The Essentials – College Cowboy Soundtrack, 1994-1998 Share
In “The Essentials” series, our official blogger, singer/songwriter/journalist Mike Ethan Messick, dives into the catalog of one of the Texas Music Scene’s brightest stars or biggest legends and comes up with a handful of essential songs to recommend. Alternately he might tackle a theme, regional scene, or subgenre and list off just enough highlights and personal favorites to fill up your next mix CD.
THE ESSENTIALS – College Cowboys
- “The Everclear Song” – Roger Creager – In honor of the back-to-school but old-enough-to-at-least-sneak-into-a-bar crowd, this week’s essentials is going to dig into which “Texas Country” songs were among the biggest live requests, snuck onto local radio playlists (at least in my late-‘90s College Station frame of reference) and inspired lots of sing-alongs at bars, campfires, 3 AM porch beers, etc. And since I’m being fairly specific in my worldview here, this one stuck out to me partly because I wrote it in college and it was the first song of mine anyone had ever recorded. In the hands of a performer as hardworking and charismatic as Roger Creager, it turned from a late-night goof into a full-blown anthem … and as the regional music scene was blowing up, it had plenty of company.
- “The Road Goes On Forever” – Robert Earl Keen – This one probably pre-dates most of the songs on this list by half a decade, at least in its initial release, but one has to wonder if a lot of these songs would have existed without it. Keen turned a simple but eventful tale of a hard-partying waitress’ fling with an unconventionally ambitious pot-dealer into a violent broadside ballad of sorts, and by the time his live band was firing on all cylinders it turned into a three-chord rave-up any Aggie (or hell any Texas college kid) worth his salt could at least scream the chorus to (if not know it word for word).
- “Drink One More Round” – Cory Morrow – One of the first Robert Earl disciples to throw their hats into the indie-country ring, Morrow was probably about 25% hell-raiser and 75% sensitive, mature songwriter even at the get-go. He didn’t have a ton of songs like this agreeably laid-back boozer, making it stand out all the more when it got a bit closer to last call at his shows. It first appeared on his bare-bones debut EP, then got fleshed out memorably with cameos from running buddies Pat Green and Owen Temple when re-recorded for The Man That I’ve Been.
- “Fightin’ Texas Aggie” – Dub Miller – Again with the specifics, but this chugging, fiddle-sawing singalong was pretty much inescapable around Aggieland. It hit enough of the Texas A&M signifiers (the Dixie Chicken, shots at UT, Keen quotes) with amusingly worded pitfalls of modern college life woven in. Plus even barely out of his teens, Dub Miller had one hell of a depth to that baritone voice.
- “Southbound 35” – Pat Green – One would think that Green, the name most synonymous with the college-cowboy Texas country explosion, would sit proudly atop any list of frat-friendly anthems, but though he ruled the roost as a live act he didn’t necessarily have that one signature song that stuck out … “Carry On,” “George’s Bar,” “Here We Go” etc. could have just as easily sat at this spot. The Green songs that could qualify as college anthems (there’s that word again) could populate their own list of fifteen, though he’s focused on his subtler and less-specific charms more recently.
Rounding things out …
- “Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah” – Reckless Kelly
- “My Hometown” – Charlie Robison
- “Beer, Bait & Ammo” – Kevin Fowler
- “The Boys From Oklahoma” – Cross Canadian Ragweed
- “It Ain’t Easy Being Me” – Chris Knight
- “Runnin’ Buddy” – Max Stalling
- “Pearl Snaps” – Jason Boland & The Stragglers
- “Three Fingers Tequila” – Mark David Manders
- “$50 & A Flask of Crown” – Bleu Edmondson & Matt Powell
- “Llano Estacado” – Cooder Graw
READERS! (If this has any) – I’m curious to know what your generation’s college-aged hits were, whether you’re a student right now or were around for the original round of youth-friendly outlaws (Willie, Waylon, Jerry Jeff etc.) back in the ‘70s. Or maybe you cut class to road-trip to a Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys gig … anyhow, I’d like to see your list (or at least hear a few faves). I would imagine the current crop of beer-drinking academics would have a list heavy on folks like Josh Abbott, the Turnpike Troubadours, or Whiskey Myers … let me know if that’s anywhere close.