Friday, Rocks Off told you about our "Texas 30" project, compiling a list of the best 30 albums of the past 30 years. Today we're about to show you the first of three bubbling-under appetizer lists we did just to put a little oil on the gears.
Here, starting with No. 60, is where it gets interesting, because here is right about where the albums started clotting, and getting mentioned multiple times in our poll of almost 25 newspaper and magazine music writers across the state. You could say that before this came about a 400-way tie, more or less. We forgot how exactly many albums got mentioned (hey, maybe we'll count), but it's a lot. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 500, probably.
Our first ten runners-up might give you a hint of what's to come later on this week. Or they might not. Either way, we hope it helps us all appreciate how much great music there really is in Texas, and how many different kinds of great music there is in Texas, all on top of each other. Enjoy.
60. Lift to Experience, The Texas-Jerusalem Crossroads (2002) The well-remembered Denton band turned in a mouthful of a concept album here, full of spiraling Spiritualized guitar figures, about the Second Coming and onset of the George W. Bush era, which were not in fact one and the same thing. And then that was it.
59. Albert Collins, Robert Cray & Johnny Clyde Copeland, Showdown! (1985) Everybody wins on this hair-raising triple-threat album featuring Bay Area bluesman Cray going toe to toe to toe with two of Houston's short-list guitar legends.
58. Daniel Johnston, Hi, How Are You? (1983) Featuring the famous frog also painted on the side of Austin's Sound Exchange on the cover, this 1983 album (tape, really) confirmed Johnston's eccentric pop genius, gave Austin one of its biggest '80s folk heroes, and features some of his best-known tunes like "Walking the Cow." Those original cassettes must be worth a king's ransom, but Hi was also reissued as a vinyl LP by Eternal Yip Eye Music in 2007 and is no doubt just about as expensive now.
57. Sarah Jaffe, Suburban Nature (2010) Recorded in her teens, with a perception and candor well beyond those years (but with a sense of fun that's just about right), Suburban Nature put Denton's Jaffe on just about everyone's short list of indie songwriters worth paying attention to. Subsequent releases did nothing to disabuse those notions, even as she added a grin-inducing tendency to drop a Drake cover every now and then.
56. The Fabulous Thunderbirds, T-Bird Rhythm (1983) Nick Lowe of "Cruel to Be Kind" fame buffed this set of R&B and swamp pop - the perfect meeting point of Kim Wilson's barrelhouse harmonica, Jimmie Vaughan's slicked-back guitar, and Keith Ferguson's yard-dog bass - to a high enough gloss that the stage was set for the Birds to break through to the Top 10 on 1986's Tuff Enuff.
55. Terri Hendrix, Wilory Farm (2000) Sunny San Marcos singer-songwriter Hendrix pays back the late benefactor who gave her voice and guitar lessons and let her live on the actual Wilory Farm (earning her keep doing, you know farm work) with an album dedicated to her memory. Producer/engineer Lloyd Maines calls in in just about every A-list Central Texas acoustic roots musician to help out with a set of songs brimming with what you can only call pluck.
54. Guy Clark, Dublin Blues (1995) Sprinkling a little emerald into a dependably leathery set of avuncular Clark songs, Dublin Blues sees the old master Clark throw open his doors to friends and neighbors like Nanci Griffith, Rodney Crowell, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, and Emmylou Harris. He remakes/updates one of his most beguiling songs ever, "The Randall Knife," which is saying something.
53. Spoon, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007) That's five "Ga"s, thank you very much, and Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is where Britt Daniel started cashing Hollywood checks by landing "The Underdog" in movies like 2011's Horrible Bosses. It's also where he proved over and over and over again ("Rhthm and Soul," "Don't You Evah," "You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb") that he's got this songwriting thing down to a science, and also that typos can be sexy.
52. Devin tha Dude, Just Tryin' ta Live (2002) On Just Tryin' ta Live, Devin -- Rap-a-Lot's heavy-lidded class clown -- showed a narrative flow that rivaled Too $hort or Slick Rick, and that he wasn't a half-bad crooner besides. Except, however, "R&B" stood for "reefer & beer" rather than "rhythm & blues." Sort of.
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51. Explosions In the Sky, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever (2001) One week before September 11, Austin's expansive instrumental post-rockers seemed almost clairvoyant on a full-length debut that opened with a song called "Greet Death" and closed 40 harrowing minutes later with "With Tired Eyes, Tired Minds, Tired Souls, We Slept."