OK. I get it. We’ve been around the music business for the past several years. Recently Steve and I have embarked on this Hello Texas journey and dove even deeper into music, specifically Texas music. With that comes no shortage of new music that we are constantly being exposed to. Everybody, in the words of Will Clark Green, is the next big thing. Honestly, there’s some really talented people out there. Unfortunately too many of them sound just like the other ones. Nobody wants to hear that but that’s the hard truth. Everybody is the latest greatest Koe Wetzel or the latest greatest Randy Rogers or the latest greatest Cody Johnson. So when somebody says hey you should be listening to this, unfortunately a lot of times it just goes over deaf ears because I have spent time doing that exact thing only to be left disappointed. I honestly didn’t expect this time to be so much different. A musician friend of mine told me about these guys months ago. I’ve seen their name in my social media feed for a while. I’ve even had the opportunity to see them at my home venue, Backyard Waco, but I just wasn’t compelled to inquire. Understand it’s not personal. It’s a matter of time value. Once you’ve listened to soooo much music looking for that one that just stands out somehow...only to... We’ve covered that.
Steve asked me a few weeks ago if I’d like to interview Taylor Branch for the next podcast. I don’t remember what my answer was but it was somewhere in the key of yes and who should I expect them to sound like. Steve being the loving and patient and more wise big brother type, probably said something like, I think you’ll like these guys. It’s your kinda music. It rocks. I love you Steve but I’ve heard all this before.
Knowing I wanted to make some changes in how we execute interviews and my general engagement with the podcast, I wanted to make an improvement to my side of the table. I listened to a few songs and and read the bio and blah blah blah. Yep. I felt like I was pretty much right. Again. With some exceptions. And this is where I want to stress the importance of quality visual media kids. See, Taylor is working with this local guy, Trever, who is Motion Theory Media. They put together a video for one of the songs. My Ghosts. It pleased my eye, got my attention and I listened. The story is starting to be told. I liked the execution visually and I was impressed by the rawness and conviction of the song. But I still don’t feel “sold”. What can I tell you? It’s a tough path for a musician to navigate to create connections and commitment from a fan and sometimes we as fans are picky spoiled assholes. I’ll own that. But I digress….so there I was, 3 feet of snow…sorry. Wrong story. I pushed along and came across the story on Taylor Branch’s kickstart campaign. It looked like we were getting somewhere. I made my notes for the interview and we sat down with Taylor. At this point I still hadn’t seen this guy perform. The interview went impressively well. Don’t let the Lonestar swigging fool ya. Taylor is a pro. He’s open and transparent. His story is as genuine as he is. He seems to have commitment and drive and all the stuff that musicians are supposed to have. Because of that I dug a little deeper after the interview. Call me intrigued.
Taylor Branch seems to have a buzz around the music scene. I won’t tell you all the seedy scumy places one has to creep around and linger to over hear that buzz but know it’s there. Steve and I decided it was time for a show. Just so happens a week later Taylor and his Lonestar Ramblers are headlining a little BBQ joint/music venue in Gatesville about 30 minutes from our home in Waco. Steve’s seen these before so he knew what to expect. I on the other hand admittedly have not. As the week progressed I became a little more excited. Giddy even. I haven’t felt this in a while. The excitement for music. Maybe I’m burned out. A little numb. But true music fans live 24/7 for the music!!! (insert your particular style of sarcasm if you’d like) Maybe I’m just sick of bullshit music and cookie cutter musicians. Nope. That can’t be it. (More sarcasm) Regardless, I made a point to suppress my excitement for fear of disappointment.
We met Steve at Barebones BBQ at about 8 Saturday night. By we, I mean my sweet and beautiful bride Melissa and I. After a few kind words with Barebones owner Chad Hill, and several other Taylor Branch fans, the encouraging and giddy feeling was simmering to the top. We settled in and took in the opening act Billy and the Bluelights who did a fantastic job of getting the Gatesville local crowd primed for what was next. It was interesting and fun to see such an energetic, eclectic age range, and participating group of fans. As people rolled in we found Lilly Milford from Lilly and the Implements in the crowd. We met Wes, Taylor’s bassist, Cory the drummer, and Brad the lead guitarist who some may remember from Kirk Baxley. Rae Rae from 3rd Eye Management was spotted in the crowd, Billy Lathem, Acadian and even Mike Stanley was seen lurking the shadows at one point. The point is, it’s a pretty good sign when other musicians and industry professionals are seen in the crowd. Usually means there’s something the rest of us should know.
The moment of truth finally hit the stage! Here it is. The weeks buildup of anticipation that wasn’t expected to be. I spent the first two songs trying to hold my jaw up. I wasn’t prepared. I had nothing. Taylor made the statement of “leaving it all on the stage” the week before in our interview. I was concerned to the point that if he continued this for the 90 minute set, that he wouldn’t have anything to take home. From start to finish, Taylor was on fire. From a few covers, that are rarely covered in our circle to hard punching, guitar fire, to big drops...it was all there. How have I not known about this. For me, it was realizing this guy may really have it. He pushed through a broken string, a birthday, guest singers, and a barrage of technical issues and not once did you ever feel like he was shaken or deterred to give 150% to the people that was there to see him. It was probably the greatest performance I’ve seen in a while. And was beyond happy to witness. Taking Taylor’s energy and combining that with a band that feeds off of and creates its own energy just amplified this show. Maybe I’ve become a music dick! I’m good with that. Because that compels me to call 'em like I see 'em. This one is a winner winner chicken dinner for me.
Taylor Branch and the Lonestar Ramblers are trying to raise money to get in the studio and take their career to the next level. It’s an all or nothing, big balls move. The kind you make when you’re all in! I believe they have the potential to make that happen. More people need to know the satisfaction of killer rock and roll honky-tonk. I left feeling satisfied that I was wrong about all of my earlier pre-conceived notions and pompous music arrogance about these guys. I’m a fan. But continue to stand firm that, not sounding like or being like somebody else made the difference. There’s a lesson in that. Something like be who you are and that’ll always be enough or something. You find the lesson. I’m looking for Taylor’s next show.