Phone buzzes, as I was mildly rocking out to some music. Material I wanted to write about, part of the great pantheon of Texas Singer/Songwriters. Some of the pillars of that structure, to be sure. Look down, number’s bubba.
- “What’s up?”
“Where are you?”
“Buda (pronounced b-U-da, bedroom community south of Austin), stop to pee. Get coffee.”
“Do not get on 35! Dude. It’s stopped from MLK to 290!”
“Yeah, I saw, road construction, you know, Austin…”
“No, dude, this is totally screwed. Gridlock. I’m not even near it and 183 is already stopped. No, you stupid (person), you do not cut in front of me! Drivers are insane.”
“Bitch in a Honda just tried to cut me off. This is so not happening, so don’t get back on 35!”
“You mean to tell me there’s traffic problems in Austin right now?”
“MLK, isn’t that first Street?”
“No, you idiot, wait, you’re an idiot, too.”
“So I shouldn’t get on 35?”
“Yes! Do not get back on 35!”
The rant carried on, and I refused to get too upset, as I’ve long since learned that Austin’s traffic sucks. Just no easy way to face that.
Formative years of my life were spent in and around Austin and its environs, and as I exited the freeway — 35 — in South Austin, I took a “shortcut” through old haunts. Really not much is the same, other than, to a certain extent, the vibe.
Another hole in the ground for some mid-rise, part of the burgeoning condo-canyon scene.
Had lunch there, many times, and did readings, over there, hundreds of time, then, looking around, rode a booming motorcycle up this street, leaning into the curves, so that was in the (early) 1980’s?
Decades later, along another street, there’s a memory of passage from a book, book, author, and outcome — think it was modern romance — I can’t recall. I can recall the passage about another motorcycle, booming up the then silent streets of a backwater town, leaning into another curve. Street is still there. Still lined with trees. Houses cost a little more. Snicker. It was a passage that stuck with me while the rest of the novel was disposable.
As I left Buda, I pulled up a recent music purchase, “Downey to Lubbock.”
Downey to Lubbock
The biggest problem I have with strictly digital music purchases? No easy access backstory. There’s always a search, but I didn’t want to bias any kind of a review. Still, what I gathered, briefly — this is a hat tip to a Tumbler Blog, “Here’s to the Halcyon,” who, I think, is Capricorn, but I’m totally unsure.
Done along the same lines as the Lyle Lovett/Robert Earl Keen shows, just two guys with guitars, swapping stories while singing songs, got to be an easy gig.
Jimmie Dale Gilmore, one of the original Flatlanders, Americana before there was such a category, and seriously, the band? More myth than reality.
Dave Alvin of the Blasters, part of the original punk Americana before there was such thing. At the time, we joked and called it “punk country.”
How far from truth were we? Or remarkably prescient?
Part way through the first spin, the first time I listened, one song got stuck as an ear-worm, sounded, wait, it’s a cover song. Turns out that most of the album is cover songs.
One lyric, struck a chord and stuck.
”West Texas winds blow through my veins…”
“40 years on the highway, living on dreams and gasoline…
and somehow still surviving on Advil, NyQuil and nicotine…”
Me, I got 30 years on the road, a little longer if other forms of employment are considered, but yeah, as another song, different artists, suggest, “Bathed in lavender and gasoline.” Not quite the same, but similar.
Seen portions of the the Flatlanders, over and over, and kept encountering Jimmie Dale himself in old Austin days, having crossed paths several times.
Listening to sad, laconic terms of the songs, the sharp High Plains drawl of Jimmie’s voice, and the firm guitar hand of Dave Alvin, back and forth, switching off lines, licks, and lyrics.
There will always be the elegiac tone to some of this kind of music, to me it’s the old “Austin sound,” a little Rock’n’Roll, a little County, and hit tip to another Capricorn, some Best Western. Now it’s all rolled up in a genre called “Roots Americana,” but to me, listening to the album, it’s that delicious blend of old and new.
Like cruising down the side streets of old Austin. Wait, wasn’t there a song about the alleys of Austin?
In Austin today?