Panhandle Music 2015: Top Songs 75-51

Songs1001by: Thomas D. Mooney
Editor-in-Chief

Yesterday, we kicked off Best of the Year coverage off with songs 100-76 in our Top 100 Panhandle Songs of 2015. Today, we count down No. 75 through 51. For yesterday’s list, click here. Subscribe to the our constantly updated Top 100 Panhandle Songs of 2015 Spotify playlist here, or listen along below.

Stocklyn75. “Get Away” Stocklyn
Stocklyn

If rock & roll was flatlining, then Stocklyn is the result of an adrenaline needle to the heart. Masculinity. Attitude. Sexuality. Stocklyn combines the best of West Texas muscle with Los Angeles confidence–maybe never more noticeable than in the track “Get Away.” Driven vocals, chunky guitars, and a fat groove punch out this riff based song. The tension in this song builds up right into the octave guitar solo that moans sensually like lovers locked in a heated moment. Both voices synced as one. It echoes the vocal style already set by front man Will Boreing. This song hits hard and hits fast, really fast. Clocking in a shade under two-and-a-half minutes, Boreing and company are not ones to waste words or time. Meant to be cranked loud and enjoyed with bourbon. Get sweaty. Stocklyn plays rock n roll, and they mean. –Beau Bofling, Front Porch Family Band

Solitude74. “I Remember” Alma Quartet
Solitude

Alma Quartet’s debut album, Solitude, snuck in 2015–just being released about a week ago. Though they’ve been a band for more than a decade, the four-piece jazz band is just now releasing their first material together. With singer-songwriter Jerry Serrano at the helm on vocals, there’s a laid-back and soothing flow throughout. In particular, standout song “I Remember” finds Serrano reminiscing about love lost and vowing to never forget. Serrano’s rich tone plays nicely on the consoling melody on piano. Serrano’s trumpet solo throws you back in time as well. You both transport into a Nighthawks at the Diner period with Serrano and company in the corner booth of a late night diner. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

mountivyalbumart73. “Clevertake Daydream Pt. 2” Mount Ivy
Wabi Sabi

Mount Ivy’s “Clevertake Daydream Pt 2” could very well double as their genre label. Even before vocalist Broderick Adams’ comes in, you can’t help but begin drifting towards your own daydream storyline. Here, the guitars are more suppressed than usual–as if they were being played in the room next door rather than next to you like much of Wabi Sabi. It’s not until the second half that they truly break through. This little touch–along with Adams’ highly emotional vocal take–add an additional layer not experienced with Mount Ivy before. They’re more of a post-rock band that hints at Friday Night Lights outtakes by Explosions in the Sky for much of “Clevertake Daydream Pt 2” than their conventional garage-space rock set-up. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Ryan Culwell72. “Flatlands” Ryan Culwell
Flatlands

Perryton native Ryan Culwell is one of the most promising Texas songwriters to hit the scene in recent memory. One of the standout tracks on the album of the same name, “Flatlands,” brings to mind the tunes of another Ryan; it’s “Southside of Heaven” for a new generation. In his ever-so-slightly raspy voice that’s equal parts Joe Ely and Bruce Springsteen, Culwell weaves a tapestry of images all too familiar to those of us who grew up in desolate West Texas. Say what you will about it, but there’s something in the sparse terrain, wind and harsh weather the area is known for that have lent themselves to inspired tracks like this one for decades, and lines like “Take me back where I can see, miles of dirt in front of me. Summer’s hot and winter’s mean. There ain’t nothin’ in between” are enough to make any Lubbock-to-Elsewhere transplant homesick.. –Leslie Hale, New Slang

No Dry County71. “The Night Before” No Dry County
The Night Before

“And my body aches and hates the night before.” Everyone’s cursed a hangover in the morning. Now, add up a month’s worth of three-night weekend hangovers. While there were a host of songs written about the road, no one described and personified the trek of touring as accurately as No Dry County this year–“The Night Before” in particular. Vocalist Trent Langford lets us ride shotgun with the band as he narrates essentially every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of 2015. It’s always the night before that’s wearing them down. Still throughout, it’s the ones keeping the home fire burning, that keep Langford and company from completely going off the rails. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Men & Coyotes70. “Move Over” Red Shahan
Men & Coyotes

When you go to watch a Red Shahan show, it’s hard to miss this song. It’s a no excuses, it’s over, break-up tune. “Move Over” is in your face and honest to the core. Soul on the floor and dirt in the air will bring a tear to the weary when this blues number hits full stride. No stranger to the Lubbock songwriter scene, Shahan has had this song in his toolbox throughout and sharpened it like your grandaddy’s old-timer into a six-eight sway will piercing emotion. There are super tasty guitars, drums that won’t quit, and vibrato that makes a signature sound. It’s one of my favorite songs Shahan has ever written, and will always be. Powerful, dynamic, subtle, and easy. Over and out. –Brandon Adams, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

Benton Leachman69. “Bury the Hatchet” Benton Leachman
Bury the Hatchet

Looking back, “Bury the Hatchet” was a bit of a turning point for Benton Leachman as a songwriter. In many ways, it was the first piece in which he was honest in ways that were intimate, blunt, and exposing. He wasn’t the heartbreaker, but the heartbreakee. The image of burying the hatchet has a passive aggressive dark side that slowly reveals itself. As the story goes, he finished up the song one late night at home and instantly recorded an acoustic take on his laptop in his bathroom. Specifically, in this raw version–the one at the end of Bury the Hatchet–you hear the whiskey still on Leachman’s breath as it warms the room. You know he’s been beaten down, but you get the feeling that with that final chord strum, he’s finally ready to move on to better things. . –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Departures68. “North Country’s Own” John Baumann
Departures

While John Baumann’s previous efforts–West Texas Vernacular and High Plains Alchemy–regularly approached genius in painstakingly detailed (and often unflattering) portraiture, “North Country’s Own” from Departures sounds less like the reaction of an angry man to the flaws of those around him and more like the seasoned (if not resigned) observations of a young man gifted with the wisdom to choose his battles wisely. With a few short verses describing the healing effects of a weekend in the wilderness on a weary soul, Baumann pulls rank on the futility of argument and distills the theology of general revelation (the idea that God reveals Himself to man through creation) into a distinctly American, unapologetic, uncomplicated anthem clocking in at just under five minutes: “the northern lights are burning like the flames of my youth, you don’t have to be on LSD to find the Divine Truth.” Herein lies the brilliance of Baumann’s writing: he doesn’t exhaust his subject by stacking verse upon Dylanesque (read: tiresome) verse–he says just enough to construct a framework for an idea around a series of images, deliver his message within that framework, and then humbly take a bow – leaving the last two minutes of music on this track for the listener’s imagination to run free with his idea while guitars shimmer like sparkles of sunlight on a winding river. –Charlie Stout, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

Wade Bowen67. “‘Til It Does” Wade Bowen & Randy Rogers
Hold My Beer, Vol. 1

Hooked. That’s the best way to describe how I felt with this rich tone instant classic. Right from the opening lead steel guitar ride, you can tell this is what my grandpa would be listening to, an old-school, sad honky-tonk bar song. It’s that iconic sound that Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers set out when recording Hold My Beer, Vol. 1. The smooth dragging of the chrorus’ vocal melody  puts you right in the dark, smokey, neon-lit bar room with a beer in hand, and makes you want to sing along to this lonely drinking song. For me, what ties it all together is the deep baritone, twangy, electric guitar that blends with crying steel guitar. It brings the classic style of country back that’s been a missing art and has been overlooked and overshadowed in the modern world. And they play so well off their hook line “It don’t happen ’til it does.” Lines like “You don’t hear the lonely train ’til you’re tied up on the track,” they really show the power behind the mindset of this song. It being taking by surprise in the worst way. It’s simple. It’s catchy. It’s everything you want out of a genuine, true country song. –Randall King, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

Panhandle Rambler66. “When the Nights Are Cold” Joe Ely
Panhandle Rambler

Joe Ely’s Panhandle Rambler is the most dynamic album of the year. It’s distinct in tone and twang. Ely draws the recognizable sound of the album not just from the Panhandle, but from all over the West Texas region. On “When the Nights Are Cold,” we find the rambling Ely closer to the badlands of northern Mexico than the cotton rows of the plains. Ely’s weary country draw is as timeless as it gets. Ely mainstays, accordion player Joel Guzman and pedal steel god Lloyd Maines highlight the Butch Hancock penned ballad with their own unique flavor. Ely’s always performed Hancock songs as if he’d written them himself. “When the Nights Are Cold” is no different. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Josh Abbott Band65. “Amnesia” Josh Abbott Band
Front Row Seat

About a year ago, I let myself react to a certain editorial post written about a certain interview given by a certain Josh Abbott. At the time, I was attending a metal festival, drinking a little whiskey, and tweeting my feelings. I was obviously out of line, and I’ve felt a bit guilty about taking the axe to one of our favorite Texas Sons ever since. I’ve been working on being a better person ever since. Part of my rehabilitation included actually “listening” to this band for once. When I heard the song “Amnesia” I was immediately put in my place. It was pretty awesome. I went back and listened to the rest of JAB’s output. Front Row Seat is infinitely better than any other record the band has released up until this point. “Amnesia” is a perfectly crafted moody pop song about the “what ifs” of a broken relationship. The playing is killer. The production is huge. I’ve gotta say, of all the Lubbock full lengths I’ve heard this year, Front Row Seat might be my favorite. I’ve learned a lot this year. I look forward to hearing what comes next from Josh & crew. Cheers. –Daniel Markham, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

DRAGG64. “Beyond Clear Light” DRAGG
Over The Horizon

It’s difficult to split up DRAGG’s Over the Horizon into individual songs. Even though it’s split into six individual tracks, you’d rather take it all in one sitting. Still, the slow-moving monolith “Beyond Clear Light” stands out without the help of others. Despite only being a three-piece, DRAGG is the heaviest doom and sludge project going in the area. The baritone guitar of Brandon Blair, bass guitar of Jordan McEwen, and the pounding hammer in Jason Mitchell’s drum work are never redundant, dull, or over the top. Where last year’s debut was whole-heartedly in the world of doom metal, Over the Horizon finds the band expanding on the hints of post-rock and going off in psychedelic tangents that feel just as cosmic as they do terrestrial–specifically on “Beyond Clear Light.” –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

The Goners63. “Blood/Dust” The Goners
On My Side

“Aren’t you afraid of the knives left inside that tear you awake, the blood you ignite?” Have you ever been completely ripped apart by someone? Decimated to the point of being dried up like sand and afraid of any hope, even in the form of life-giving rain, because it would cause you rust and deteriorate even more? I hope not. I sincerely do. But if you have, then The Goners know exactly where you’ve been and how to get you out of it. “I’ll dig my own way out, until the bottom falls out.” On second thought, maybe there is no way out. This is one of my favorite songs right now, I’m constantly taken aback by the 3/4 time signature and dark, haunting vibe of the instrumentation and Sarah Duhan’s lyrics. If heartbreak makes a sound this is it. –Ronnie Eaton, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

Home62. “Day One” Pat Green
Home

I’ve said it before, the best and most authentic country music is borne of pain that can only come from experience. Over the past 20 years, Pat Green and his music have aged with grace, and his songwriting has only become more poignant. “Day One” is one of his masterpieces–four minutes of alternating heartbreak and hope, told in Green’s usual understated fashion. It’s one of those songs that are easy to overlook if you’re not paying close attention to the lyrics. The simple, repetitive melody and instrumentation serve to make the sadness of the lyrics stand out even more. It’s up there with Garth Brooks’ “Learning to Live Again,” among the best country songs about how moving on from heartbreak is as difficult as it is necessary. –Leslie Hale, NS

Benton Leachman61. “The Zombie Song” Benton Leachman
Bury the Hatchet

Deep within the psyche, past the point of macabre lays the oddity, a fascination, a need only the cold earth can remotely appreciate. “Behold brothers and sisters the curtain of the temple was torn in two.” Benton Leachman has summoned the undead! “Funny how you feel alone when you see a fresh-cut stone makes you want to hold your breath and run. Funny how your hair will raise when you stand on shaky graves and feel the fresh turned dirt between your toes.” Those mindfully craft lyrics and the production work is on point–note 1:24 drum rhythm over the line “then you hear a drumming sound.” I dig it! Leachman summons the undead in “The Zombie Song.” My rattling bones can’t stop shaking. –Jim Dixon, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

Hold the Line60. “My Everything” Jacob McCoy Burton
Hold the Line

I’m a huge sucker for love songs. That’s all there is to it. I truly believe that love is the glue that binds us and even makes a fairly stable base to live all of our lives. Jacob McCoy Burton effectively captured this sentiment in “My Everything.” Burton is truly a great songwriter. He’s mixing a timbre likened to a Gregory Alan Isokov with the impressive finger picking of The Tallest Man on Earth. I’ve seen Burton play live only once, but I believe he’s got a really great future ahead of him. He’s a strong voice portraying a beautiful message. –Grady Spencer, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

On Through the Night59. “Static” Brandon Adams
On Through the Night

This pulsing rock tune is track four on Brandon Adams’ latest release On Through the Night. The first impressions heard are the distorted, melodic guitar and the steady driving rhythm of the bass and drums that herald an unabashed raw experience. One of the great qualities about Adams is his ability to crank out a powerful rock and roll sound while rewarding those listening more closely with profound and meaningful lyrics. This song is no different in that regard from his others. There is a sense of weariness in the lyrics, and a sense that Adams is contemplating his mortality. The first line “I was young, but I’m older now” sets the tone for the song. Ultimately, it is a journey through an assessment of one’s life. The realization that “We ain’t gonna live forever” is often the driving force behind great accomplishments, and that awareness has resulted in one of Adams most powerful works to date. –Jerry Serrano, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

Ivory and Ash58. “Thoughts” Ivory & Ash
This is For No One, This is For Nothing

With a title like “Thoughts,” one can expect that you might be getting a glimpse into the mind of the artists’ head that produced the song. From the first note to the last, there is no denying you received just that. The song enters with a well-crafted series of guitar riffs and vocals–which are a signature to Ivory & Ash. The song continues to build into harder metal riffs and breakdowns that only they seem to be able to cleanly sew together. This song is composed beautifully. It invokes feelings that are exactly as one who is experiencing the hurt and frustration of a broken relationship. From the highs of intense anger to the lows of calm reflection, “Thoughts” tells it all. Whether listening to the recording or seeing them perform it live, there is no difference. Ivory & Ash are the cleanest local rock band I have experienced. –Aaron Dick, Ronnie Eaton & The Cold Hard Truth

Men & Coyotes57. “Boom Town” Red Shahan
Men & Coyotes

First and foremost, I think Red Shahan has struck gold in its finest form with this entire record. The guy has had people howling along with him–not only at live shows–but while they drive to and from work in the mornings and evenings. “Boom Town” is the story of struggle and determination and how far you are willing to go to get what you need. In order to pay rent and feed her two children, this mother secretly takes to stripping. She thinks to herself, what would her family think. It’s a constant tug of war of what she has done and what it provides for them. By the end, she’s paid off a house and the children are in college. She has the satisfaction of knowing she made it all happen. Everyone carries around their own secret struggles. It’ how we overcome them that makes us who we are. Shahan reminds us of that. –Art Portillo, No Dry County Tour Manager

Playa Lake56. “Graves” Playa Lake
PLAYA LAKE

On Playa Lake’s “Graves,” the dark jangle melody and “Click! Bang! I found your grave!” of the chorus play off one another so perfectly, you can’t imagine one without the other. It’s a hell of an exchange. Vocalist Jeremy Knowles adds all the gravel and grit needed on the boot stomping folk song. The nods at bluegrass and Dust Bowl folk tunes throughout their self-titled EP–along with honest and raw–but precise–recording is some of the most unpretentious music to find its’ way out of the Panhandle in years. Here on “Graves,” the presence of mandolin and picking counter-balance the strumming rattle of the rhythm. It’s subtle and underlying the entire time, but goes a long way. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

harmonyinhell55. “Velvet” Daniel Markham & Claire Morales
Harmony in Hell

With Harmony in Hell, Daniel Markham and Claire Morales take us into the dark and show us the goth-folk we never knew we wanted. Released on Halloween, the album revolves around the central theme of the season, which is captured perfectly within the gloom of the murder-ballad “Velvet.” Murder-ballad is used quite literally here. Within the track’s haunting guitars and harmonies, lies a story of what seems to be an obsession gone murderous. Though dark, the duo successfully attempts to make the tale almost enduring. The song is beautiful and haunting. If goth proms are a thing, it’d be the last slow song played. –Aaron Smith, The Goners & Slow Relics

Strangetowne54. “Hard Earned Love” Strangetowne
Hard Earned Love

The title track of the full-length debut album from Strangetowne, Hard Earned Love, was everything and more it was anticipated to be. From beginning to end, the song keeps you captivated and continues to stick in your head for days. The perfectly orchestrated instrumental hooks, combined with the broken down and almost raw verses, make for one of the best songs to come from them yet. Relatable and dynamic, “Hard Earned Love” will walk you through the growing pains every relationship will face. Ultimately, you can hear the pain of giving up on a love that was so hard to earn in the first place. –Lindsey Blackwell, Amarillo Singer-Songwriter

Daniel Payne53. “Smoke Signals” Daniel Payne
Tales for Undesirables

The sad sinking feeling deep within Daniel Payne’s twangy, desolate tune “Smoke Signals” very well could be the strongest of the year. The high and lonesome in Payne’s Hank Williamseque creaky draw is unmistakable as it slowly roams to the drums’ death march beat. The low drone of a fiddle/cello fills out the wandering ballad. Payne’s always been one unafraid to throw out an engaging assortment of lines. Some feel worn and weathered as if they’ve been bouncing around Payne’s mind for years while others have a brass sense to them. They feel off the cuff. With “Smoke Signals,” he goes back and forth with cryptic lines like “not once but twice you’ve dared tread across these plains” and straightforward thoughts like “maybe I’ll just finish you for good.” Though Payne is remarkable at turning the line, just like those smoke signals dissipating, he knows when his silence says even more. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

No Dry County52. “‘Til the Wheels Fall Off” No Dry County
The Night Before

No Dry County’s “Til the Wheels Fall Off” is full of one liners that can’t help but make you smile when heard. This band has evolved more than most bands ever do, but it’s something they have done so gracefully. With The Night Before, the five-piece has such strong vision of who they are as a group. Their versatility and sound is cleverly displayed in this country-rock slow burner with the variety of instruments with a hint of Springsteen underneath it all and lines like “I’ll put you down, girl, I’ll make you weak, cause I’ll mess up, wake up, apologize, and hit repeat.” –Sarah Wilson, NS

Jim Dixon51. “Blood of the Earth” Jim Dixon
Broken Marquee

Jim Dixon, a Lubbock transplant from Hobbs, New Mexico, has added to the strong core of songwriting talent of the region in recent years. On “Blood of the Earth,” off of his Broken Marquee EP, Dixon exhibits his soulful voice, as well as a tasteful ear for production of his work. The song has an anthemic quality to it, and while the listener may interpret the song in various ways, it touches on existential themes and imagery, speaking to ideas of freedom and dealing with change and uncertainty. Capturing themes of the cyclical nature of life, Dixon sings “Build a wall, this side is yours, cause you took it from, someone before.” This track is a strong indicator of Dixon’s aptitude for forging new paths in the Lubbock songwriting community, and he stands to challenge other fellow songwriters to follow him along the way. –Jeff Dennis, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

For songs 50-26, click here.

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3 responses to “Panhandle Music 2015: Top Songs 75-51

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