The new year is finally here and I know everyone has hopes that 2020 will be better than 2019. It’s just human nature for us to always want better things for our future. My family had many unfortunate challenges in 2019, so I know we are really hoping for a better year. Our city, state and nation are facing many changes this year. Change is often scary but it can also bring new opportunities. 

The ever-changing ways we listen to music

One change that continues to affect us all is how we choose to listen to music. Depending on your age you may recall vinyl, 8-track tapes, cassette, compact discs, Napster, iTunes, Pandora, Spotify and now back to vinyl. 

It’s like we’ve come full circle with vinyl now outselling most other music formats. Years ago, a band or artist released an album and fans listened to the entire collection of songs. Today that’s a rare occurrence, most fans listen to just a few songs and rarely enjoy an album in its entirety. 

Artists no longer release new albums as frequently as they once did. Now they usually put out new music once a year or every other year at the most. Willie Nelson is one of the few acts still releasing several new albums each year, a habit he’s maintained since the mid-’60s.

Keeping traditional Texas music alive

There were a lot of albums released in 2019, far too many to mention here, but today I’ll take a look back at some of my favorites and hopefully some made your list as well. 

Texas artists had a huge impact on the music scene this year. Three of the best-selling albums were released by George Strait, Cody Johnson and Aaron Watson, singers who stick to the traditional country music style. 

Strait’s Honky Tonk Time Machine contained 13 songs, eight of those were written by King George. 

Cody’s Ain’t Nothin’ To It is his first release after signing with Warner Brothers, a major record label. Some fans thought he was selling out and losing his independent artist rebel attitude. Cody explained that he recorded the album prior to signing with Warner Brothers and they didn’t ask him to change anything.

Red Bandana was Aaron Watson’s 15th album and, once again, the 20 songs were all self-written originals. Cody and Aaron are both following in Strait’s footsteps and are keeping true Texas country music alive and well.

Texas still has some outlaws

On the outlaw side of the Texas music scene, we got new albums by Koe Wetzel (Harold Saul High), Ryan Bingham (American Love Song), Stoney LaRue (Onward), Randy Rogers (Hellbent), Lucas Nelson (Turn Off The News) two from Cody Jinks (The Wanting and After the Fire) and Whiskey Myers’ new self-titled album. 

We can’t forget about a few of the older Texas acts that are still releasing quality music well into their retirement years. Willie Nelson’s Ride Me Back Home proved that despite his age of 86, he can still release a vital collection of songs. Tanya Tucker’s new album, While I’m Livin’, is her best in decades and has earned several Grammy nominations. 

Steve Earle’s tribute to his mentor, Guy Clark, simply titled Guy, is a stellar collection of some of Guy’s best loved songs. 

Rodney Crowell’s latest album, Texas, contains duets with everyone from Lyle Lovett to Billy Gibbons. Crowell is one of the finest songwriters to ever come from our state and this collection of songs simply proves that fact.

Kentucky has a few outlaws, too

The state of Kentucky provided us with two of the brightest new stars on the music scene. I’m talking about Tyler Childers and Sturgill Simpson, two country singer songwriters that are doing their part to shake things up in Nashville. 

Sturgill, at 41 years old, has taken Childers, 28, under his wing. He produced Tyler’s last two albums and has him as his opening act on his upcoming 2020 tour. 

In just a few years, these two singers have gone from playing small clubs and county fairs to headlining basketball arenas. What’s insane about this feat is they have achieved a massive level of fame with little or no radio airplay and zero acknowledgment from Nashville. 

Though they have outsold every Nashville country artist and sold more concert tickets, they have never been nominated for any awards by the CMAs or the ACMs. 

Showing an outlaw sense of humor, Sturgill sat outside the Bridgestone Arena while the CMA Awards were being held and played for tips as people walked past him on their way inside the arena. People dropped money in his open guitar case and had no clue who he was, even though he’d outsold every artist inside the arena by a margin of 10 to 1. 

His headlining tour next year has him playing huge arenas all over America, including the Erwin Center in Austin and American Airlines Center in Dallas. Hopefully by this time next year everyone will know his name but since he plays by his own rules, he will probably never be nominated for any awards. This puts him in the company of folks like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Because of their rebel attitude, Nashville basically ignored them for over 30 years. 

Happy New Year to everyone

As you can see from the concert calendar, many venues have scaled back on the live music this week. Many local venues haven’t updated their websites and Facebook pages yet, so at press time there were no listings on over a dozen venue websites. Everyone is busy closing out 2019 and getting geared up for 2020. 

Happy New Year to everyone and I hope the new year brings us all health, peace and happiness. I’d like to win the lottery, too, so if you don’t see my column here next week, you’ll know I bought the winning Powerball ticket.

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