The Panhandlers – Tough Country (2023)

Posted by Green on March 2, 2023as

320 | FLAC

 

Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Butch Hancock formed the area’s most famous musical assemblage, The Flatlanders, in Lubbock. Inspired by these regional legends, the similarly named quartet of Josh Abbott, John Baumann, William Clark Green and Cleto Cordero, all of whom are local heroes with separate careers as solo artists or band leaders, decided to pool their songwriting talents first in a self-titled debut and now in Tough Country, music they call, “a modern record for old souls.” Each member sings a verse in opener “Flat Land,” an obligatory tribute to their home region. Texan testosterone pulses through “West Texas is the Best Texas,” which proudly reels off lines about Austin being overloaded with Californians “with their vegan diets and self-driving cars.” A pair of paeans to alcohol are fun if predictable: “Lajitas” is a drunken party on record with lots of inebriated chatter left in the mix; “The Chilton Song,” a co-write between all four members, is a merry drinking song that’s a salute to a favorite West Texas cocktail. Green’s “Santa Fe,” a plea for giving a relationship one last chance and “where guilt’s a waste of time,” is a tuneful ballad. One of the highlights here is Cleto Cordero’s earnestly sung country folk number “Moonlight in Marfa,” where he plays on both the famous mystery lights and his lady love: “In the land of lonesome/ You’re an unusual sight/ In the void of the darkness/ You’re a living, breathing, dancing ball of light.” The Panhandlers succeed at being an endearing throwback that evokes the history of West Texas music as well as a good time band capable of drawing crowds west of Dallas. They live in a musical niche and are having a ball filling it.

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