While there's certainly an eclectic mix at this weekend's third annual Homegrown Festival, you'll want to keep an eye on Robert Ellis. The Houston musician has been kicking around for a couple of years, but his 2010 New West debut, Photographs, provided the lengthy-maned Ellis a national profile, and his fans one of the best albums to drink a cold brew to while it spins.
A record doesn't have to be stocked with drinking songs; the vibe and overall atmosphere of Photographs is more important than how many times Shiner Bock is mentioned in a given tune. In fact, Shiner is the high end of what one would likely drink whilst enjoying this album. PBR or Lone Star is also acceptable. Oh, and the sun has to be fully down - no cheating on that one, folks. Here's a few other like-minded country albums to drink along with.
Willie Nelson, Red Headed Stranger This Garland-recorded classic was a game-changer in so many ways. Not only did this record go against every model of success for mainstream country upon its release in 1975, but it gave beer drinkers who happen to like a good story to go along with their beverage a reason to put the books down, crack a cold one and sit back as the Victrola does its thing.
Danny Balis, Too Much Living This debut solo album from King Buck Danny Balis received tons of well-deserved local praise after it's release, but for those who give a damn, it's still worthy of praise. While the general pace of the album is a step quicker than Ellis' or Nelson's, its themes of pain make it almost illegal to push play on this before dusk. You'll want to be alone when you listen to the emotional wreck that is "Tethered."
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Jason Eady, AM Country Heaven This recently released album from Mississippi native Eady has the increasingly popular Texas transplant stepping all the way into the dimly-lit, stale-smelling honky-tonks he's not fully embraced in the past. The pedal steel work on this record, paired with Eady's classic take on old-school country, doesn't require one to be alone while enjoying. In fact, a drinking buddy might help.
Chris Knight, The Trailer Tapes II The first version of the Kentucky farmer's Trailer Tapes, a collection of demos before Knight landed a record deal, featured more originals than the second version, but it's the acoustic, aching versions of "Love & a .45" and "It Ain't Easy Being Me" that it perfect for the contemplative alone time on the front porch, with only a light bulb to illuminate your thoughts. Yes, a cold beer is also needed here, but make sure that bottle brown stuff isn't too far from your grasp, either.
Hayes Carll, Little Rock or Trouble in Mind Both of these records catapulted fellow Homegrown performer Carll into the national spotlight, and the stories he tells provide the best drinking soundtrack: "Beaumont," "Knocking Over Whiskeys" or "Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long." There's little debate as to whether the Texas-based Carll is one of the current greatest modern storytellers and, as is the case with Nelson's Red Headed Stranger, what goes better with alcohol and a quiet night than a good/sad story?