Defending the Dirty Thirty

If you missed it last week, we put forth a score and ten songs by Texans as "the Dirty Thirty" -- the worst ever tunes to come from this state. To put it mildly, some of you were unamused. Let the readers speak:

A woman in the Seattle area sent in this brief missive: "Obviously you're not a music lover. I agree on a couple of the songs, but for the most part….. you are VERY wrong. I understand that opinions are like a$$holes and everyone has one. You can keep yours to yourself. You suck worse than your list."

A man from here in town had this to say: "You must be a Yankee and do not understand Texas. 'Luckenbach' and 'Songs About Texas' are two true-to-Texas songs. They are forever going to be played here because people love the songs. Keep chugging your Starbucks Coffee while the people who enjoy those 2 great songs are out having a good time and enjoying life rather than sitting behind a computer and being miserable."

A woman in New Braunfels sent along this vitriol: "Ok whoever wrote this is obviously NOT from Texas and if he's currently residing in the state of Texas should be swiftly kicked out of the state because he does not deserve the RIGHT to be here!! I don't know how exactly to express the anger and frustration I am feeling right now because of what I read, Pat Green is by far one of the best singer/songwriters out there. I love the Luckenbach song, one of the best songs ever written, and several others on there are some of my favorites so please do all Texans a favor and go back north or wherever the heck you came from before we have to personally drag your butt over the Texas state line!! Not to be rude or anything just I very much HATE you right now!! And everyone else does too that I know that read your so called 'article'!!"

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A man chimes in with this misguided though heartfelt criticism via e-mail: "Man you have to be kidding me. Where are you from? You can't be from Texas and not like 'Luchenbach,Texas.' Some of the songs I admit are pretty bad but I can't remember hearing any of the songs you have written. Send me some of yours and I'll critique them. Oh what's that? You haven't written any songs? Well then maybe you shouldn't judge what you don't understand. You wanna talk about horrible music. Why not include Toby Keith's 'Wanna Talk About Me?' That's not even country yet I bet you would give him higher praise than any other artist mentioned in your article. I usually don't get this irate over something like an article, but come on man. Your writing the worst songs in country music and didn't even mention 'Achy Breaky Heart.' Your musical taste must be limited to 'Cookie Cutter' Nashville music. You really need to broaden your horizons and find some actual music written by the artist singing it."

Another guy had this to say: "I would like to know, after reading your list, what you would think are the best songs from Texas. Some of the songs you choose would be very high on the top of the list for many proud Texans. I suppose something done by our wonderful Texan Jessica Simpson would probably top your list."

And so on -- the letters were still coming in at press time. And actually, no, Jessica Simpson doesn't top -- or even make -- my list of the best music to come from Texas. More on that later. But let's take a look at the letters above and dispel a couple of falsehoods and misconceptions.

First, about that Yankee nonsense. I am not a Yankee. My parents are not Yankees. Neither are any of my grandparents. Out of my eight great-grandparents, one was a Yankee, so maybe I got those genes. At any rate, I was born in St. David's Hospital in Austin, Texas. (Birth certificate furnished upon request.) I was raised in Houston and in Nashville, where I attended a school that had "Dixie" as its fight song and the Rebel as its mascot, and my schoolmates included the children of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Faron Young, Butch Trucks of the Allman Brothers Band, Ronnie Milsap and Bobby Goldsboro. I played hooky and caught snakes, snapping turtles and crawdads in the same creeks Sam Houston used to dunk his hungover head in. I trick-or-treated every year at Minnie Pearl's house.

I ate a lot of grits as a kid, and fell asleep to the strains of Roy Acuff, Boxcar Willie and Ernest Tubb on the Grand Ole Opry. Outside some time in New York City when I was a baby, and a couple of trips to Washington, D.C., the farthest north I got in America before attaining adulthood was Paducah, Kentucky. Across the Ohio River I could see Illinois, and maybe a strong breeze blew some Yankee dust on me, but there was never a time that I could remember that I crossed that river into a Yankee state. And if you're wondering what I was doing in Paducah -- like all good Yankees, I was attending a Hank Williams Jr. show.

So that's my Southern cred. What about my Texan cred? Well, when I was living in Tennessee, I always considered myself a Texan in exile. So did my family and their friends, which included other Tex-pats such as Rodney Crowell, Guy Clark, Steve Earle and Townes Van Zandt. (My dad managed the last two guys in that list.) Even when I was living in Nashville, I spent about four months a year in Houston visiting relatives. I attended all four years of high school here and went to the University of Texas for one unsuccessful year, in stark contrast to my father, my two grandfathers, my grandmother and great-grandfather, all of whom graduated from UT.

So given all that, I think it's safe to say that the "Lomax is a Yankee" angle is a dog that won't hunt. A few other things -- I don't drink Starbucks, but there are some days when I am pretty miserable sitting behind my computer. Also, neither Toby Keith nor Billy Ray Cyrus is from Texas -- had either or both of them been a Texan, you can bet your boots they would have been on there, and Keith not just for "I Wanna Talk About Me."

And as for Pat Green and "Songs About Texas," I'll stand by what I said.

Final note: The article is not about the worst country songs, it's about the worst songs made by Texans. But since it's the country lovers who are the most upset, here's my list of the top 30 country songs from Texas. There are so many songs by Texans I love, I have to break it down by genres to come up with anything close to concise. This list leaves off a ton of my favorite stuff.

30. "The Wedding Song," Charlie Robison and Natalie Maines

29. "Rainbow at Midnight," Ernest Tubb

28. "Heartaches by the Number," Ray Price

27. "The Long Black Veil," Lefty Frizzell

26. "Delta Dawn," Tanya Tucker

25. "Merry Christmas from the Family," Robert Earl Keen

24. "Billy Austin," Steve Earle

23. "Gallo del Cielo," Joe Ely

22. "Dos Tacos," Johnny Bush

21. "South Coast of Texas," Guy Clark

20. "Dallas," Jimmie Dale Gilmore

19. "Let's Fall to Pieces Together," George Strait

18. "Harper Valley PTA," Jeannie C. Riley

17. "Let Him Roll," Guy Clark

16. "The Wurlitzer Prize," Waylon Jennings

15. "These Days (I Barely Get By)," George Jones

14. "The Road Goes On Forever," Robert Earl Keen

13. "L.A. Freeway," Guy Clark

12. "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?" Waylon Jennings

11. "Waltz Across Texas," Ernest Tubb

10. "Chunk of Coal," Billie Joe Shaver

9. "My Old Friend the Blues," Steve Earle

8. "Travelin' Soldier," Dixie Chicks

7. "Live Forever," Shaver

6. "The Grand Tour," George Jones

5. "To Live's to Fly," Townes Van Zandt

4. "Night Life," Willie Nelson

3. "Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground," Willie Nelson

2. "New San Antonio Rose," Bob Wills

1. "Pancho and Lefty," Townes Van Zandt

Scuttlebutt Caboose

The band you knew as Groceries has changed its name. From here on out the 2003 Best Indie Rock group will be known as Bring Back the Guns, which some of you might recall as the chorus to a Matty and Mossy song…Newsflash: Andrew W.K. rocks! If you were at his show at Fitz's last Tuesday, you'd know that…Chingo Bling's first overground CD, The Tamale Kingpin, streeted May 5, or "Chingo de Mayo." Guests include 5th Ward Weebie, Mike Jones!, Paul Wall, Mike Jones!, Lucky Luciano, Fade Dogg, Mello, Risky, Naseem the Freestyle Dream, Mike Jones! and Baby Bash. Mike Jones! In contrast to his three mix CDs, this is Chingo's first official release, and it finds him expanding beyond rap to country, at least on one cut. Also included is the borderlands ballad "El Corrido de Chingo Bling." Watch these pages for a review.

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