by: Thomas D. Mooney
Now the band don’t play here any more.
For a few weeks a few weeks back, Art Portillo mentioned again and again how this one specific song on the next No Dry County album was easily his favorite. Where the rest of the album was a rock record, this closer was an acoustic slower burner saturated in self-awareness–the kind that’s so honest, it’s not necessarily pretty. It’s called “Then We Left Town.”
It was written with Brandon Adams–a fact that I recently was reminded of since I’ve seen Adams play three times this week and he’s played it each time and he’s set the song the same each time around.
Timeout: In short, the song is really about how Adams and Langford (and many others) don’t play the Blue Light (or Lubbock) as often as they used to and when they do come back, there’s sometimes this notion that they’re more successful because they’ve been elsewhere–or even stranger, they don’t get recognized at all.
I was even a little hesitant to believe Portillo and his thoughts that it was the best (or at least his favorite) on the upcoming album. That kind of song, it’s easy to sound cheesy, jaded, delusional, fake, and/or many other unflattering terms. I wasn’t even sure if this was the right way to look at it–maybe they wrote it from the perspective of themselves a decade down the line. Which still, I’m not sure I even sure what to think of that theory.
So Adams has played the song three times this week in front of three very different crowds and three different places.
01) The Blue Light swapping songs with Christian Lee Hutson in front of a respectful and engaged crowd. Really great despite the low number of folks in attendance. Everyone is watching them. Eyes locked. TVs off. Lonestar in bottles. Bartender, tables. A few songwriters–who aren’t playing, but watching their buddies–surrounded by people who didn’t just wander in; they came specifically to hear and watch Hutson and Adams.
02) West Texas Live with David Wilde at Nick’s Sports Bar in front of a huge crowd and being aired on the radio (Red Dirt Rebel 105.3). It was with fellow songwriters Benton Leachman and Zac Wilkerson. People are paying attention and enjoying the music, but it’s strange at the same time since there’s 100 plasma screen TVs airing every basketball game in existence. Cheese fries and Coors Light on tap. Waitresses and tables. A plethora of songwriters–who aren’t playing, but watching their buddies–surrounded by college kids and folks eating dinner.
03) Crossroads swapping songs with Parker Morrow (with Craig Tally on acoustic bass and Jerry Serrano on keys) in front of a handful. People are paying attention and enjoying music, but also conversation. No cheese fries. PBR on tap and Miller Lite in bottles. Bartender, tables. Almost exclusively songwriters–who aren’t playing, but watching their buddies–surrounded by no one.
You can see the similarities and differences. If not, reread. Also, in each instance, the songwriters sitting next to Adams all were truly and utterly enthralled by the song and performance. It’s something that shouldn’t be glossed over or forgotten.
Now I’m sitting here listening to the studio version on NDC’s The Night Before on a repeat. It feels like it becomes more real with each play. And I really don’t know what to think. I’ve got conflicting opinions on the thought that one can feel their time has passed by when in reality, their time is still happening.
Maybe more on this next week.