Wavelength 7/5/08

The theme for the July 5 Wavelength was “Songs for Texas.” Here is the playlist. I had fun pulling together the songs for this show.

I recently upgraded to a new iMac desktop computer with a lot of space on the hard drive. I am in the process of putting my entire CD collection on the computer which will make it much easier to search for songs for the show. I scanned through the titles of all the songs (I have about 26,000 songs now and will end up with probably about 40,000 when every thing is transferred) and found about 120 that seemed to have something to do with Texas.

From that initial group, I selected probably 35 or so songs that I knew for sure I wanted to play. I eliminated a number of duplicate versions and for a few artists I whittled down the possibilities to three songs each (due to government regulations concerning radio programs streamed on the internet, I can only play three songs from any one artist during the show). There were several songs that I wasn’t sure would work, so I listened to those and eliminated some that way. Eventually, I narrowed things down to 53 songs that I would take to the radio station.

I didn’t have a clear plan beyond playing as many of these 53 song as I could (I ended up playing 40, meaning 13 great songs were left out). There were a few people I ended up not playing that I should have (such as Willie Nelson, Lyle Lovett, and Hayes Carll). But I was pretty happy with how the show turned out.

I ended up playing three songs each by Guy Clark and Terry Allen (plus a fourth song that Allen wrote that Robert Earl Keen played), and two songs each by Emmylou Harris, Robert Earl Keen, and Ray Wylie Hubbard. So I thought I would mention recommended albums from each of these artists.

Terry Allen, as characterized by All Music Guide, writes “words [that] aim to question and confront hard day-to-day realities, rather than offer conservative clichés or maudlin comforts to shield listeners from those very day-to-day realities. He does so with a humor and irreverence that will also find little sympathy in Nashville or Middle America.” His most highly regarded record is 1995’s Lubbock (On Everything). The songs from this record I played include the hilarious “The Great Joe Bob (A Regional Tragedy)” about a star football player gone bad, “The Wolfman of Del Rio,” kind of a tribute to Wolfman Jack’s early career but more a coming of age story about two young people who kind of find each other, and “Flatland Farmer” about real country music linked with life on the land.

Guy Clark is a contemporary of Terry Allen’s. Like Allen, Clark also grew up in west Texas. However, while Allen stayed there (in Lubbock), Clark relocated first to Los Angeles (that didn’t last long; his leaving L.A. was memorialized in his classic song “L.A. Freeway”), then to Houston. Clark has produced a long series of great, low-key, thoughtful records, but has never surpassed his first release, Old No. 1. Virtually every song on this record, first released in 1975, has become a classic–such as “Coat from the Cold,” “L.A. Freeway,” “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” and–the song played on this show–“Texas – 1947.”

Ray Wylie Hubbard, who first gained notice as the writer of the drunken anthem “Up Against the Wall, Red-Neck Mother” in the 1970s, has made a name for himself in recent years as an extraordinarily thoughtful (and still funny) singer-songwriter. My favorite Ray Wylie record is his 2005 album, Delirium Tremolos. One of my favorite songs on this record, “Dallas After Midnight,” captures Ray Wylie’s sensibilities as well as anything he has done–kind of wild, reflective, portraying life in Texas at its grittiest.

I first learned of Robert Earl Keen’s music in the early 1990s when a friend of mind happened to hear Robert Earl’s song, “Corpus Christi Bay” on the radio. My friend told me this was one of those rare songs that you fall in love with the very first time you hear it and don’t expect ever to fall out of love with. On that recommendation, I purchased the CD that song was on, A Bigger Piece of Sky, and liked the entire record on first listen. “Corpus Christi Bay” immediately became my favorite of all the good songs on Robert Earl’s record. He has recorded many fine songs and records since then, but this song still remains my favorite. It’s a catchy song with a great story that combines humor and penetrating insight.

Emmylou Harris needs no introduction. She remains one of the greatest of Wavelength-type recording artists. I don’t think I can name a definitively favorite Emmylou record, but 1995’s Wrecking Ball is certainly near the top of the list.

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