by: Thomas D. Mooney
When you’re traveling down Marsha Sharp Freeway heading east, eventually you’ll hit Interstate 27. You have the option of exiting and going one way or the other or you can just blaze on through. It eventually turns back to the old remnants of 4th Street.
It’s around this point, when a strange mixture–some would say pungent stitch–that seeps into your air conditioner. If you have your windows down letting the cool summer air surround you with your radio blasting Tom Petty of years gone by, it comes in strong.
It’s the combination of diesel fuel, the trade winds of the stockyards on the outskirts of town, and 30 day old fried chicken grease. Maybe someone belching onion rings.
It’s a robust smell that straddles the line of town and country. Some nights, you smell it all the way down in The Depot.
Saturday night, Flatland Cavalry and Dix Hat Band capped the week off at Blue Light. With the exception of two, every songwriter and band who played the week, was a Lubbock one (Tuesday: Dave Martinez, Wade Parks, Lou Lewis, and Stephen St. Clair, Wednesday: Ross Cooper and Trent Langford, Thursday: Charlie Stout, and Friday: Dalton Domino).
There’s been a boom as of late in Lubbock. You’ve seen an explosion of albums released. Folks getting recognized in other markets. The rise of the Lubbock songwriter for the hundredth time.
It’s been about a month since Flatland Cavalry released their debut, Come May, an airy, crisp five-song EP that keeps you second guessing what’s exactly your favorite tune. It’s a little different and unique when compared to its’ Lubbock contemporaries as well.
It’s probably one of the most important qualities about Flatland that goes unnoticed. The band–Reid Dillon, Jason Albers, Jonathan Saenz, and Laura Houle–rarely, if ever, play in other bands. They may lend their time here and there, but they’re not on other projects from other Lubbock songwriters.
It helps create a unique makeup and tone to the band. You’re not hearing the same guitar elsewhere. It makes a difference.
Flatland too straddles that line between town and country. It’s a summer day swimming in a water tank or pond out in the middle of nowhere. It’s driving out to a strip of liquor stores. Out in the crowd at a music festival. Cotton and cattle. Walking down Main street. Front porch drinking. Bars and barbecue.
Lead vocalist, Cleto Cordero, is surrounded by his band of assassins. Silent. Baby-faced. Straight-laced. Clean cut. Relentless. Dillon, to the right, is dressed as if he’s a gunslinging hired hand. Behind, Albers looks as if he’s raided his father’s closet and picked out something Dave Coulier would have worn on the set of Full House. Houle is a short black dress adjusting her fiddle and bow. And every once in a while, Saenz lets out a holler as he thumbs down on the bass.
In typical Lubbock fashion, it takes time for the crowd to even make their way to the stage. The middle of the dance floor in front is treated as smoldering pit of coals for the first handful of songs. At first, it’s just a semicircle lining the outer rim. By the end, they’re out in the middle.
Even with their expanded setlist for Saturday, it’s difficult to say what exactly their best song. They have more songs than time. They cut the covers and fly through a rangy set of Cordero penned songs.
It’s the closest thing to Turnpike Troubadours in some time. Close your eyes and maybe, you can hear the same wiry twang in Cordero that you heard in Evan Felker years ago. The comparisons don’t end there. There’s the piercing interplay between guitar and fiddle. The honest longing for intimacy, inevitable heartbreak, and the occasional summertime fling that sprinkle their way through songs. It’s no secret that Cordero and company have, at least in part, outlined their style after Turnpike. It’s all there.
Still, it’s not a cover band or a faded photocopy trying to imitate the real thing.
maybe not as hyped as some of their Lubbock peers. But give it time; the word is out about the other next big thing.