Don Henley Comes Home With a Bit of True Country Music

Don Henley might have grown up in the northeast Texas town of Linden, but Dallas has been his adopted home for many years. He spent time in Dallas playing with his formative bands and had a stint at North Texas State University (now known as UNT). As famous as he became after  moving to California in the early 1970s and co-founding the Eagles (and later, a very successful solo career), he'll bring a sense of homecoming pride to the Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie on Thursday night.

He’s currently on a North American tour supporting Cass County, his first set of new material as a solo artist since 2000’s Inside Job. Featuring a lot of country and folk leanings, it’s not a record that panders to pop country’s current hair-metal phase. Much of Cass County was recorded in Nashville, but some of it was recorded here in Dallas at various places, including Henley’s home studio. Many famous guest vocalists, including Dolly Parton, Martina McBride, members of the Dixie Chicks, Mick Jagger and Merle Haggard appear, but there’s not a whiff of bro country nonsense here. It’s more an homage to the music Henley grew up on before becoming a country rock pioneer — no hip-hop beats, metal-tinged guitars or mentions of sugar-shakers or catfish. It’s the kind of traditional music that has outlasted passing trends. (Anyone remember country disco?)

Some of the other performers have North Texas ties. Chris Holt, a longtime fixture in the Dallas music scene with various bands including Olospo, Sorta and the Slack, was asked to record a lead guitar line on a song called “That Old Flame.” Holt wound up at Henley’s after local producer Salim Nourallah recommended Holt to give guitar lessons to Henley’s son. Working with Stan Lynch, a longtime collaborator of Henley’s and the former drummer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Holt laid down many takes of the solo. They were decent, but Holt predicted he would think of a better lead in the middle of the night and would like to try again, and that’s exactly what happened. (The Mike Campbell-esque solo you hear is from that follow-up session.) Henley offered to contribute to one of Holt’s many in-the-works songs for a new solo record called Stargazer and he wound up on “I’m Wasted.” Holt played some one-off gigs before getting the offer to join Henley’s backing band, which also features North Texan Milo Deering, for this tour.

On this tour, expect to hear many tunes from Cass County as well as Henley’s bevy of solo hits. (If you want to hear the Eagles tunes, you’ll have to see the Eagles at another time.) Henley hasn’t played North Texas in a while, so it should be a special time. Seeing prominent local players on Verizon's stage such as Holt and Deering will be very special, too. 

Don Henley plays Verizon Theatre on Thursday, October 15. Shawn Colvin opens.

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Eric Grubbs is a Dallas-based writer who has published two books, Post: A Look at the Influence of Post-Hardcore 1985-2007 and When We Were the Kids. His writing has been featured in Punk Planet, Popdose, Fort Worth Weekly, The Dentonite and LA Weekly. He supports Manchester City and will never root for Manchester United.
Contact: Eric Grubbs