Jerry Jeff Walker – 1976

Texas is like a vortex, we tend to suck in some of the creatures other places would reject. As long as they’re not Florida crazy, we’ll tend to pay them a mind or two. One artist who needed more than a mind or two is New York born, yet Austinite at heart, country-rocker Jerry Jeff Walker. His odes to women, drinkin’, puffin’, befriendin’, and eatin’ in order of importance, would normally be so off-putting if he sure didn’t know how to woo you with the sheer poetry of his compositions. Heck, his kind of lax power even put a down on its luck city, Terlingua, TX back on the map. As I continue some kind of countdown to summer’s end, down south, two of his tracks are perfect snapshots in time of how great letting y’alls hair loose for a few can be. One is the driving “Hill Country Rain” from 1972’s Jerry Jeff Walker, and the other is “Long Afternoons” from the sensational A Man Must Carry On live album.

Jerry Jeff Walker and Roky Erickson’s Band

Jerry Jeff, to be honest has much more well known hits, one of them you’ve probably heard “Mr. Bojangles” has been covered countless times by some greats like Harry Nilsson, Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra and more, then you have such outlaw country hits like “Up Against the Wall, Red Neck Mother” or “LA Freeway”. His kind of driftin’ style was part and parcel of the man himself. From a young age he just dreamt of hitchin’ across the US and buskin’ for money. He had little care for money or fame. It was only these early hits that allowed him the freedom to play mostly in Texas and get high accolades from artists as diverse as Guy Clark and Tom Waits. As a younger man hitching rides he saw a lot of the Texas countryside and its people, all of this serving to inform his gonzo lyrical way of writing lyrics.

“Hill Country Rain” presents this complete celebration of that feeling he gets from traveling the great state of Texas, more specifically the Austin region. Its a great strummer, he is so hopped up on living life day to day, that he feels like dancing naked in the hill country rain. Here was a guy who was friends with the hippies and hill country people, and knew no other way of celebrating feeling so good being accepted by them than making a song that would make them want to dance. Now, don’t it make you wanna dance?

Listen to Hill Country Rain at Grooveshark.

“Long Afternoons” the meditative track of the day, is a romantic ode to a Texas rose. Singing with his beautiful tenor drawl he sings about this lovely woman who he can’t think of beautiful enough lyrics to describe the way she makes him feel. Somehow, through all his exposition about her you do start to realize that his lyrics are actually quite gorgeous and telling. Ha, could it be that’s why she loved him back? It sure helps that he uses a breathtaking Tejano ballad arrangement to frame his lovely homespun lyrical picture.

Listen to Long Afternoons at Grooveshark.

Anyway, could you believe that the album this song was off of was done as a sincere tribute to his friend Hondo Crouch? Hondo was a true Texan renaissance man (poet, clown, chili cook, and artist) and “mayor of Luckenbach, TX“. Jeff admired his friend so much he had to find a way to express the great Texan hodgepodge of culture that Hondo represented. The album itself is that same kind of musically intriguing potpourri; you get covers of old songs of his mixed with new recordings, and then you’ve got Hondo’s poetry mixed here and there. Its like a great Texas chili, that you can’t quite make out all the ingredients for. Just this time though, on this song, you do get but a small sweet taste of the larger stew. Knock it back with a Pearl or Lone Star beer, then you sorta get the point. Get ready for some more great southern tracks tomorrow…

Hondo Crouch and Jerry Jeff Walker

Bonus track time, a mighty fine performance of “Up Against the Wall Your Redneck Mother” with his legendary Gonzo Band”: