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The 30 Best Texas Albums

Ranking the 30 best Texas albums of the past 30 years seemed like an impossible task. We did it anyway.

9.
Shaver,
Tramp On Your Street
Zoo/Volcano
1993

Here Billy Joe Shaver smartly enlists his son, Dickey Betts-schooled guitarslinger Eddy, to give the old man's weatherbeaten honky-tonk tales some extra wattage. Waylon Jennings guests on the first two songs, and it feels a little like Billy Joe brought in his old compadre just to show off what the kid could do. Eddy repays the elder Shaver's confidence in fretboard-stinging spades, on "Georgia on a Fast Train" and "The Hottest Thing In Town" especially. Tragically, Eddy died of a heroin overdose in 2000, but Tramp on Your Street endures as one of Texas's top musical father-son collaborations.

8.
UGK,
Ridin' Dirty
Jive
1996

These days Bun B is such a lovable personality/rap elder statesman/Rice professor, it's a little easy to forget that UGK was hard. Both he and Pimp C (R.I.P.) were limber and inventive MCs whose thoughtful critiques of ghetto life always rode shotgun with their unapologetic playa tales. Ridin' Dirty is swimming in weed, bling, cash, 'Lacs, keys, syrup, steak, shrimp, DJ Screw and violence — a proper Gulf Coast gangsta gumbo, in other words — but its luxuriant slow-rolling production and UGK's electric charisma make it, in Pimp's words, "shine so clean."

7.
Pantera,
Vulgar ­Display of Power
Atco/EastWest
1992

Vulgar Display of Power's vinyl reissue comes with a sticker on the plastic wrap that says "Completely Fucking Hostile." That about sums it up. Like going 11 rounds with a gut-metal heavy bag, Vulgar Display is 52 rib-sticking minutes of bile and aggression, but not hate — "Rise" is about as savage a self-empowerment anthem as you can imagine — one in which the only elements lighter than "skull-crushing" are the minor-key acoustic-guitar flourishes of "This Love." For Pantera, love means never having to say you're sorry when "fuck you" will suffice.

6.
Dixie Chicks,
Home
Open Wide/Monument/Columbia
2002

When Natalie Maines made "those" comments about the Iraq war in March 2003, the No. 1 country song in the U.S. was the Chicks' tear-jerking (and completely appropriate) "Travelin' Soldier." Their sudden fall from grace is no fault of Home, where bluegrass frolics like "White Trash Wedding" and "Long Time Gone" sit side by side with Patty Griffin's poignant "Top of the World" and Stevie Nicks's "Landslide." Today mainstream country is sorely missing acts with this much talent and integrity, not to mention the Chicks' near-perfect harmonies. Come back, ladies. All is forgiven.

5.
Lucinda Williams,
Car Wheels on a Gravel Road
Mercury
1998

Similar to The Houston Kid, Car Wheels is Lucinda Williams's musical road map of her equally stormy relationships, from "Lake Charles" to "Jackson" to "Greenville." Every so often someone does her right, but Car Wheels's strongest tracks ("Joy," "I Lost It") find Williams taking back her self-respect without bothering to ask permission. The rest of the time, her heart is pushed to the breaking point in a flawless set of chiming folk-rock infused with the essence of Lafayette zydeco, bottomland Delta blues and Muscle Shoals soul.

4.
Texas Tornados,
Texas Tornados
Reprise
1990

If you think of Texas Tornados as a sort of Tex-Mex Beatles, it totally works, especially on their first album. Doug Sahm was the groovy rock and roller, Freddy Fender the melodic balladeer with a soft touch, and Flaco Jimenez the mystical shaman with the magic accordion (in for George's sitar). And like Ringo, Augie Meyers quietly held the whole thing together, both with his relentless Vox organ and the goofy comic relief of "(Hey Baby) Que Paso." Every band should have this much fun.

3.
ZZ Top,
Eliminator
Warner Bros.
1983

Eliminator is diamond, with more than 10 million units sold, and bulletproof. If you're not into fuzzy guitars, slick sequencers, bad girls, greasy Mexican food and horrible double entendres, you may want to seek your pleasures elsewhere. (What, do you hate fun?) But Eliminator is about more than just the babes and the beards and that 1933 custom Ford coupe. The singles sold it by the semi, but the sharp-dressed men's sharp-edged "Thug," "TV Dinners" and "Dirty Dog" embodied "deep cuts" as ZZ refined their Rio Grande mud into space-age boogie. Oh mercy.

2.
Steve Earle,
Guitar Town
MCA
1986

Steve Earle didn't invent alternative country on Guitar Town, but he could have. His first album actually topped the country chart and spun off two Top 10 singles, but it rocked entirely too hard to have much traction in a scene besotted with "new traditionalists" like Randy Travis. Ironically, Guitar Town is largely about Earle's awareness of his role as a modern-day troubadour, as he salutes heroes such as Townes Van Zandt ("My Old Friend the Blues") and Bruce Springsteen ("State Trooper," added to the 2002 reissue) in a brash, history-minded voice that, even in Earle's early thirties, was completely his own.

1.
Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble,
Texas Flood
Epic
1983

Roots music was old hat by 1983, even in Texas. The great bluesmen like Lightnin' Hopkins and Muddy Waters were already starting to die off, and rock fans had begun jumping ship to punk, new wave and hip-hop. In stepped Stevie Ray Vaughan and Texas Flood to resurrect the idea that a guitarist could be a Hendrix-like folk hero, which the otherwise soft-spoken Vaughan played to the hilt onstage. Texas Flood not only kept the blues going for another generation or two, it created its own strain of Texas rock still thriving today — just look at arguably 2012's top Texas album, Gary Clark Jr.'s Blak & Blu.

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8 comments
Jake.
Jake.

All White Boy bullshit. Who cares?

marimar568one
marimar568one

Great article, no matter the situation SPM is a great Artist and his Free SPM movement is bigger then all the "intelligent" individuals who are always telling other people how to be,'and where to go. I define Ignorance by assuming ones opionion is fact.

FattyFatBastard
FattyFatBastard topcommenter

The fact that ArcAngels (formed after your #1 passed by Sexton and Bramhall) didn't even make the top 30 shows that you kids don't have a clue what you're talking about.

Simply pathetic that so many would forget such an obvious omission, and it's also very telling that SRV is simply a pity vote by voters who didn't actually listen back in the day.

Eric Walters
Eric Walters

Black Angels- Passover, nowhere in the top 60, but plenty o' Dixie Chicks? WTF ever.......

Houston Press Rocks Off
Houston Press Rocks Off

It's No. 42, impressive considering most people have probably never heard of Zeitgeist or the Reivers.

Caleb Fraid
Caleb Fraid

Zeitgeist/The Reivers * Translate Slowly is a gem.

 
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