It’s been said before: There is good country music with a born on date of “now” and an expiration date of “never.” This despite Nashville’s alteration of the country music landscape. However, it does remain difficult to convince people that it’s worthy to dig for the good stuff and that there really is good stuff.
Musicians who still carry a torch for classic honky-tonk are still out there, breathing life into a genre that Garth Brooks shit on. Maybe it’s best that Merle Haggard and Guy Clark died before having to sit through Pitbull singing at a Country Music Awards show earlier this month.
Country music has plenty of young guns doing the genre right, artists influenced by the genre’s originators and innovators who also managed to ignore the wreckage brought by the Shania Twains and Lady Antebellums of the world. Those artists include Cale Tyson, performing Thursday, June 30 at Buckley Park as part of the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College’s summer series of free shows. His backing band is Casey James Prestwood and The Burning Angels, Denver’s answer to the Flying Burrito Brothers, coming together as Tyson’s band for two shows in Colorado.
Tyson is a Texas native who was subject to his parents musical tastes as a young kid. When he started his own career, it wasn’t a country sound he was chasing.
“My dad and mom were both into Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, stuff like that. So I heard a lot of that when I was a little kid. I got into my teenage years and actually started playing music, and doing more rock and punk rock. I still wasn’t really writing any songs, I was just playing guitar in other bands and was just trying to get into the scene,” said Tyson. “I was a senior in high school when I started getting into writing my own songs. I was trying to go for a folk and indie vibe with those songs, and they were terrible. Then I started gravitating to country songs without really trying to. It kind of came naturally. When I moved to Nashville, I met a pedal steel player and we became really close friends, and he reintroduced me to all of this stuff and I fell back in love with it.”
The result is a full package that is as present as anything made in 2016 should be, with a throwback feel all the way down to his record packaging, including pictures of the young musician that look like they were taken in 1974. It’s not retro, because these sounds never really went anywhere. And its content of heartbreak among crying in your beer tunes; they could be autobiographical, but are more just stories and reflections of observation.
“Some of it is (autobiographical), some of it isn’t. Some of its true some of it isn’t,” said Tyson. “I think that’s the tale of country songwriting. If all those sad songs were true, I’d have a pretty miserable life.”