In recent months, the North Texas country community has produced some solid albums, and future months will witness the release of anticipated records from Somebody's Darling, Grant Jones and Ronnie Fauss. While vets like Eleven Hundred Springs, Tejas Brothers, the King Bucks, Nate Kipp and Mo Robson continue to release albums that make for rowdy times at Adair's or Love & War in Texas, there are plenty of other country artists in our neck of the woods that have been offering up some beer-swilling, bro-hugging, shuffle-worthy records.
Michael Donner and the Southern Renaissance This isn't necessarily a new record (released in September 2011), but the band has been seen and heard more around town lately, and not enough has been said about their latest album, No Better Time.The Donner-led five piece provides a smooth record filled with the kind of folk-tinged country-rock that recalls a chilled-out, Laurel Canyon studio session where the only thing more important than the music are the vibes in the room. RIYL: Walt Wilkins, Dawes, Buffalo Springfield, Deadman.
Robby White & The Tejas Gringos White has been playing the better honky-tonks around the state for some time now, and while he's shown a tendency to lean on the crutches of Texas outlaw songs, White's also displayed an ability to be clever when he writes, regardless of subject matter. On his newest album, Small Town Outlaw, White has a couple of talented co-writers and even picks tunes written by the likes of Keith Gattis and Michael Ethan Messick, both killer tunesmiths in their own right. The result is a rambunctious record that flexes its beer-joint muscle while having a hell of a time. RIYL: Jackson Taylor, Waylon Jennings, Eric Church and shooting holes through cans of Lone Star after drinking a case or ten of the liquid gold.
The Bird Dogs The second release from this five-piece, led by big-time radio personality George Dunham of 1310 The Ticket, is notable not for the local-celebrity factor, but for the overall improvement evident on Fool Hearted Dreams. The band's self-titled EP was a decent yet uneven country collection by a new band still figuring it all out. Dunham was also learning his way around the mic, but made up for it with a sincerity obvious to any who listened. The decision to bring in studs such as Matt Pence of Centro-matic (producer and percussion on select tunes) and Brady Black, the all-world fiddle/mandolin player from the Randy Rogers Band, made a significant contribution to the band's progress on record. RIYL: Randy Rogers, The King Bucks, Jason Boland and drunkenly yelling "Jub Jub!!" at the various Guy's Night Out events held by 1310 the Ticket.
Jerrod Medulla The slickest of this round-up, Medulla's Speak Easy is also his slickest album to date. Slick isn't meant to sound frivolous or poppy. In fact, the collection boasts a proper amount of country music themes ("Badly Bent" is about a broken down truck and a guy without any cash to have it fixed) and at the very worst, it might be categorized as a modern country album, which doesn't have to be a pejorative. The bluesy roadhouse atmosphere created is perhaps best hammered home with the tune "How Bad," as Medulla duets with the red-hot Lindi Ortega, a Toronto-based rockabilly beauty currently touring with Social Distortion, on a dangerously sexy tune. While a cover of the Cars' "Drive" is novel, we're not sure it necessarily fits in with the rest of the album thematically or musically, but it's a good tune amongst some quality offerings. RIYL: Dierks Bentley, Roger Creager, Eli Young Band and hearing '80s pop tunes sandwiched between "Redneck Mother" and "Family Tradition."