Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#784 in the Series) is Brewed in Texas.
Part collection of morality tales, part Saturday night party record, and part Austin hill country travelogue, Brewed in Texas is quite possibly the best collection of drinking songs on one barstool since the Merle Haggard classic, Back to the Barrooms.
Lovingly produced by Houston based Compadre Records, this album celebrates the joys of getting plastered, the necessity of drowning your sorrows, draining your tears in your beer, and most importantly, the Honky-Tonk. This album features contemporary Texas singer songwriters Kevin Fowler, Slaid Cleaves, Beaver Nelson and Hayes Carll, right beside hill country road dogs Jerry Jeff Walker, Tommy Alverson, and Rusty Weir, the bastard grandsons of Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings, and the bastard sons of Joe Ely, Billy Joe Shaver, and Townes Van Zandt . It is pretty much a certainty that that if you travel within a 150 mile radius of Austin, on any given Saturday night, that you would be able to catch most of the 20 artists represented here playing live in all of their honky-tonk glory.
A good drinking song, much like a good country song, contains the tried and true elements of getting drunk for the sake of getting drunk, hanging out with the fellas, getting drunk to get a girl or to forget a girl, or drinking as a means of somehow rationalizing ones lot in life. Brewed in Texas Presents all of these rich clichés and more in a way that can be gut reaching beneath the honky-tonk surface in a tears of a clown sort of way.
Drinking because you basically have nothing else to do is represented with the opening track “Staying’ Out Late” by Cory Morrow where staying out late is all he can do since he has limited friends and no family, and by the classic “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink”, performed here by a quartet of young guns, Kevin Fowler, Seth James, Jason Boland, and Clay Baker, and includes a classic line “gentlemen, start your livers.”
There are several nods to the whiskey drinkers with “50 dollars and a Flask of Crown” by Bleu Edmudson that might be the best song on the album.
50 dollars and a flask of crown/ I grab my Stetson and I pull it down/ I rope the devil ride him into town/ 50 dollars and a flask of crown./Mama lock your daughters up and throw away the key/ Me and the boys are drinking, feeling kind of mean/ We’re in the mood to hear some country sounds/ 50 dollars and a flask of crown.
The version of “Whiskey River” is hip, and slightly faster paced than the original, the Johnny Bush version, not the second best red headed stranger version, and “Drink Your Whiskey Down” where the boys in Reckless Kelly tell you to drink your whiskey down and put your sorrow in the ground, is an upbeat tempo song with a down beat message. Finishing off the whiskey portion of our show, Cooder Graw gets “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound” on an almost obscenely good version of the song that almost makes you want to slap the original writer. And Chris Wall sums up it all up a lot better than I could on “Turns to Tears”, “One shot will warm your soul, loose your tongue and lose your fear, aint it strange the way Jack Daniels turns to tears.”
Beer drinkers might be mocked and scorned by real drinkers, but they are not forgotten on this album. “Raise Hell, Drink Beer” is surprisingly about raising hell and drinking beer, and is performed picture perfectly by Eleven Hundred Springs, “Old Milwaukee’s Best” is a tribute to what some would say is the real King of Beers, Old Milwaukee, and if you have never heard Tommy Alverson’s version of “Una Mas Cerveca” live in a bar somewhere in Texas, when you get to the pearly gates tell the concierge that is checking you in that you need to go back because you have one more thing to check off your bucket list.
At the end of the day, the real magic to this album are the songs that celebrate the bars, juke joints and honky-tonks where these Stetson wearing troubadours apply their trade, or simply go for a hang. Here they memorialize the places that have shaped their lives. Slaid Cleaves fondly reminisces about “The Horseshoe Lounge”, a non-descript Austin cash only beer joint, and the local denizens that inhabit the place, Todd Snider tells us about “The Devils Backbone Tavern” on the way to Lukenbach, and John Evans on ”The Honky-Tonk Life I Lead”, sings about Blanco’s beer joint down in Houston where “They serve ‘em up tight every Thursday night trading whisky for a dollar bill. Man you don’t have to worry about a place to stay even if you have no friends you just two step your way to the trailer outside your welcome at the stumble in.”
This record has something for everyone, and every song presented on this album is very good bordering on great, with only with possible clunker in the margarita machine potentially being Rusty Weir’s “Cuervo’s Gold” where he name checks in poetry and song virtually every brand of liquor from Southern Comfort to Black Velvet. Cool, if you are into that sort of thing.
And finally, a word of caution, “The Everclear Song” by Roger Creager is a great song, but a terrible hangover.
Have Fun, don’t forget to tip your bartender, and drink responsibly.
- Stayin’ Out Late – Cory Morrow
- One Bud Wiser – John Rich
- Sangria Wine (live) – Jerry Jeff Walker
- Juke Joint Jumpin’ – Wayne Hancock
- Ballad Of The Devil’s Backbone Tavern – Todd Snider
- Drink Your Whiskey Down – Reckless Kelly
- Horseshoe Lounge – Slaid Cleaves
- Forget Thinkin’ – Beaver Nelson
- Turns To Tears – Chris Wall
- Whiskey Bent & Hell Bound – Cooder Graw
- Raise Hell Drink Beer – Elevn Hundred Springs
- Whiskey River – Cross Canadian Ragweed
- The Everclear Song – Roger Creager
- The Honky Tonk Life I Lead – John Evans
- 50 Dollars & A Flask Of Crown – Bleu Edmondson w/Matt Powell
- Una Mas Cerveza – Tommy Alverson
- Ol’ Milwaukee’s Best – Adam Carroll
- Cuervo Gold – Rusty Wier
- Barroom Lament – Hayes Carll
Check these titles while you’re here!