Texas in the early 70s was “songwriter heaven.” Everyone who was anyone hung out in Austin at the Armadillo World Headquarters, the Saxon Pub, the Broken Spoke and multiple other great venues. Willie moved to Austin. We had Rusty Weir, Michael Martin Murphy, BW Stevenson, Nanci Griffith, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett and many more. Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt made their way to their home state of Texas as often as Nashville would let go of them. The Kerrville Folk Festival started in 1972 and will be celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It was a wonderful time for music, musicians and music lovers.
It’s fair to say there’ve been ups and downs in the music business over the years. There have been musical trends that gained popularity which I found singularly unappealing but it’s not my goal to slam other genres. I just want to let y’all know that the spirit of Austin/Texas music from the 70s is alive and well. I know this because I just spent a weekend in Red River, New Mexico at the 10th Ever Red River Songwriters’ Festival. This annual songwriter festival is the brainchild of a group of songwriters who split their time between Austin and Nashville. Drew Kennedy, Susan Gibson, Josh Grider, Walt Wilkins and Kelly McWee are seasoned pros who write and sing some of the best music you’ll ever hear. People always want labels and I suppose Americana is the catch-all that best describes them but they cover country, Western, pop, folk…you name it, they can do it. Every year, they bring in special guest songwriters, usually folks who, like them, have a foot in Nashville as a professional songwriter as well as a career as a touring singer/songwriter. This year’s featured artists were Jason Eadey and Courtney Patton. They are both solo artists who happen to be married to each other and who occasionally perform with each other. Man, they were GREAT!
Here’s the deal. The Austin music scene in the 70s was christened “Redneck Rock.” It was an amalgamation of country and rock music that brought together hippies and rednecks in a spirit of harmony (usually in a haze of alcohol and at times, marijuana, fumes). The most important word in that last sentence is “harmony.” The music brought people together. The same spirit is evident at the Red River Songwriters’ Festival. There were a lot of Texans there…hey, it’s Red River and they’re big supporters of these songwriters…along with a good number of people from New Mexico and surrounding areas. I’m guessing the political views of the audience ran the gamut from very conservative to very liberal. The reason I’m “guessing” is that not once did politics come up from the stage or in any conversation that I was a part of. Nobody really cared about all those things that polarize us. What they cared about was the music that brought us together. That’s what I’m interested in these days…things that bring us together. https://www.redriversongs.com/; @susangibson; @drewkennedy; @joshgrider; @waltwilkins; @kellymcwee; @jasoneadey; @courtneypatton