothing short of stellar! If you love the blues, give them a listen! Kerrie proves that a white girl CAN sing the blues!

I’ll close this post with a single off Cody Johnson’s 2019 Album, Ain’t Nothing To It. In my humble opinion this is the most sensual and sexy song I’ve heard since Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness.” Here’s Cody Johnson with “Nothin’ On.”

Maybe you are already familiar with some of this music but if you aren’t I do hope you’ll take a minute to discover something new! Thank you!

South Austin Moonlighters

It’s been a while since I turned the focus of this blog toward my other passion, MUSIC!

I want to share with you a fabulous group of talented musicians I recently had the opportunity to interview – The South Austin Moonlighters!

L-R Lonnie Trevino, Phil Hurley, Chris Beall, Daniel James

Inside the acoustic room at The Guitar Sanctuary in McKinney Texas, ready to conduct a quiet interview with The South Austin Moonlighters, the first band member comes through the door.

Daniel James oohs and aahs over the vast collection of guitars hanging on the wall, grabs one, plays a sizzling riff, then puts it back on the wall, turns around and says, “I’m just the drummer.”

That scenario set the tone for a lively interview with The South Austin Moonlighters.

The one quintessential thing that sets this group of musicians apart from other bands, is the individual talent each member brings to the table. There is no front man with sidemen backing him. These guys are all in this together on equal footing. Each member plays multiple instruments, writes, and shares in the vocals. Everyone is invested.

I wondered how this group found each other and came together.

“We were playing at South by Southwest eight years ago, and someone just mentioned that we should get together and jam sometime,” said Lonnie Trevino. “So, we agreed, thinking nothing would ever come of it, but it did. Then I booked some gigs at the Saxon Pub, and those were pure practice sessions. Three years later, when we brought Chris Beall in, it really legitimized the band. We decided this was something serious and really, really good, and it took off from there.”

And where did they come up with the band name?

Phil Hurley answered. “We were all working in other bands at the time. So, with a new project, we’d be moonlighting.”

Their newly released album, Travel Light, was recorded at a destination studio in Maurice, Louisiana and produced by New Orleans songwriter, Anders Osborne.

When I listen to any new record, there are certain tracks that stand out to me, and it always has to do with the words. That is very much the case with Travel Light.

Chris Beall, along with Amy Hooper, composed the title track.

“I’ve never been very good at writing fiction. I have to have a personal connection with the things I’m describing,” said Chris. “So, with “Travel Light,” Amy and I sat down and essentially wrote what was happening in our lives.”

Phil added. “I think one of the things that Chris is so good at, and something that we all aspire to, is to have the ability to tell something extremely personal and yet somehow give it a universal meaning that anyone can relate to.”

That describes most every song on this album. I knew there had to be a story to go along with “Machine Gun Kelly.”

“Danny Kortchmar wrote that song,” said Chris. “I wish I had written it. Our record label president heard us playing the song live and wanted us to include it on this album.”

Another song that I found to be compelling was “Dug Down Deep,” written by Chris Beall.  

“It’s a true story, a miracle that happened in my life,” said Chris. “It’s about my dad. He was a motorcycle racer, and he was badly injured in an accident when I was three. The doctor came out to tell my mom that he was deceased when they suddenly got a pulse. So, it was this progression every step of the way. They said he’d probably never come out of the coma, but he did. Then they said he’d never be able to walk again, and he did. So, it’s all about digging down deep and finding that well of strength to overcome anything.”

In this collection of compelling story songs, “Daylight Again,” closes out the album with a fusion of harmony that the South Austin Moonlighters are well-known for.

Phil Hurley said, “This is a song that Crosby, Stills, and Nash closed each set with back in the day. We loved it, so, Lonnie looked around and found a version with more verses. It is very provocative, kind of a civil war story that we knew we had to approach differently. It was early one morning in the studio. Chris picked up this beautiful little parlor guitar that belongs to Anders Osborne, and I grabbed something else, and we started playing. It turned out his guitar was tuned to A432 instead of A440. A432 tuning is known as spiritual tuning. Anyway, we just started singing, and it came together on such an incredible level. That was the base we built the track from.”   

Photo by Darleen McAdams

I had the pleasure of watching the South Austin Moonlighters perform inside the beautiful Guitar Sanctuary venue. While it was a joy to meet and interview this talented group of men, witnessing the magic they make on stage climaxed the entire experience.

If you have a chance to catch a live show, I highly recommend it. If not, at least pick up this new album, Travel Light, and be prepared for pure entertainment.

This song give me goosebumps! The harmony is perfection!

Enjoy!

New Young Artist – Triston Marez

It’s been a while since I featured a music artist on my blog and this young man really got my attention.

I interviewed him for Buddy Magazine, but it has gotten pushed back for the past two months, so I decided to feature Triston Marez here. I hope you enjoy the introduction!

Triston Marez

Not only Sings Country Music – He lives it!

Houston native, Triston Marez is making inroads in the world of traditional country music.

Marez’s sound isn’t just centered around country music; it’s woven through his entire 22 years. Yes, you read that right ― twenty-two years. As a member of a musical family, Marez started playing guitar at the age of six, and his first live performance was a Buck Owens song in a first-grade talent show.

Things changed drastically for Marez when he won the 2014 talent show at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

“I had entered the talent competition in 2013 and placed as a finalist but didn’t win. So, I spent the next year working hard and getting ready to enter again. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is a big deal in Houston, and to win it gave me the confidence I needed to go ahead and really jump into the music business.”

Marez worked as a ranch hand and even rode bulls to support his music habit while waiting for a break.

It is obvious that he loves country music, but what caught my ear about this young man is the quality of his voice. He reminds me of a very young Mark Chesnutt or perhaps Alan Jackson. Smooth as silk vocals with good looks and confidence, he easily commands the stage with the ease of a seasoned performer.

With his new EP, That Was All Me, he spins sagas of long nights, former flames, and new love with simplistic honesty.

That Was All Me opens with remarkable classic country music that dominates the album throughout with fiddle and steel guitar. But it’s the vocals and lyrics that carry it across the finish line.

It’s hard to believe someone so young could write such compelling tunes. “That Was All Me,” replays a night of honky-tonking and drinking with your sweetheart. “When I said I ain’t drunk/It was the neon buzzin’/I danced all night/It was the jukebox jumpin’/When I let you take my hat/It was whiskey #3/But when I told you that I love you, Baby, that was all me.”

My pick from the EP, “Reservations for Two” with sweet fiddle refrains, had a story.

“I know this is going to sound cheesy, but when I was in school, I had a high school sweetheart,” Marez said. “So, on Valentine’s Day in our senior year, I wanted to do something different. I told her not to dress fancy and that I’d pick her up. Then, I drove us to our favorite spot in the country where I had a table set up with candles and flowers and the whole works. She was surprised, and it was probably the most romantic thing I ever did. It was great, but when it got dark, she got scared, and we left. But it was that scene that inspired the song.”

It ain’t the whiskey making Marez “Dizzy.” It’s a fledgling love found out on the dance floor.

The song from the EP getting a lot of radio airplay, “Where Rivers are Red and Cowboys are Blue” takes us back to the time of poignant rodeo tunes and a former love. With a lone coyote howling in the night, he’s not the only one that feels alone.

The EP ends with “Here’s to the Weekend.” Marez gives his unique perspective on the grind of a work week and living for another weekend.

Triston Marez is a young man with a bright future in country music. His voice is pitch perfect and mature beyond his twenty-two years. To follow and keep up with his tour dates, check out his Facebook and Twitter pages!

Redemption – Tom McElvain CD Review

Redemption

RELEASE DATE JUNE 22!

AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER

There is only a hand full of male artists around with the vocal prowess of Tom McElvain. And few who would dare to expose the cold hard facts of addiction and recovery like McElvain does on his new CD, Redemption.

 Recorded at the famed Sonic Ranch in far West Texas, and produced by Joe Austin and Charles Godfrey, the theme running through Redemption is the struggle of a man tumbling to the bottom and the strength and determination it takes to climb back from the darkness into light and love.

McElvain faces his demons head-on with “Lady in Red.” Started during his meth phase, he compared the swirl of blood in the hypodermic needle to a lady in a red dress…dancing, taunting, pleasing. “I’d sell my soul to the devil, Lord for one more night/Lady in red dance for me…”

Written from the point-of-view of a single parent, “Why” is an apology for not being there for the kids. Running from problems comes easy for some and “Anywhere” describes a young man’s need to avoid commitment.

Keeping with the theme, “High” tells the story of a carefree journey down a rabbit hole with a companion that gets lost along the way. “They’re telling us we’re stoned/Like to think we’re just high/But I took your tender heart and gave it a jagged edge…”

Hurt, regret and anger drive “Goodbye.” It’s never easy to say goodbye and McElvain wrings pure emotion from every word.

Facing a desperate darkness, hitting rock bottom is the place where you decide whether to live or die. “Crank Thinking” takes you into that dark place where McElvain sits with a “Bible in one hand and a pistol in the other…” This song stood out to me for many reasons, but the raw and honest lyrics delivered only the way McElvain can, should be a theme song for every drug and alcohol rehab facility.

The entire vibe takes a serious turn with “Miracles.” It is a beautiful flowing and uplifting song. “Miracles are born every day.” The next dip on this rollercoaster ride of songs grabs your attention with raucous laughter and driving guitar licks. “Hands of a Woman” is a love song like no other. McElvain admits that “Whiskey Song” was written for his wife and the salvation she brought into a shattered life. The expression of that love continues with “Damn I Love You.” It is a story of surviving years together with an honest and steadfast love intact.

Written with his wife, Christi, “Here’s To You” is a tribute to the songwriters. “Hard times can make you humble/If you learn from your pain/They say we all make our own mistakes/There ain’t nothing wrong with that…”

Redemption closes with McElvain’s acoustic version of “House of the Rising Sun.” The depth of his vocals will raise the hairs on your arms. I remember hearing him sing this song live for the first time, and I had chills from head to toe. See for yourself.

Superb arrangement, delivery, and production, Redemption is a no-holds-barred must for any music-lover’s collection. If you are not acquainted with the phenomenal writing and vocal talents of Tom McElvain, this album is the perfect introduction!

Redemption is set for release on June 22 through Smith Music Group. The album is available now for pre-order on Amazon.  For more visit http://www.tommcelvain.com.

**PUBLISHED IN BUDDY MAGAZINE, MAY 2018 ISSUE**

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