Happy Anniversary Texas Music Magazine, or "Austin and (Maybe) Everything After"

Towards the end of last week, Rocks Off got the latest issue of Texas Music magazine in the mail, which just happens to mark the quarterly periodical's tenth anniversary. Naturally, as just about every publication does when it reaches such an august milestone - no mean feat for a magazine in this day and age - it's charged itself with summarizing the past decade, which is an equally unenviable task. (Rocks Off knows whereof we speak.)

Rocks Off is friendly with Texas Music editor Richard Skanse and publisher Stewart Ramser, and has written a handful of articles for the magazine, although nothing since about 2003 when our former bosses at the Austin Chronicle put the kibosh on such extracurricular activities.

Our predecessor here, John Nova Lomax, is a former news correspondent, a position currently held by our friend and sometime comment-board sparring partner (both here and at, Houston Chronicle entertainment columnist Andrew Dansby. Besides Dansby, the only other Houston-based contributor is our own William Michael Smith (aka Lonesome Onry and Mean), who has written about Young Mammals, Conroe's Crighton Theater and Los Skarnales.

Like every other issue, Texas Music's tenth anniversary is dominated by artists from Austin and the Hill Country. The only Houstonians to make the magazine's "Albums of the Decade" at all are former residents Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle and Hayes Carll. On its "Artists of the Decade" countdown, we get Beyonce (No. 2) and UGK (No. 10). The very first cover of Texas Music (Winter 2000) featured someone from the area, Lyle Lovett, but since then it's been slim pickings: Destiny's Child (Winter 2001), ZZ Top (Fall 2003) and Mike Jones (Winter 2006). At least we got off better than San Antonio - the Alamo City has yet to have one of its own on the cover, even the late Doug Sahm.

Jones and DC are also the only African-Americans who have appeared on the cover; the only Hispanics are the Garza siblings of Los Lonely Boys (Winter 2005). Given the amount of coverage the magazine has given Alejandro Escovedo and Ruthie Foster, Rocks Off is a little surprised neither one has made the cover. Yet.

Since Texas Music is published in Austin, though, and written largely by Austin-based writers, it's not that surprising to us that Central Texas musicians make up probably about 70 to 80 percent - just a guess, but an educated one - of the magazine's coverage, or that the types of music it writes about the most are also the ones perennially popular in the state capital: critically adored singer-songwriters (Patty Griffin, Terri Hendrix, Escovedo); slightly left-of-center rock bands (Fastball, Spoon); anything to do with blues (Stevie Ray Vaughan remains a popular subject and reference point even almost 20 years after his death) and non-italicized Texas Music performers who can fill up this issue's featured venue, Gruene Hall; say, Kevin Fowler or another Green, Pat.

What Texas Music does cover, it covers fairly well - it can be a little rah-rah for Rocks Off's tastes sometimes, but then again, so can our own writing. And we realize that putting artists most people, Texans or otherwise, have never heard of either on the cover or even in the magazine at all doesn't really help sell ads or issues.

But this issue's cover claims to be "celebrating a decade of the best music in Texas," and yet entire issues often come and go with little to no mention of, say, any metal, punk or even rap artists despite Texas' sterling track record in all three genres. There's no good reason Blue October, Erykah Badu or Bun B, say, shouldn't have been on the cover by now, except that Texas Music has a bad case of myopia when it comes to looking outside the 512 and 830 area codes. Pardon the pun, but Rocks Off does take issue with that.

Nevertheless, we'll be a good sport and wish the magazine and its staff a happy tenth anniversary and hell, even ten more years of continued success. But we would also like to take this opportunity to remind our own readers that musically, Texas is a much, much bigger state than Texas Music makes it appear.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray