We've made no bones about the fact we're not completely sure what an artist or a song has to be or consist of in order to be lumped under the massive "Texas Country" umbrella, aside from simply having some sort of connection to the Lone Star State -- even if sometimes it's a loose one. To be certain, most people will have an equally tough time defining the musical makeup of "Red Dirt" or even "Americana," which has become a legit, nationally recognized genre, without possessing any singular, identifiable sonic traits.
Regardless, 2013 has already seen the release of some killer albums from some of the state's marquee attractions, as well as some promising younger names and even a few local acts that are on their way to being known far beyond the metroplex. Call these tunes Texas Music, Texas Country, Singer-Songwriter, Americana, Cowpunk, or just, I don't know, Country? We don't care.
Here are the ten tunes we think best represent Texas Country (or whatever) for the first half of 2013. Important: These are in no particular order -- the numbers are just to help keep things organized.
10. Chris King - "Native Son": The best tune from the first album of this year to force folks to sit up and realize that 2013 wouldn't be only about the longtime favorites. King's 1983 album is a great straightforward country-rock album.
9. Zane Williams - "Sure Felt Like Goodbye": If there's a better pure country songwriter currently performing in the Dallas area, we're not sure who he or she is. This first single from the star of Troubadour, TX's new album, Overnight Success is an impeccable mix of Nashville polish and Texan sincerity.
8. William Clark Green - "She Likes the Beatles": Tyler native and Austin resident Green is a country-rocker with a folkie's heart. This pub-style sing-along is as inventive as it is infectious.
7. Jason Boland and the Stragglers - "Dark and Dirty Mile": We could basically not add anything beyond typing the name of Jason Boland and most would assume the tune in question is great. The title track from his latest release shows Boland in fine form as he continues to forsake easy lyrical roads in favor of telling stories the way he hears them in his own head.
5. Sons of Fathers - "Roots and Vine": Speaking of groups we've recently discussed. Austin's Sons of Fathers are not only one of the top five live acts currently considered among the Texas Country ranks, but their 2013 album, Burning Days is flat-out killer. This is the album's rootsiest tune, which is fitting, given the name.
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4. The O's - "Outlaw": Just about any tune from John Pedigo and Taylor Young's third album, Thunderdog, could have rightfully made this list. Other songs on the record represent a new, wider sonic range from the duo, but this one specifically seems to solidify the fact that The O's have a signature sound and that Dallas wants all it can get of it.
3. Whiskey Sisters - "Let's Drink": When Austin's criminally ignored-in-Dallas Mother Truckers needed a break, Teal Collins grabbed Barbara Nesbitt, a blonde partner in crime, to start a punk-style honky-tonk act that grabbed a ton of Austin Music Awards at this year's SXSW. We're not sure they're better than the Mother Truckers, but two powerful female vocal leads raising the roof is never a bad thing in a crowded bar.
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2. Uncle Lucius - "Keep the Wolves Away": Much like Sons of Fathers, Uncle Lucius has made their name as a powerful live act. Their latest record, And You Are Me, was released in 2012, but the group offered up this ominously haunting tune as a single, with an accompanying video only recently. It's clear now they're a band to be captured, whether it be live or on record.
1. Randy Rogers Band - "Trouble Knows My Name": At this point, there's not a more reliably exciting live act to catch in the Texas scene. The fact is, RRB is a national power, drawing big crowds across the country and continuing to increase their sales numbers and collect major award nominations. The group's latest swamp-rock single, "Fuzzy," which has a great video to go along with it, almost took this spot, but the downright Texan feel of this romping Willie Nelson collaboration is too good to put anything before it.