I'm a bit ambivalent about Texas. On the one hand, it has produced some amazing artists, writers and musicians and brought us Austin City Limits as well as SWSX. On the other, the right hand as it were, it's also the state that elected George W. Bush and, as if to drive home the point that intellect can only stand in the way of public office, Rick Perry. Be that as it may, there's simply no denying Texas is also home to an impressive array of highly influential songwriters, including folks like Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett, Michelle Shocked and Robert Earl Keen, as well as an untold number of obscure but first-rate artists playing in countless bars and coffee houses in Austin alone.
Havilah Rand. Rand's eclectic sound blurs the edges of folk, pop and country much in the same way as Shawn Colvin. Her voice, always distinctive, is also superbly flexible and allows Havilah to work comfortably within a striking number of styles and influences, including Latin inflected jazz ("Under My Clothes"), folk and Americana ("Telephone Pole") and straight-ahead rockers ("Low Down"). Havilah's latest CD Bengalese Butterflies is available now and is definately worth picking up. Also, she will be touring away from Austin some this fall, so if you're in Southern Cal, New Mexico or Colorado, you really shouldn't miss her.
Additional props to the Lone Star State for giving us the splendid Town Walsh. Walsh reminds me very much of a young Steve Earle (Guitar Town era), producing a blend of country tinged rock with vivid story telling and clever, literate lyrics. There's also a rough-hewn Tom Petty quality in Walsh's voice that I find incredibly listenable and lacking in so much of the overproduced tripe coming out of music city. Every song I've heard so far is standout, but "Cold Light of Day" is awesome good. About the morning after a regrettable hookup, the song eschews the honky tonk temptation to poke fun and instead empathizes, giving the poignant story serious emotional heft. There are too many great lines in that song to even repeat, so you're just going to have to buy Walsh's new album Shame the Devil for yourself.