As 2018 nears its end, I raise a toast to the great variety of music I was very fortunate to see live this year.
I got to see many of the biggest of the big names at CMA this summer. There was Garth Brooks playing a couple of acoustic songs during an interview session at Fan Fair. Chris Stapleton did free meet and greets at the George Jones museum for probably five hours. I saw CMHOF inductee Ricky Skaggs and so many more at Fan Fair. I was in the audience for some of the outdoor performances that aired on the CMT Music Awards. I also saw some really good independent acts at CMA, like traditional country singer-songwriters Erin Enderlin and Kendell Marvel, international bluegrass ambassador Kyle Dillingham,etc. I saw Marty Stuart’s Late Night Jam at the Ryman, which included everything from members of The Byrds to John Prine to the Opry Square Dancers, and closed with Dale Jett of the Carter Family playing autoharp,backed by the guitars of Marty Stuart and Chris Stapleton. I saw Carrie Underwood and Crystal Gayle and other greats at the Grand Ole Opry. If you think all there is to Nashville is whatever you hear on radio, you’re missing a whole lot of good music that also happens in that town. We are hoping to go back to CMA in 2019.
For my brother’s 50th birthday, we enjoyed a road trip to South Dakota, and we took in a couple of concerts at Denver’s incomparable Red Rocks along the way. My brother is in a chair, and the venue staff went above and beyond to make sure we had a great time. We saw Dwight Yoakam with Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, and King Leg, and we saw Old Crow Medicine Show with I’m With Her, with surprise guests Doug Kershaw and Colorado governor Hickenlooper.
I went to the Ameripolitan Awards in Memphis. In addition to attending all of the western swing, honky tonk, outlaw, and rockabilly showcases and the cool awards show itself, I got to immerse myself in Memphis’ rich music history. I got to Graceland, the Stax Museum, Rock and Soul Museum, and Beale Street. I don’t get to travel this much most years, but combining trips back to Alabama to visit relatives with some music in Tennessee works well.
We saw a couple of amphitheater shows in Alabama during our visits back home. We saw Willie Nelson with Alison Krauss in Birmingham this spring, and I saw Chris Stapleton,Marty Stuart,and Brent Cobb in Tuscaloosa. Brent’s song “King of Alabama” has the Tuscaloosa connection. Chris had Paul Franklin on steel for that show.
We saw live music quite often in Texas, of course. This post has rambled on too long already, so I won’t try listing them all. Our most frequent place to see shows was Kent Black’s BBQ in San Marcos, and Dallas Moore’s “Texahio” mentions BBQ in San Marcos, so it was cool seeing him sing that song there. Hal Bruni is one of the Last Honky Tonk Series artists we saw at Kent Black’s, and we enjoyed talking Tuscaloosa stuff with him.
Pretty much everyone comes through central Texas at some point. We saw Cody Jinks/Colter Wall/Josh Ward and Turnpike Troubadours/Shooter Jennings/Corb Lund at Whitewater Amp, and Tyler Childers/Town Mountain at Gruene Hall, and Sunny Sweeney in New Braunfels. We spent all day at the jam-packed grand opening concerts at Wade Bowen’s bar, Papa Jack’s, and have been back for shows there like Kevin Galloway. We saw Courtney Patton on Easter Sunday at Riley’s Tavern. Robyn Ludwick and friends renovated the old Devil’s Backbone Tavern. We saw a whole bunch of “unofficial” SXSW showcases in March, mostly at Threadgill’s, which recently closed. We attended Texas Music Scene tapings for Kevin Fowler and Mike and the Moonpies, which will air in 2019, and the TV episodes aired in early 2018 for the Austin City Limits tapings we attended in late 2017 for Chris Stapleton and Shinyribs. For Christmas shows, I saw Shinyribs at Waterloo Records in Austin, and Riders in the Sky in Houston.
I doubt I can get to anywhere near this many shows in 2019, but I surely plan to enjoy whatever I do get to do. Even if I don’t get to travel as much, there is always a lot in central Texas that is right there in front of me.
Thank all of you for taking the time out of your day to enjoy the music,too. If I can contribute anything at all positive, I hope it is to reflect that all of this music, whether it is something you do like or don’t, is the result of the work and dreams of many. For most every artist you see, whether you like them or not, there is a whole team of connected people, and all of those people have friends and families. Nobody tries to make “bad” music. Some might achieve that result, but there’s an impossible wealth of music available to everyone now right there on your phone or computer. No matter what you like, there’s a ton of it, and seeing the acts live is the very best.