The first time I ever heard anything referred to as Texas Country it was a song from Robert Earl Keen. That song, unlike many people’s first REK exposure (The Road Goes on Forever), was Corpus Christi Bay. My younger brother played it for me one evening and I was hooked. I speedily acquired REK’s catalog and branched out into other Texas Country artists like Cory Morrow, Pat Green, Jason Boland & The Stragglers just to name a few. I love the Texas Country scene and especially The Firehouse Saloon here in Houston. When I finally got into the music REK was too big a name to be playing the dives I tend to hang out in so I rarely see him play and yet he his music holds a special place in my heart. It may be that he was the first artist in a new genre that I heard but it is more likely that he is just an amazing singer/songwriter.

After a four year hiatus we finally have a new release from Robert Earl Keen. The Rose Hotel may be standard Robert Earl Keen but that doesn’t mean there is anything standard about the album. You see standard Robert Earl Keen is a cut above the rest even when it comes to Texas Country. I have been listening to this thing for two days now and haven’t found a single song I didn’t like. From the opening strokes of The Rose Hotel to the closing chords of Wireless in Heaven this is a solid album. Toss in some a Townes Van Zandt cover Flying Shoes and Billy Bob Thorton doing vocals on 10,000 Chinese Walk Into A Bar and you end up with something great. Fifteen albums into his career Robert Earl Keen proves once again that there is no mold that fits him and that suits us just fine.

If you aren’t already a Robert Earl Keen fan you should be. Give the 9b selections a listen and go get yourself REK’d…

Robert Earl Keen – The Rose Hotel
Robert Earl Keen – Throwin’ Rocks
Robert Earl Keen – The Man Behind The Drums

Robert Earl Keen’s Official Website, Robert Earl Keen on myspace, Buy The Rose Hotel


Hoots & Hellmouth is a trio from Philadelphia consisting of Sean Hoots, Andrew ‘Hellmouth’ Gray and Robert Berliner, with Sean and Andrew Gray being the primary songwriters/singers, and The Holy Open Secret is their sophomore effort.

The Holy Open Secret was recorded at Philadelphia’s American Diamond Studio with Bill Moriarity (Dr. Dog, Man Man) sharing the producing credits, and what an interesting cd they birthed. Quirky, catchy and an all around good time, it only falters when the band tries to settle into a more traditional sound/feel. There are sounds and influences galore on this cd and it seems to be at it’s best when they let go of the reins and let them just run amuck. I think PopMatters summed it up perfectly when they reviewed the album, “The album wrings a lot from the tension between the band’s two songwriters and vocalists, Sean Hoots and Andrew “Hellmouth” Gray. Hoots’ songs are generally the better ones. His melodies move in more unexpected directions—the soulful gospel vibe and bluegrass rhythms seem to be his contribution. In comparison, the Hellmouth tracks—mostly contemplative singer-songwriter ballads—seem very routine and predictable.

Slow points aside, The Holy Open Secret is certainly worth checking out.

Hoots & Hellmouth – What Good Are Plowshares If We Use Them Like Swords
Hoots & Hellmouth – Root Of The Industry
Hoots & Hellmouth – Watch Your Mouth

Hoots & Hellmouth’s Official Site, Hoots & Hellmouth on myspace, Buy The Holy Open Secret


Whew child. This album has been on my “need to write about” list for months. Many times I thought about just scratching the album off the list and moving on, but then all I had to do was listen to the album again to know I had to tell y’all about it.

Hang Jones is the stage moniker of San Francisco singer/songwriter Stephen Grillos and last year he released a little concept album called The Ballad of Carlsbad County. The album tells the story of William Bishop, the son of a notorious outlaw. Growing up, William struggles with the stigma of his father’s legacy as well as his own destiny. William keeps finding himself in situations where doing the right thing will doom him to walk the same path as his father, a man he views amoral, and like all great tales of the West someone is bound to get shot in this one.

The idea for the concept album wasn’t the starting point of The Ballad of Carlsbad County so much as an unexpected surprise. The whole thing was born from the notion that two songs he had written, “Caroline” and “Red”, would work really well as chapters in a story. Thus was the genesis of The Ballad of Carlsbad County and the end result has been featured on shows such as The Black Donnellys, Quarterlife and one of my favorite shows, Friday Night Lights.

Given all this back story you can assume that the end result is up to snuff. I say it’s 100% Essential Listening. Check it out for yourself:

Hang Jones – Gunnin’ For You
Hang Jones – Red
Hang Jones – Hangman’s Noose

Hang Jones’ Official Site, Hang Jones on myspace, Buy The Ballad of Carlsbad County