Panhandle Music 2015: Top Songs 50-26

Songs1003by: Thomas D. Mooney

On to the next one. We’re on our third day in our countdown of the Top 100 Panhandle Songs of 2015. Here, we examine songs 50 through 26. Tomorrow, we’ll cap things off with our Top 25. For yesterday’s songs (75-51) click here. For songs 100-76, click hereSubscribe to the our constantly updated Top 100 Panhandle Songs of 2015 Spotify playlist here, or listen along below.

Amanda Shires50. “Mutineer” Amanda Shires & Jason Isbell
Sea Songs

That moment of falling in love, when waking life teeters on the verge of an optimistic drunkenness. A connection between two people who feels like they’ve already lived an entire lifetime together. Jason Isbell and Lubbock’s own Amanda Shires’ collaboration, in music and marriage, feels like a long worn love. Their recording of “Mutineer,” a Warren Zevon cover, from the digital only EP, Sea Songs, is a perfect amalgam of the connection these two share in artistry and life. Their harmony soars and plunges, all the while, we feel them smiling at each other. The recording might as well have been done in their living room in front of a warm fire. Shires’ fiddle haunts the empty space between voices while Isbell’s guitar deftly navigates the course. Lines like “I was born to rock the boat, some may sink but we will float, grab your coat–let’s get out of here,” leave their admiring fans clamoring for where they go next. –Paul Hunton, 24 Frames

Alex Sanchez49. “Emotive Control” Alex Sanchez

Lubbock singer-songwriter’s Alex Sanchez’ Insight=Foresight picks up right where he left us on 2013’s Emotion Control. On standout song, “Emotive Control,” the raspy-voiced Sanchez once again brings a simple guitar groove–similar to Gary Clark Jr’s “Bright Lights”–that he spices up with eccentric keys that border psychedelia. The introspective songwriter continues to fight the status quo throughout his rangy sophomore album–none better than with this gripping number. You can’t help but think Sanchez is singing about the mundane and monotonous aspects of social media–specifically Facebook–with clever lines like “I’m sitting here. I’m seeing all the same. I’m sick and tired of all these games. I’m going through the motions. This is the everyday.” —Thomas D. Mooney, NS

City Will Shake48. “The City Will Shake” City Will Shake

On City Will Shake’s “The City Will Shake,” the four-piece opts for the sprawling wilderness rather than the narrow corridors of an anonymous downtown. It’s down by the river where vocalists Matt Culpepper and Nolan Burr lead us on this roots-rock meets indie-rock romper. The river plays both the cleansing redeemer and the dark water drowner. Go down and be reborn. In a sense, they make the argument that it’s easier to just ask for forgiveness later than to be a good person throughout life. Once you’ve ben tarnished with gilt, just head to the river and let it decide on your fate. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Ronnie Eaton47. “City Lights” Ronnie Eaton & The Cold Hard Truth
What If We Are Ghosts

What do you get when you add part Texas Country and part southern rock? You get the band Ronnie Eaton & The Cold Hard Truth. 2015 has ben a great year for the Lubbock band, who debuted the first full-length What If We Are Ghosts in February (Eaton’s had two solo albums as well). The full harmonies, soft and sweet keys, and electric guitars all contribute to the tight and polished sound. “City Lights,” the fourth track ff the album, is the perfect example of the act’s Americanaesque sound. The truth in not only Eaton’s voice, but the lyrics echo his genuineness and vulnerability. Eaton is willing to admit feeling small sheltered–much like the vibe West Texas often emits. Towards the end, the intense guitar solo balances out the sensitivity in the lyrics with unwavering conviction. –Audrey DeLeon, 806 Echo

diamond center46. “Message of Wonder” The Diamond Center
Crystals For the Brass Empire

Former Lubbock psych-rockers The Diamond Center deliver a whole mess of “that’s what I’m talking about” with their song “Messenger of Wonder.” The song is a near perfect blend of everything there is to love about this band. The guitars walk the total reverb saturation line without ever getting too wet. While the keys cerate an ambiance that feels like something out of a Jefferson Airplane song on LSD. I can total picture a lisping Jim Carrey singing this at a Mathew Broderick house party. Brandi Price’s vocals are somehow both haunting and consoling at the same time. –Jon Seaborn, Ivory & Ash & 24 Frames

Comanche Moon45. “Socorro Wind” Comanche Moon
Comanche Moon

It’s not often that a band makes itself known to the world with an epic tale as long as Comanche Moon’s “Socorro Wind.” At six-minutes, it’s as long-winded as those gusts that come up during the pining chorus. Lead vocalist Mark Houston takes along on this tale that’s just as much an oral family history as it is about his own rambling ways. He takes us the long way through a rugged landscape of Mexican badlands and empty West Texas highways, to Argentinian highlands and depleted New Mexician farmlands. Even though on the Tex-Mex Ryan Binghamesque piece Houston leads us through the southern world where’s he’s grown from a boy to a man, he’s still a man without a home in the end. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

From Me to Shore

44. “Monkey in the Middle” Fellow American
From Me to Shore

Fellow American opens their debut From Me to Shore with a statement song of sorts in “Monkey in the Middle.” The five-piece isn’t trying to be anything remotely close to country, roots, or folk. While the most of Lubbock revolves around the next country songwriter, Fellow American is off dancing around their own drum circle beat. “Monkey in the Middle” itself revolves around a “Float On” esque bassline where the drum rhythms seem to reign supreme. They peak with their crisp Local Natives and Portugal. The Man-inspired patterns and styles. The song offers a bevy of interesting, clever observations like “the headbands going crazy now” and “I’m jumping to get the goods being tossed to another man” the are most likely music festival inspired activities. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Home43. “While I Was Away” Pat Green

A few months before Pat Green released his 12th studio album Home, he released its’ first single, the Zane Williams penned song “While I Was Away.” From that moment, the narrative that a revived Green was returning to something closer to his breakout albums of the late ’90s was created. In a sense, Green’s Home is the strongest collection in years, with “While I Was Away” leading the charge. Though Green didn’t write the intimate lullaby of sorts, at this point in his career, the legendary songwriter has lived that song time and again. It’s not contrived or looking to be a chart topper. Rather, it’s simple, to the point, and unpretentious. There’s that familiar, humble draw in Green. Whether that’s just now returning or been there all along, that’s besides the point. . –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Strangetowne42. “Amarillo Girls” Strangetowne
Hard Earned Love

“Amarillo Girls,” by Strangetowne runs considerably deeper than a listener might give it at first blush. The writers at referred to Amarillo as “the most dysfunctional city in America,” and though the moniker doesn’t instill much pride, it’s probably not far from the truth. Amarillo is the smallest town of 200,000 people you’ll probably ever find. The inescapable perils and ultimate beauty of romantic relationships in such a town are masterfully elocuted in the lyrics, penned by Lincoln Youree, one of the band’s two dynamic front men. As if introspective and engaging songwriting wasn’t enough, the song holds the listener’s ear with tasteful elements of flair, like the distant banjo, adding a folky bluegrass feel without being cliché. Guitarist Ben Cargo’s lap steel licks give the song a melodic grit. Band harmonies are unquestionably tight. If that wasn’t enough, the song’s chorus is punctuated with crowd shouts that developed as the band performed the song to adoring crowds time and again. The listener is gleefully drawn into a chorus of voices shouting the closing lines, and is left feeling more caught up in an experience than simply in a song. –Dan Johnson, Amarillo Singer-Songwriter

Llano Estacado Blues by Levi Methvin

41. “Drawing From an Empty Well” Levi Methvin
Llano Estacado Blues

Levelland native Levi Methvin has been crafting and writing songs for the last few years in private for the most part. Outside a handful of house shows and open mics, the young folk songwriter kept his songs in a close circle of friends. While living in Spain, Methvin decided to breath life into them. His debut, Llano Estacado Blues, was recorded in a bedroom closet. Opener “Drawing From an Empty Well” finds a composed Methvin making quite the statement with his sparse fingerpicking melody and rasp-tinged vocals. He delivers lines like “Everything you’ve touched became stained” with subtle delivery, but the weight and impact is intimately felt. –Thomas D. Mooney, New Slang

LiveLaughLove40. “Live, Laugh, Love” Charlie Stout

Save for the title, the first bar of Charlie Stout’s “Live, Laugh, Love” presumes to be another brilliant work, harkening back to a narrative of the old American West, a protagonist’s yearning for truth, featuring click-track steadiness and meticulous finger-picking, alone in a sonic sparseness that is unmistakably genuine. Without doubt, the stage is set for another one of Stout’s cinematic songs on screen. But immediately there’s a wave change, and we’re suddenly cognizant of the modern world; listening intently as an ironic and comedic song unfolds, which will have some laughing, some crying, some envious and some too dumb to know what the song may really be out. Yes, they are out there. There isn’t much need to pinpoint the mockery and the usage of today’s social “tools” that Stout highlights–because tomorrow they may be gone and seemingly forgotten altogether–replaced by something new; but, if there is a song to hone in on a part of the population, at this moment in time, that ticklishly lambastes the seemingly down-home, internet addicted, look-at-me persona who can’t recognize her (or his) own dysfunction…Well, this one does a pretty damn good job of being that song. It can bring a laugh, a chuckle, or something you can show your bud and say “Hey man, check this out–this song is hilariously brilliant.” Often times, that’s what it’s all about. –John Baumann, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

Dalton Domino39. “7 Years” Dalton Domino

The best moments on Dalton Domino’s 1806–though excellent–aren’t the footstomping anthems in “Dallas” or “Killing Floor.” They’re the times he lets his guard down. While he’s typically exuding with confidence, it’s on songs like “7 Years” where he’s somehow his grittiest despite being genuinely worn thin and bleeding. There’s a callus hardening over Domino, but he’s not fooling anyone as he being beaten against the ropes. Sure, he lashes out with a couple of jabs himself in this fuck you ballad. He’s lying through his teeth when he says “how dare you say I never loved you, but I never tried.” Still, Domino’s growth succeeds the guilt, shame, and heartbreak when he finishes the song and album out with “I guess the things you might want at sixteen ain’t what you need at twenty-three.”. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Union Specific38. “Oops Ma (We Taught the Boy)” Union Specific
Howlin’ Room

Enlightenment replaces entitlement on Union Specific’s “Oops Ma (We Taught the Boy),” the brilliant country-rock standout from their sophomore album, Howlin’ Room. Here, the three US mainstays, Tyler Wallace (the one true Panhandler), Gregg Maher, and Kim Taruc, take turns at sharing what they’ve shared with the boy–whether it’s reading, singing, argue, etc. While each individual songwriter is distinct on their solo compositions, here on “Oops Ma,” those distinctions blend together creating something different altogether. It forms a combination of Old 97’s rambler, Wilco balladry, and Son Volt country–with a touch of Gram Parsons–that’s as footstomping as it is thought provoking. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

ShandyBandits37. “Dripping Blues” Shandy Bandits

Shandy Bandits’ “Dripping Blues” is a slow-moving fog. At the beginning, guitarist Brandon Todd’s vocals are almost as if he’s uninterested in even committing to the 11-minute song. They’re a tired, confused, and sleepy growl that soon shifts into an impassioned roar from the band leader. The combination of haunting keys and ripping guitar saturated in the blues throw the song into the territory where The Doors meets The Animals. At times, the eeriness of “House of the Rising Sun” creeps through the shadows on this crawling heavy burner–specifically when keyboardist Rachel Cunningham comes howling near the end of each verse. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Ringling Road36. “Still Think Abut You” William Clark Green
Ringling Road

For William Clark Green’s four studio albums, he’s always closed with the song that he felt was most personal. For Ringling Road, that’d be “Still Think About You,” the sobering break-up ballad co-written by the late Kent Finlay. Here, Green goes from looking back on ferris wheel kisses to breaking the girl’s heart–unintentionally–which is the key. When break-up songs come a dime a dozen, “Still Think About You” sets itself apart from the pack due to Green’s mature take. It’s developed past the point of the initial fracture. Green delivers lines like “I know you hate me now, but I wanted you to know. I didn’t care enough, but I cared enough to let you go” where the emphasis lies with letting her go despite being aware of the inevitable storm and risk of being forever hated by sometime. –Thomas D. Mooney, New Slang

PianoViolin35. “Old Sea” Outlier

Outlier’s “Old Sea” begs for a weeping session. Melanie Lenau’s elegant violin gracefully floats above Anthony Garcia’s soft, romantic piano. Located near the end of their latest instrumental album, PianoViolin, “Old Sea” pulls on your heartstrings with this gloomy and baroque masterpiece. While both Lenau and Garcia are endlessly talented, neither go off on erratic tangents of grandeur. Rather, they stay within arms length of one another on this graceful dance. When Lenau leads, Garcia’s piano isn’t far behind (and vice versa). Despite the overcast and melancholy tones, there’s still this slight and subtle optimism that’s just below the surface of the old sea waltz. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Phantom Friend34. “Phantom Friend” Veda Moon

Veda Moon is the most underrated band within the Lubbock city limits. That’s partly because they take their time with their craft. The three-piece revolving around the songwriting of vocalists Damon Dennis and Kayaki Howle with the precise drumming of Corey Alvarez, released their debut, Yesterday’s Souls, after working on the five-track EP for nearly a year. The release of “Phantom Friend” this November comes as bit of a surprise–a friendly reminder that they’ve locked themselves away and in the process of creating another masterpiece. On “Phantom Friend” the three continue creating a jazzy dream-pop landscape. Howl provides a walking bassline riff goes back and forth in the background while Dennis occupies the foreground with Grizzly Bear-esque guitar strums. They know when to just let things breath, simmer, and have its’ open space. It’s possibly the best part of the six-minute piece. –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Flatland Cavalry33. “No Shade of Green” Flatland Cavalry
Come May

“No Shade of Green” is refreshingly well written. Cleto Cordero’s songwriting ability really shines. The song instantly catches you the second Laura Houle comes in on the fiddle. Musically, the song makes you want to move–whether it be swaying to the beat, tapping your foot, or finding someone in the crowd to dance with. As someone who goes to many music festivals, I personally can relate to locking eyes with someone in the crowd–never knowing their name, but never forgetting their face. Cordero did a fantastic job of relaying that moment to the listener. It gets even better when you know that the mystery girl who inspired this song heard about it through the grapevine. It has caught on that much in the scene that it made its way back up to her in Oklahoma. It’s a great back story and in turn, a great song. –Quayde Addison, The Red Dirt Rebel 105.3

Jim Dixon32. “Tonto” Jim Dixon
Broken Marquee

At the start of “Tonto,” I’m loading my horse down with guns and a sleeping bag. By the end of the song, my partner and I have killed all the lawyers, caught all the bank robbers and conquered everything that’s bad in the world. I find myself reflecting on it in slow motion. It’s a great tune in my ears. The chorus is simple, yet powerful–and the Native American flute could NOT have been used better. It’s a song that takes me back to my younger years as a kid with two older brothers. When you’re the youngest, you’re not the dominant force, but always just hanging around. You’re not always the best decision maker, but always finding your way. Jim Dixon gracefully captures that with the clever, honest metaphor of never getting to be The Lone Ranger, but never bitching about it. It’s looking back, when you realize it didn’t matter who was what when, but rather the time and companionship you cherish. –Parker Morrow, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

Dust & Wind31. “I See Stars” Charlie Stout
Dust & Wind: Flatland Murder Ballads & High Plains Hymns

“I See Stars” is not an all-together new concept for a song. The gunman on the run to mexico, Rangers on his tail. That being said, not one line in this song is contrived or trite. Not one word was hastily thrown in. That alone, says something about Charlie Stout. In the beginning, it’s a man and his worn-out horse, the listener–at least this listener–thought the horse was just something to describe to help the song to move along smoothly. But by the end, I almost felt more sorry for the horse than the man, which i’m not sure was intentional, but it sure as hell was poignant. Due to the nature of its’ recording, you hear the sounds of crickets, and possibly distant highway noise all along. All this does is help to draw you in. It’s been a way for one man and one guitar, to sound almost like an orchestra. As stated before, it’s not really the subject matter of the song, but more the painstaking craftsmanship that demands respect for this song, and the rest of Stout’s work.. –Dallas Owens, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

Playa Lake30. “Debt” Playa Lake

This is probably my favorite tune to come from on of my favorite bands in Amarillo. The tune starts out almost gentle, driven by some guitar work that is somewhat reminiscent of The Devil Makes Three. Jeremy Knowles’ vocals star out strong and grow even stronger as we arrive at the breakdown. The bass takes over for a few bars and brings everyone into an outro that would have made Pennywise proud–a tribute to the band’s punk rock influences perhaps? Either way, it manages to tie in the varied influences of he band into a sound that’s uniquely their own.–Carlos Martinez-Arraras, Comanche Moon

Panhandle Rambler29. “You Saved Me” Joe Ely
Panhandle Rambler

Joe Ely’s Panhandle Rambler ends with “You Saved Me,” a reflective love (and thank you) letter in which he thanks his wife for always being the safety net and firm foundation in his, at times, hectic life. He begins the Southwest-tinged guitar track as honest as possible with “From myself, you saved me.” While it’s a moment in which the legendary songwriter counts his blessings, you also begin to understand that it’s not just a gesture of love and admiration to her, but reminder to himself. It’s here that his gratitude outweighs his expectations. The grand outro of guitars come as a marvelous culmination for the album. In many ways, Rambler was Ely rediscovering the electric guitar that had faded out of his work since the ’80s. And while they aren’t as rough and raw as what’s on Live Shots, the wild assortment here adds a punch to Ely’s storytelling campfire songs, with none better than “You Saved Me.” –Thomas D. Mooney, NS

Ryan Culwell28. “I Think I’ll Be Their God” Ryan Culwell

In “I Think I’ll Be Their God,” every being’s existence (mortal or celestial) and their purpose is reduced to two simple things: love and playing in the dirt to find it. The preacher, the farmer, the murderer, and even God himself are brought to the same playing field. Individual purpose is reduced to banality. By changing just a few words Culwell changes the role of God into that of an oil tycoon. The nihilistic subject matter is perfectly accompanied by relatively bare instrumentals and a compressed vocal that kinda sounds as if Culwell is singing through a megaphone on the corner with a sign reading “The End is Near.” This analysis is just what I get out of the song…that may or may not have been Culwell’s intention… and I haven’t talked to him about it…but it sure does get you thinking. –Benton Leachman, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter

Departures27. “Vices” John Baumann

Whether he’s singing about illegal immigrants, a one-night stand in a rural Texas town, or exposing the truth about what it is really like to date an entitled girl from an oil town, one thing is undeniable, John Baumann has the uncanny ability to take what some would call “risqué” subject matter and turn it into something that’s so pleasant and catchy, you can’t help but sing right along. He continues this with “Vices” by taking the topic of addiction and falling short, and turning it into a folk-pop sing-a-long with a Steve Earle stomp. I’ve found myself belting this one on a Sunday afternoon–despite a nasty Blue Light-induced hangover setting in–and in more ways than one, it’s a perfect remedy. –Cleto Cordero, Flatland Cavalry

Men & Coyotes26. “Drag You Down” Red Shahan
Men & Coyotes

“Drag You Down” is one of those “how do I get over you like you’ve been able to get over me” moments. Shahan puts words to the gut punch most of our hearts have felt at least once in our lifetime. The constant struggle to move forward and not dwell is evident. And while not being quite over it yet, he’s doing his best to not cause any burden. Shahan does a great job of painting the picture of a struggling man who still wants the best for the other party. Add a wonderful bridge full of sound and strings, the whole song makes you wonder how does she sleep at night. –Dave Martinez, Lubbock Singer-Songwriter


3 responses to “Panhandle Music 2015: Top Songs 50-26

  1. Pingback: Panhandle Music 2015: Top Songs 75-51 | New Slang·

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