Here are 20 great songs about the state of Lone Star. We also want to hear your favorites
It’s time to give the hornet’s nest another shot.
Since starting the “Think, Texas” column and newsletter in 2019, I’ve taken my life as a journalist into my own hands by listing and reviewing the “Best Books About Texas” and “Best Movies About Texas.” “.
Either way, I’ve heard from you. And in both cases, I’ve devoted follow-up columns to your opinions, and I’ve written more columns about literary and film discoveries on my road trips across the state.
Now let’s move on to “Best Songs About Texas”.
This time, I recruited a panel that includes Deborah Sengupta Stith and Peter Blackstock, veteran writers from the American-Statesman team, as well as Nancy Flores, former Statesman star reporter and current editor of digital magazine Austin Vida.
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Each of us proposed five candidates. You can listen to most of them on streaming services and on YouTube. I’ve also included some familiar songs about Texas that weren’t on the panel’s list.
Now it’s up to you to craft a case for your favourites. Send them to [email protected]
Our Top 20 Songs About Texas
Gary Clark Jr. “This earth.” This Grammy-winning punch of a rock song that simmers with righteous rage is a stark indictment of American racism. It’s also a song about Texas. Clark wrote it as a furious retort to a neighbor who refused to believe that the sprawling Austin-area ranch where Clark lives with his family could be owned by a black man. —Deborah Sengupta Stith
Bill Neley, “Never left the Lone Star State.” Neely mentions Athens, Naples, Rome, Ontario and several dozen other locations in this ingenious country-blues tune — then reveals in the last line that they’re all Texas towns. —Peter Blackstock
El Tule, “Pulga 290.” Austin El Tule’s band’s sonic love letter to Texas flea market life manages to evoke nostalgia while keeping your hips rolling. It’s an ode to the Austin Country flea market on US 290, the city’s oldest and largest. This is where, as the song goes, you can get great deals on your boots and underwear. —Nancy Flores
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Jimmy Webb, “Galveston”. I was blessed not only to inhale this song like a melancholic Gulf breeze in my youth, haunted by the Vietnam War, but I also witnessed, as a much older man, the one of Campbell’s last performances of the painful tune at the Long Center in Austin. -Michael Barnes
Khruangbin and Leon bridges, “Texas Sun.The golden-voiced crooner from Fort Worth and the expressive psych trio from Houston team up for an easy trek from Fort Worth to Amarillo powered by strains of steel guitar and the melodic bass of Laura Lee. —SSD
Asleep at the wheel, “Miles and miles of Texas.” Tommy Camfield & Diane Johnson wrote it, and Jim McGraw & the Western Sundowners first recorded it in 1961, but it’s been a signature track for The Wheel ever since they hit the country charts with it. in the mid-1970s. —PB
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Johnny Hernandez and Adrian Quesada “It’s not a big deal.” In the early 1960s, Hernandez recorded a cover of “Ain’t No Big Thing” by the Radiants as part of his brother’s Tejano band then called Little Joe and the Latinaires (now Little Joe Y La Familia). The song is now a classic Chicano Soul and represents the kind of soul sound that could only happen in Texas. The reimagined version is part of the album “Look at My Soul: The Latin Shade of Texas Soul”, which was produced by Adrian Quesada. —NF
Terry Stafford and Paul Fraser, “Morning Amarillo.” George Strait made this sad and happy song about a broken down rodeo rider famous, but also check out the surprising version performed on “Mongolia’s Got Talent via YouTube.” Priceless lyrics: “All I got / That’s just what I got.” — Mo
Big Pat, “Top Drops.” Houston’s SLAB car culture plays a starring role in many millennial rap classics, but this one is iconic. Rhyming to a funky electro groove, the H-town heavy that died too soon takes you on a slow, loud and punchy ride through the heart of the city, chest thumps and searing Swishas. —SSD
Butch Hancock, “Texas Air.” More people are familiar with the title track from Hancock’s 1978 debut album, “West Texas Waltzes,” but this deeper cut is more broadly geared to the entire state rather than a region. —PB
Carrie Rodriguez, “Llano Estacado.” This moving song about a Mexican immigrant family is set in a part of Texas where the singer-songwriter’s grandmother grew up. As Rodriguez describes on his shows, “It’s an isolated part of northern Texas in the begging.” The title of the song translates to the staked plains. —NF
June Hershey and Don Swander, “In the heart of Texas.” Even as a kid, I thought the official state anthem, “Texas, Our Texas,” was pretty weak. I never learned the words. This old favorite, however, holds its own, and not just because of its new rhythms. Gene Autry was one of dozens of singers who covered it, but my current pick is from La Energía Norteña. — Mo
Nora Jones, “Lone Star.” Nestled between the singles from his 2002 debut album “Come Away with Me,” this nostalgic lament of Grapevine pride suffers from nostalgia for wide-open skies. —SSD
JerryJeff Walker, “Leaving Texas.” I put that on mixtapes for friends when I moved to Seattle in 1991; the irony is that Walker himself, a Yankee who arrived in Austin around 1970, never left. —PB
Tish Hinojosa, “West side of town.” With one song, the singer-songwriter takes us on a beautiful and personal journey through her hometown of San Antonio, where she grew up as the youngest of 13 siblings. —NF
Waylon Jennings, “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to Basics of Love)” – When I moved to Austin in 1984, that 1977 Waylon Jennings single about a rustic little hill country town was still everywhere, all the time. Like many good songs, it evokes a lost time. — Mo
Beyonce, “Lessons from Daddy.” Queen Bey is never afraid of her Lonestar roots or her H-Town pride. (“Flawless” is not just a song about girl power and swagger, but very specifically about Houston swagger.) On this track, Mrs. Carter repeats “Texas” three times as an invocation over loud bayou brass before celebrating the rugged and robust of his father. Black cowboy culture with grit and twang. —SSD
Bill Neley, “Large yellow moon over Texas.” Two songs by the same artist, yes; but Neely was a very important (if often overlooked) Texas musician of the 20th century whose influence lives on – as evidenced by this version recorded by Ed Miller, a native of Scotland who has made Texas his adopted home. —PB
Leti Garza, “Frontier.“Our great state has had its share of complex problems at the US-Mexico border. And so sometimes our music has to reflect those complexities. Garza’s empowering yet hopeful ballad was inspired by his experiences working to end the detention of immigrant children in the West Texas town of Tornillo. —NF
Chris Rea. “I’m going to Texas.” It was the last CD I played when I left South Austin for East Austin in 1991, and the first I played when I arrived. (I’ve since moved back to South Austin.) Rea sings about starting over, something a lot of people have been doing in Texas for a long time. Of course, that idealizes the state, but that’s the point, isn’t it? — Mo
Other beautiful songs about Texas
Many old Texas songs dwelt on the subjects of prostitutes, saloons, misfits, and outlaws. This does not disqualify their cultural contributions to the state.
“Trinity River Blues”
“Streets of Laredo”
“Yellow Texas Rose”
“London Homesick Blues”
“Have you ever thought of Fort Worth?”
“That’s right, you’re not from Texas”
“All my exes live in Texas”
“The Beautiful Texas”
“God Blessed Texas”
“Texas (When I Die)”
“Waltz Across Texas”
“Dallas from a DC-9 at Night”
“On the Road to the Texas Border”
“One State of Texas”
“Gulf Coast Highway”
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