Breakfast with Thomas: The Lubbock Anthem in the Modern Era

Hub City Moans

Hub City Moans

by: Thomas D. Mooney

“It’s still the Flatland Boogie
But where did the Wolfman go?”
–Terry Allen, “Flatland Boogie

Last Friday, singer-songwriter Paul Cauthen was performing at The Blue Light. The former co-frontman of the short-lived, but rather influential Americana band Sons of Fathers’ set consisted primarily of new songs written over the past year with just a handful of old Sons of Fathers songs scattered.

Through the evening of music, folks gather around the stage for a couple of songs, then scatter off to the bathroom, the bar, or for a smoke break. Then, they hear something else that catches their attention, and make a bee line for the side stage for a few foot-stomping moments. Throughout, Cauthen is grooving and pouring out everything he has.

At the end, he goes into the Sons of Fathers twangy “Flatland” and everyone in the bar huddles in the front of the stage as if they’ve been there all along. Everything syncs up. Boots hit the hardwood floor in unison. Heads bop. Cauthen strums and croons the simple repetitive chorus of “flatland baby” with a couple hoots, hollers, and demanding “come on!” Guitar necks all rise and fall with groove. 

It’s a moment. It’s always been a moment. It’ll always be a moment. 

Don’t you threaten me with a good time. I have no clue if it’s a moment in Dallas, Austin, in the state of Texas, or anywhere else in the country, but, in Lubbock, Texas, it is. 

But why?

Why are some songs deemed anthems? What is it about these songs, that people feel the need to sing along to? Why are some of them moments you go on silent mode and hang onto every last word? It’s simple; they bring people together.

You’re drawn to them because you saw them progress from ideas to acoustic pieces played on Monday nights or back patios in the Lubbock summer sun. You see them scratched and ditched and worked up, broken down, and refined into something. They’re beer soaked at The Blue Light, Sharpied on to the bathroom walls, and etched into the collective memory of us all. They’re recorded and set in time only to be relived and reimagined time and again. 

They’re sacred in various ways. Some, they’re never touched by another. It’s their song and you wouldn’t dream of another artist trying to best them. Others, they feel as old as “That’ll Be the Day,” “Amarillo Highway,” “Musta Notta Gotta Lotta,” and “Wide Open Spaces” so they’ve moved into a territory that begs for them to do be reworked, recut, and performed as many times as possible.

They cut to the core and are the essence of what a crowd, scene, Lubbock and the Panhandle, and songwriters and bands are. They don’t just speak about what the Lubbock Sound is, but who the Lubbock Sound is. There’s the constant wind, open spaces, boundless sunsets, infinite cotton rows, and dirt and dust that fill the crevices. It’s the pounding of the hard pavement to farming hearts in the West Texas heat. It’s desert and desolate. Isolation filled with pockets of the once smoke-filled bars on Broadway and Buddy Holly Ave. make their presence known. It’s Lone Star beer bottle caps and it’s the glow of Buddy Holly’s statue at 2 AM. Kegs at the Castle and fire pits at The Mission sink their teeth in. It’s knowing that, while writing is a lonely endeavor, something will connect.

We’re one decade into The New Lubbock Sound era. Here, we’ll focus on those anthems of Lubbock of the latter part of the decade. 

For the majority, it’s a quick yes or no. Uh-huh. Nuh-uh. It’s typically not something you have to debate with yourself. They have an identifiable line that’s easy to recall. People, they know what you’re talking about with the mentioning of “I need a space ship,” “I need a shot of whiskey,” “I said the only thing that you lose is the truth,” “I silently curse the god of wind,” “But fuck it, it’s so regardless,” “She likes the Beatles and I like the Stones,” “I come miles and miles on just cocaine and trees” and so on and so on. 

Mind you, an anthem doesn’t necessarily mean a radio hit or something that’s known to others outside the area. Some artists could very well have other songs that are more popular elsewhere. That really doesn’t matter.

Course, some will relate some of these picks more so than others. It’s natural. But for the most part, these 31 songs–specifically, the 10 that are ranked–are the foundation of what Lubbock and Panhandle music was, has become, and what it’ll be, going forward in the Hub City. They are the vanguard.

One way or another, they’re all flatland boogies that define an era and area–Lubbock, Texas: 2010 until now. 

In addition, listen to them on Spotify below.

Lubbock Anthems of the Modern Era

Red & The Vityls01) “East Side River Snake” Red Shahan

Shahan’s “East Side River Snake” came along at the right time. The chug-a-long infused swampy anthem gave people just a glimpse of the songwriting capacity that Shahan possesses. People saw and heard it grow. They staked a claim in the song unlike any other on the list. It’s one of the examples we see where a song can possibly end up owning you, the songwriter, as well–or at least in Lubbock, Texas. People would riot if Shahan didn’t perform the song during a Lubbock set.

See Also: “Ringling Road” William Clark Green, “Lost in a Crowd” Charlie Shafter

Stocklyn02) “Sway” Stocklyn

It’s the most sweaty, dirty, and shimmering guitar riff from the region. Stocklyn’s “Sway” in your face intensity is unparalleled. It’s unbridled zeal. When watching Stocklyn live, you can’t anticipate their ever-surging energy. Still, it’s doubled once “Sway” comes into effect–for both the band playing it and the crowd in attendance. It doesn’t matter if it’s guitarist-vocalist Will Boreing and company or Lubbock brother band, No Dry County doing the number either. It’s still the only song I’ve seen performed with a drum line (Yes, a drum line), NDC, and Boreing shredding at the same time. 

See Also: “Whatever Haunts You” Taddy Porter*, “Kudzu” Daniel Markham

sonsoffathers03) “Flatland” Sons of Fathers*

Like mentioned prior, Cauthen and David Beck dived into the ethos of Panhandle life with “Flatland.” There’s a simplicity to Cauthen’s “Don’t threaten me with a good time” easy-living attitude that recalls the Terry Allen’s “Amarillo Highway” line “I don’t wear no Stetson, but I’m willing to bet, son, that I’m a big a Texan as you are.” The crisp airiness and space within the song is just as crucial as the fat, lingering groove, or the warm harmonies.

See Also: “Wishing Well” William Clark Green, “Regardless” Thrift Store Cowboys

Light Fighter04) “Bright Fire” Thrift Store Cowboys

“Bright Fire” is like a runaway train making its’ own line. It’s a tornado plowing its’ own field. I’ve never seen a more diverse fan base than at a Thrift Store show. They blended Lubbock’s outsiders and outliers better than anyone before or since. “Bright Fire” finds the band a raging fire that somehow stays within the realms of chaos. Vocalist Daniel Fluitt wrote the essential Lubbock song of the decade with “Bright Fire.” It’s one of the rare occasions where a band’s “anthem” is also their finest moment.

See Also: “Tell Me What It Is” Rodney Parker & 50 Peso Reward*, “I’m a Monster” Estelline

Live at the Blue Light Charlie Shafter05) “Space Ship” Charlie Shafter

Shafter’s “Space Ship” is the perfect example of how a song that’s 1) Not your best song and 2) not even a song you wrote can be your most identifiable live piece of work. Shafter-penned masterpieces such as “Actor,” Illinois,” and “Dear Diana” show his precision as a finely tuned songwriter. But, his version of “Space Ship” captures the raw intensity of early Shafter shows. Shafter the performer is who shines here. It’s raw emotion (and guitars) at its’ finest.

See Also: “Let Her Run” Red Shahan, “Brighter Than the Sun” One Wolf

Rose Queen06) “She Likes the Beatles” William Clark Green

Green’s “She Likes the Beatles” could have been a sappy, cliché ballad that thought it was smarter than it actually was. You’re constantly teetering on being clever and corny. Luckily, the line“She likes the Beatles and I like the Stones” is just so transcending. It doesn’t matter who you are. Everyone who knows anything–and I do mean anything–about Western music knows what you’re saying about relationship trouble when you describe the situation at hand as “She likes the Beatles and I like the Stones.”

See Also: “Feeling Fine” Grady Spencer, “Middle of the Night” Zac Wilkerson

Brandon Adams07) “Radiate” Brandon Adams & The Sad Bastards

No one in the past decade-and-a-half has perfected the two-sided songwriter in Lubbock like Brandon Adams. He essentially laid the foundation for the likes of Shahan, Green, Dalton Domino, etc with his ability to write music that could be loud and raucous without losing its’ singer-songwriter integrity. It’s not just over the course of a show either. Songs like “Radiate” could transition to be Saturday night hell-raisers one moment and intimate acoustic ballads the other. 

See Also: “The Night Before” No Dry County, “Dirtied Your Knees” Thrift Store Cowboys

Small Town Family Dream08) “I’ll Sing About Mine” Josh Abbott Band

Yeah. Abbott’s “I’ll Sing About Mine” was written by songwriters Brian Keane and Adam Hood. Yeah, “Taste,” “She’s Like Texas,” and “Oh, Tonight” find their way onto every Texas Country playlist made by college kids. But, arguing their popularity or Keane and Hood’s claim to the song doesn’t make it any less of a Lubbock anthem. It’s one of the examples of how a song can transcend a singer or an area. Abbott makes it his own, which in turn, makes it ours. It’s a battle cry for the high plains agriculture pockets in the Panhandle.

See Also: “Saturday Night” Wade Bowen, “Taste” Josh Abbott Band

Shake it Down09) “14 Miles From Home” Six Market Blvd.*

Six Market Blvd. popularized it. Red Shahan wrote it. For some, it’ll forever be 6MB and for others, it’s distinctly Shahan. Regardless, “14 Miles From Home” strikes a chord for those in both parties due to its’ candid and frank verses about being broke down literally and figuratively, all the while sprinkling straightforward philosophy with lines like “Luck is like a friend who speaks behind your back. But I ain’t worried about shit like that.”

See Also: “Dancing” Brandon Adams & The Sad Bastards, “When You Need a Train It Never Comes” Amanda Shires

God of Wind10) “God of Wind” Kenneth O’Meara

O’Meara’s “God of Wind” isn’t an anthem in your typical sense. You’re not going to see the stage rushed by everyone. You’re not going to feel the beer spray and hear shouted choruses. Rather, “God of Wind” is the Monday night singer-songwriter representative. Ask the songwriters at the bars and they’ll acknowledge and boast about the honest sincerity and humility of the song. It’s a staple for the reflective. It’s maybe the most Panhandle song on the list with its’ dry and somber lyrics. There’s a sense of romanticism that O’Meara explores where he’s longing for just a clear, bright, and spotless view without the glimmer of a wind turbine off in the distance.

See Also: “Long Way to Fall” Red Shahan, “Old Dirt Road” Wade Parks, “Wind Farmer” John Baumann

*Yeah, you don’t have to mention how these bands aren’t from Lubbock or The Panhandle. We already know. Their contributions to this list transcend the fact that they’re from Oklahoma or East Texas. There’s something inescapably Lubbock about them. They’ll be the first to admit.


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