On pretty much any given weekend here in town, fans of Texas country and Red Dirt can find themselves at a club or festival where a revered veteran favorite of the scene is playing. Trailblazers such as the Randy Rogers Band, Reckless Kelly, Aaron Watson, Jason Boland, Roger Creager and Cody Canada are packing venues around the country almost 20 years after they started. And given how instrumental each was to the rise of the Texas country sound in the late 1990s, it’s certainly been great to hear new records from Pat Green, Cory Morrow and Dub Miller, as each returned from extended breaks between album releases.
But there was a time when the reigning top dawgs were but wee little pups. Of course, way back then, there wasn’t an industrial infrastructure in place to commercially aid the career paths for the brightest young stars the way there is now. Such development is a blessing/curse combo plate when viewed as a larger picture, but for those of us who want a clearer path to the most exciting young talent this fruitful home soil has to offer, there’s hardly been a better time to find it. With sounds blending folk, country, soul and rock, we’re not 100 percent sure it’s fair to lump these talents into a simple Texas Country catch-all, but hey, they’re playing with twang in the Lone Star State, so we’ll go with it. Here are five rising artists you should pay close attention to now.
This well-rounded and magnificently bearded Amarillo resident has got soul to spare. That much isn’t surprising, given that Wilkerson’s earliest musical memories are of his father’s church singing. As evidenced on his 2014 self-titled debut EP, Wilkerson offers a robust Americana vibe not unlike that of a Band of Heathens or Adam Hood. Just like so many other promising talents in our state, he has spent a great deal of time in the proving grounds of the Blue Light Live in Lubbock, where songwriters seem to sprout quicker than weeds.
Chances are if you’ve spent any whiskey-fueled nights in Austin at the Hole in the Wall or the White Horse Inn, you’ve had the pleasure of seeing McHone play. Or if you’ve listened to the recent albums from Ray Wylie Hubbard, Shinyribs, or Mike and the Moonpies, it’s certain you’ve heard her voice. Maybe you’ve caught a recent Gary Clark Jr. tour stop? That’s probably where you caught her sound. Those high-profile windows only give you a glimpse into the greatness McHone holds. With a delicate but not fragile voice, the fiddle-playing McHone can disarm any unsuspecting listener within moments of playing just about any track from her 2013 EP, or her 2015 full-length Good Luck Man. There are many fantastic women plying their craft in Texas right now, and McHone is as promising as they come.
With three records under his belt and a fourth on the way, Einhouse isn’t new, but his star is certainly on the rise. Click play on even an older song of his, “Gasoline” from his 2012 album Hello Road, for example, and you will be hit with a large dose of roots-rock country embedded with a folk-writer’s insight. He’s worked with storytelling greats such as Mike McClure, and Walt Wilkins, who has co-written with Einhouse. His upcoming record, It Aint Pretty, is actually pretty swell, and it was made possible by a wildly successful crowdsourcing campaign, so he’s not exactly a tightly kept insider secret, yet his big break seems to be just beyond the immediate horizon.
With a sound and style that check off all the boxes anyone with a brain should look for in a rising songwriter, Baumann has found his stride. His first two releases, an EP in 2012 and a 2014 full-length, were recorded under his former John Edward Baumann moniker. We’re not sure if the switch to the more casual name changed anything, as his entire catalog is worthy of attention, but we know there’s a razor-sharp urgency to the way his tales unfold on his most recent EP, Departures. His writing is clever and his delivery is on point in every way as the newest songs draw on familiar sounds while feeling eminently fresh and new.
This Cleto Cordero-led outfit of relative youngsters is, quite simply, the most refreshing and encouraging group to announce itself in the Texas country realm in some time. The comparisons to Turnpike Troubadours (from Oklahoma) are understandable, and absolutely favorable. But the down-home soul in Cordero’s voice, combined with absolutely perfect arrangements and writing — which is all quite plain to hear on the newly released Humble Folks album — isn’t something folks hitting Firehouse Saloon hear too often. Few rising acts are able to marry the fiddle and electric guitar in a leading fashion as seamlessly as Flatland Cavalry does song after song. Throughout the group’s new record, there’s a distinctly Texan feel that must be heard, drunk to and danced to. So, yes, oh wandering Texas music-loving souls, the cavalry has arrived.