How to fall in love with Lone Star country

It’s Rachel again. Now that you know your way around the rodeo, I’d like to introduce you to Texas country music.

For you country skeptics out there, don’t write me off just yet. I used to be one of you. Even after I began to enjoy country on occasion, I still took issue with the highly processed Nashville crap I encountered on the radio.

Yes, I’m generalizing””I don’t dislike all of it””but for the most part, that music feels rather hollow to me. I grew bored with endless songs about trucks and beer, or girls riding in trucks and girls drinking beer. I mean, seriously, how many songs can you write about the exact same subject?

As a relatively new listener, I didn’t really know where to look for good country music. Gradually, though, friends began to expose me to different artists, and I’ve officially changed my mind about country now that I’ve found a niche. Texas country artists produce music that is authentic, complex and raw. It feels intimate, written not for mass distribution but for the sheer act of creation.

Plus, these artists put their instruments to damn good use, often with guitar riffs to rival any rock band; my inner classic rocker rejoices at the mellower-yet-still-awesome sound.

Some of my favorite groups at the moment include Wade Bowen, the now-disbanded No Justice, Casey Donahew Band and Stoney LaRue.  What do all of these artists have in common? Higher quality music than what you’ll find on most country radio stations””and a fraction of those artists’s popularity. Despite that quality, though, you’ll rarely hear their music on mainstream country stations. Once you do give them a listen, you’ll wonder, as I do, why these musicians have struggled to gain popularity.

So what makes these artists so great, in my very subjective opinion?

For one thing, I’ve found that Texas country music contains much more variety within each artist’s body of work. From lyrical subject matter to strictly instrumental aspects, most songs are unique creations; few sound the same.

After being unable to distinguish between Luke Bryan songs when they come on the radio, the quality is refreshing. There is a difference between simplicity and repetition.

Here’s a case in point. One of my favorite songs at the moment is Wade Bowen’s “West Texas Rain,” which has enough figurative language to delight any English major and a gorgeous””yet simple””melodic chord progression.Its soulful ruminations on the passage of time feel incredibly real.

And in that quality lies this music’s greatest appeal: it doesn’t bombard us with glorified tropes of “country” life. Instead, it feels relatable””one of the most powerful qualities a song can have.

To further prove my point: also by Bowen is “Songs About Trucks,” which””in sharp contrast to the introspective “West Texas Rain”””playfully mocks the aforementioned obsession with trucks and beer. See? Variety.

If you’re in the mood for some great live music, I’ve noticed that these kinds of groups rarely””if ever””disappoint, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to see them. Floore’s Country Store and Cowboys frequently host pretty awesome live acts (schedules are posted on each venue’s website); plus, these venues are relatively small, which makes the experience more intimate. I highly recommend checking them out!

I hope I’ve encouraged you to explore this music for yourself. What I’ve shared is only the very, very simple perspective of one delighted discoverer still in the early stages of investigation (and working within a word count). I have no doubt that there’s more to find.

I know I might sound like a country hipster, but I assure you that’s not the case. I just like good music. Don’t you?