2016 was a breakout year for Lubbock-birthed Texas country band, Flatland Cavalry, whose first full record, Humble Folks, caught the attention of fans and music critics across the state. The band’s self-described sound that’s “easy on the ears, heavy on the heart” was a breath of fresh air for a Texas country music scene hungry for young blood.
Heavy doses of fiddle and catchy guitar lines hooked listeners long enough for lead singer Cleto Cordero to charm them with his warm, slow Southern drawl. While Flatland didn’t break any molds, songs like “February Snow,” “Tall City Blues” and “Traveler’s Song” painted pictures familiar to young Texans, with enough optimism sprinkled in to boost spirits and get feet tapping.
Since then, fans have been patiently waiting for another dose of feel-good from the band that’s since left Lubbock and now calls DFW home. This summer the band teased with the single “Honeywine,” a lighthearted love song presumably about Cordero’s main squeeze, who in real life is Oklahoma singer-songwriter Kaitlin Butts. Friday night, Flatland Cavalry celebrates the release of their follow-up, Homeland Insecurity, by playing the main stage at Billy Bob’s Texas.
"(The record's title) came as a whisper in the wind," Cordero told us. “I thought it’d work beautifully, as most of the songs on the record have this thread of insecurity weaved through them.”
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Homeland Insecurity comes off as a personal State of the Union for Cordero, looking mostly at the here and now, taking in what’s around him, thinking about what might be next. On the first EP, Come May, and on Humble Folks, Cordero leaned heavily on his college experiences for material. Homeland Insecurity wraps that up and pushes into more mature, autobiographical reflections on life since hitting the road full time. There are glances to the past in tunes “Other Side of Lonesome” and “Ashes” but only as a necessity for understanding his current emotional landscape, whether it be love, loneliness or seeing the pain in others.
Musically, the band stays true to the sound that garnered attention on Humble Folks. Pinning it all down are bassist Jonathan Saenz and drummer Jason Albers. Newcomer Wesley Hall seamlessly picks up the heavy fiddle load left by the departed Laura Jane Houle, thankfully sans the fishnet hose and high heels. Finally, lead guitarist and Farmersville native Reid Dillon continues to dish out well-timed tonal accents and catchy guitar solos that have helped define the band’s sound since its inception.
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A standout on the record is “Living By Moonlight,” a single the band put out on Spotify at Halloween due to its ghoulish metaphors describing the dangers of the nighttime bar scene. Cordero begins by stoking our childhood fears of the dark before transitioning to a barroom scene filled with Transylvania’s finest spooks, all there to do their mischief. The temptations found in those dark, smoky corners are enticing, with Cordero repeatedly sucked in despite being aware that there is hell to pay. "Living by moonlight, wishing on stars / We’re in the midnight, hiding our scars / Sipping on poison, breathing in fire / Slowly killing myself, just to feel alive."
Overall, Homeland Insecurity is an easy listen with enough drama to keep things interesting. Despite songs of heartbreak, loneliness or anxieties, Flatland Cavalry’s sound continues to have that uplifting innocence that will put a spring in your step.
“I feel like every time we get to make a new record, we treat it like it’s the last one we’ll ever make," Cordero says. "That state of mind pushes us to create and produce something beautiful that folks can enjoy for years, and I think we did that again with Homeland Insecurity.”
Flatland Cavalry plays at 10:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 18 on the main stage at Billy Bob’s Texas. Go to billybobstexas.com for reserved seating.