In the third in our continuing series on the music of the five states of Texas, we examine the fictional state of New Texas, comprising Austin and the Hill Country. See Part 1 here and Part 2 here. New Texas Capital: Austin Patron Saint: Willie Nelson
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Notes: People are always saying the old Austin is better than the Austin of today, but nobody in music circles pines for the era before acid and the 13th Floor Elevators arrived simultaneously in about 1965. Before the advent of Roky, Tommy Hall and the boys, Austin's music scene centered around frat houses and cover bands, similar to that of Baton Rouge or Gainesville, Fla. It had always puzzled Rocks Off how Austin - a relatively white town compared to Houston and Dallas - had come to be recognized in the nation's eye as Texas's blues Mecca. I also wondered why so many white blues players from Dallas and Houston would move there when there were so many authentic masters to learn from in the bigger cities. Houston native, Austin scene vet and long-time Warner Brothers publicity head Bill Bentley shed some light on those subjects when he told us that Austin's white blues scene was kickstarted in at least some small part by the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Prior to that day, curious white kids like Bentley had been made to feel most welcome in black venues. Austin tends to venerate its elder statesmen and women a little too slavishly, but what was cool about people like Marcia Ball and Jon Dee Graham - and still is - was that they were identifiably Texan and/or Gulf Coast artists. Today's crop of Austin critical darlings, all those damn indie-rock bands, could just as well be from Portland, Minneapolis, Athens or Brooklyn. The great irony of indie rock is that in its practitioners' efforts to not be like everyone else around them, they have slain regionalism and now sound like all those other people elsewhere trying not to sound like everyone else. Bands from coast to coast sound like several variations on the same damn tastefully curated, Joy Division/Velvet Underground/Can/Iggy Pop-heavy record collection.