As I’ve mentioned elsewhere here, I can’t stand most country. Despite (or maybe because of, in fact) spending my life from middle school onwards in Texas, I’ve managed to always save a special sort of loathing for the “country,” at least, that I grew up with. The Kenny Chesneys and Garth Brookses of the world don’t do a damn thing for me but make me want to turn off the radio.
Of course, I recognize that people like that are really only a teeny-tiny part of the grand universe of country music. As a kid I remember being fascinated with Hee-Haw (we lived in Germany at the time, so it was pretty alien) and liking Dolly Parton, but as the pop-country wave hit in the late ’80s, it got horrible fast. Even still, though, I’ve apparently retained a small place in my heart for old-style country, the kind made by folks like Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, and Patsy Cline. That stuff sounds more real, more authentically Texan to me than Toby Keith ever will.
Lucky for me, then, that I happen to live in the same city as Miss Leslie and Her Juke-Jointers. These folks mine the exact same vein of old-school, somewhat traditional country that I liked when I was little and still find myself tapping along to now. Think the Carter Family, Buck Owens, and Loretta Lynn, and you’ll get the idea. Miss Leslie herself does that lonesome, Patsy Cline-esque wail beautifully, sounding for all the world like a jilted, down-on-her-luck lady left standing at the bar while her beau goes out the door with somebody else, while behind her the band swings and strolls along like they’ve never done anything but this all their lives (and hell, maybe they haven’t; seriously, they’re that good).
The music is damn near perfect, a gorgeously sad, modest, unpretentious throwback to the days when country music wasn’t about selling pickup trucks. On her MySpace page, Miss Leslie mentions that they’ll play anything people want, but that they don’t know a song written later than 1970 other than Leslie’s own compositions. When I caught the band last, they were playing downtown to a crowd that was about half well-dressed older folks and half dreadlocked kids with baggy shorts, but when I close my eyes I see ’em in a dingy, smoke-filled bar way out in the sticks, filled with folks who came just to drown their sorrows and drift away in the music.
Best of all, this must be the hardest-working band in town, because they seem to always be playing somewhere, bouncing between The Continental Club in Midtown, honky-tonks and icehouses out in places like Willis or Bandera, and county fairs and festivals in every town you can name between here and El Paso. These folks are definitely pros — apparently their lap steel player’s played with Gary P. Nunn and Dale Watson, while bassist Ric played with Two Tons of Steel and Wayne Hancock. Check their site(s) to see when they’re playing near you and then go check ’em out. You’ll feel like crying when you listen to the words, but the music’ll make you smile.
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