“Outlaws & Armadillos: Country’s Roaring ’70s,” 2-CD set (Legacy). When the exhibit of the same name opened at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville a couple of weeks ago, this collection aired in the background seemingly everywhere: the museum lobby, adjacent hotel shops and restaurants, between sets at an all-star concert. Gradually it became apparent just how carefully these 36 songs were selected.
Like the exhibit itself, the compilation balances about equally the influences of Austin and Nashville on this golden era for artists who sought out their own ways of making country music. Thus, classic tracks from 1970s Austin mainstays such as Jerry Jeff Walker, Doug Sahm, Joe Ely, Marcia Ball, Michael Murphey, Asleep at the Wheel, Gary P. Nunn, Lou Ann Barton and Willis Alan Ramsey ride alongside standouts from the likes of Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Bobby Bare, Rodney Crowell, Marshall Chapman, Johnny Paycheck and Cowboy Jack Clement.
Crucial to the mix are a handful of artists who had strong ties to both Texas and Tennessee, most notably Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings (the only artists with two tracks on the album) but also close compadres Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Mickey Newbury. Nelson and Jennings are, fittingly, the only artists with two tracks on the record, but several songwriters get dual representation, appearing on their own and via their songs performed by other artists: Van Zandt, Newbury, Billy Joe Shaver, Rodney Crowell. The era’s key turning points are memorable and plentiful: Nelson’s “Red Headed Stranger,” Murphey’s “Cosmic Cowboy,” Nunn’s “London Homesick Blues” (the live version from Walker’s landmark “Viva Terlingua!” album), the Flatlanders’ “Dallas,” Waylon’s “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.
Possibly more rewarding are a handful of surprises. Ball’s rendition of Crowell’s “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” the first song on her first solo album in 1978, reminds how strong a country singer she was before blues and boogie-woogie became her trademark. “No Expectations” might at first seem an odd choice from Cash’s deep catalog, but the Man in Black singing a Rolling Stones song underscores the breaking-boundaries spirit of these times. And it was a brilliant call to include the Double Trouble blues rave-up “You Can Have My Husband” teaming spitfire singer Lou Ann Barton with rising guitar star Stevie Ray Vaughan, recorded by Austin producer Joe Gracey in partnership with Bobby Earl Smith at Cowboy Jack Clement’s Nashville studio.
Informative liner notes from Peter Cooper fill out the 32-page CD booklet, which also includes classic and new artwork from Armadillo World Headquarters artists Jim Franklin, Micael Priest (whose name is unfortunately misspelled), Danny Garrett, Guy Juke and Sam Yeates. Downsides? Great as John Hartford is, he feels like like a square-peg fit for the parameters here. And one major Austin artist of the times who’s conspicuously absent from both the discs and the Nashville exhibit is B.W. Stevenson.
Those are minor quibbles for a set so thoughtfully assembled and presented. Indeed, its great value is how cohesively it holds together and rewards NOT skipping around from track to track, a rare quality for a compilation. You can just let this thing play, and it’s just about perfect.
A vinyl edition, 13 tracks dubbed Volume 1 with presumably further LPs to follow, is due out July 13. An “Armadillos and Outlaws Artist Talk” at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 16, at Threadgill’s South will feature discussion about the Nashville exhibit with Armadillo World Headquarters fixtures Eddie Wilson, Jim Franklin, Kerry Awn, Freddie Krc and others.
Here’s a video of Rodney Crowell touring the “Outlaws & Armadillos” exhibit:
OUT THIS WEEK
Tish Hinojosa, “West.” The latest from the singer-songwriter who recently returned to Austin after many years overseas “marks something of a rebirth for the noted artist who has more than a dozen albums in her discography spanning about three decades,” writes the American-Statesman’s Nancy Flores. “Along with her new original music, she pays homage to Austin singer-songwriters with songs such as Tim Henderson’s ‘Maria Consuelo Arroyo,’ which tells the story of an immigrant woman raising her family. Hinojosa also includes her late friend Jimmy LaFave’s ‘Only One Angel,’ which she performed at a tribute concert for him at the Paramount Theatre. The album’s title track, “West,” came to her in an epiphany. While still going through a dark period in 2014, she took a solo road trip to California to visit friends. As she drove through Tucson past an afternoon thunderstorm, she saw a beautiful sunset ahead. She embraced the moment as a sign of better things to come.” In-store June 13 at Waterloo Records.
Watters, self-titled. The second album from the husband-wife duo Jenna and Daniel Watters expands upon the tuneful, broad-umbrella Americana of their 2016 debut “The Great Unknown.” Key contributing musicians include Anthony Farrell of the Greyhounds and Trevor Nealon from Band of Heathens, while the Tijuana Trainwreck Horns (best known for their work with Shinyribs) add boisterous brass accents throughout. Release show June 15 at Antone’s. Here’s a recent live version of the opening track, “I Neede You”:
Half Man, “Room to Grow.” The second release in two years from singer-songwriter Chase Spruiell features eight acoustic-based folk rock tunes recorded at San Marcos’ Fire Station Studios. Playing June 19 and June 26 at Hole in the Wall. Here’s the leadoff track, “New Year Headlock”:
Daisy O’Connor, “Mixtape” EP (Tremolo). On the heels of her 2017 full-length debut “Lightchasers” comes O’Connor’s second EP this year, following February’s “Analog Sessions.” These five tracks are decidedly lo-fi, made on a four-track recorder, but they’re not necessarily bare-bones arrangements: “Cult of Two” is full-on garage-rock, while “Little” flirts with both electropop and jazz. Release show June 14 at Cactus Cafe. Here’s the lead track, “Same Page”:
Troll Smashers, EP. Debut release from self-described “folksmash” featuring Emma Dean and fiddler Eddie Dickerson. Release show June 14 at Townsend. Here’s the tune “Graham Crackers”:
- JUNE 22: Night Glitter, EP, release show June 26 at Mohawk.
- JUNE 22: Giulia Millanta, “Conversation With a Ghost” (Ugly Cat).
- JUNE 22: Young Mothers, “Morose” (Self Sabotage).
- JUNE 29: Cody Canada & the Departed, “3” (Underground Sound).
- JULY 3: Kinky Friedman, “Circus of Life.”
- JULY 13: Jimmy LaFave, “Peace Town” (Music Road).
- JULY 13: Eliza Gilkyson, “Secularia” (Red House), release show July 27 at Stateside at the Paramount.
- JULY 20: Belle Sounds, “The Sea Within,” release show July 21 at One-2-One Bar.
- JULY 27: Israel Nash, “Lifted,” release show July 27 at Scoot Inn.
- AUG. 3: Kevin Galloway, “The Change” (Nine Mile).
- AUG. 17: Joe Ely, “The Lubbock Tapes: Full Circle” (Rack ’Em).
- AUG. 24: White Denim, “Performance” (City Slang).
- SEPT. 21: Western Youth, self-titled.
- SEPT. 21: Jonathon Zemek, “Hillcrest.”