By Richard Skanse
“What the hell am I doing up here in Kansas City?”
Anytime Pat Green sang those words during one of his concerts back in the heady days of the late ’90’s/early ’00’s Texas country boom, you pretty much knew the whole place was about to go nuts. And that’s still true today, some two decades later — because when it comes to revving a Pat Green crowd up to maximum overdrive, nothing gets the job done quicker than a shot at “Southbound 35.”
Maybe it’s the driving rhythm, or the assertive, classic-rock punch of the chorus, or the way the whole song seems to lend itself to hot-rodded guitar and fiddle solos. Maybe it’s the irresistible Yankee baiting. Or the intriguing question of why the narrator’s baby is riding shotgun “wearing only a smile,” not to mention exactly how long she plans on staying that way during the 10-hour haul down to Austin. Or maybe it all just comes down to that one line that goes, “Let Texas fill my soul!” — a rallying cry that neatly captured the zeitgeist of the entire scene. The bottom line is, “Southbound 35” — first recorded for Green’s 1995 debut, Dancehall Dreamer, and later revisited on 2001’s Three Days — has long been one of the most beloved and defining anthems in the songwriter’s entire canon. Which is why when it came time to re-record the song for the first-ever multi-artist tribute album to Green, it made perfect sense to hand the keys over to one of the other biggest names in Texas music from the same era: Kevin Fowler.
The album in question, Dancehall Dreamin’: A Tribute to Pat Green, won’t be released until next Friday, April 5 (coincidentally, Green’s 46th birthday) — but Lone Star Music is proud to help premiere Fowler’s high-octane take on “Southbound 35” today.
“I’ve always loved this song, and I feel honored to have been asked to sing on it,” says Fowler, whose own career took off with the release of 2000’s Bear, Bait & Ammo. “Every Texas/Red Dirt fan and artist out there today owes Pat Green for the great genre that we all enjoy. Without him, it would never have happened or grown into what it is today.”
Indeed, although Fowler is actually a little older than Green, the Amarillo native didn’t hit the Texas country scene until a couple of years after the younger artist had already climbed to the top of the regional hill. Prior to Beer, Bait & Ammo, Fowler had spent most of the ’90s as a guitar-shredding hard rocker. But once he crossed over to the honky-tonk side of the musical fence, it didn’t take him long to catch up as a major headliner in his own right. And as Green himself suggests, they were kindred spirits from the start.
“Kevin Fowler and I have a lot in common,” says Green. “We both take life to the extreme. I’ve never been around Kevin where we didn’t have not only a blast, but maybe a little bit too much of a blast.”
“‘Southbound 35,’ the song that Kevin chose to sing of mine, was written in Lubbock, Texas on a lonely night in my apartment there,” Green recalls. “I had come to a point in the song where it needed something and I didn’t know what it was, because I was still a brand new songwriter at the time — so I called my friend Cory Morrow. He came over and told me about what a ‘bridge’ is. But I didn’t ever give him any credit for teaching me that, or for songwriting on the song, so … I owe him at least 50 cents or maybe a $1.50.
“But,” he adds, putting all joking aside, “I owe him a hell of a lot more than that for being my friend.”
If that’s the case, though, then Green’s got a lot of owing to do, because Dancehall Dreamin’ is stacked with a whole mess of friends that he’s collected over the course of his career. In addition to Morrow and Fowler, other artists featured on the tribute include Jack Ingram, Walt Wilkins, Aaron Watson, the Randy Rogers Band (featuring Radney Foster), William Clark Green, Drew Holcomb, John Baumann, and the Josh Abbott Band. And all but two of the tracks were produced by Justin Pollard, Green’s longtime drummer.
“I feel nothing but gratitude towards all of them,” Green said in a statement earlier this year, when the tribute was first announced. “Not just the singers and the songwriters that came out and sang, but the musicians — the drummers, the guitar players, the violin players, the piano players, the bass players. Thank you so much to all of you guys for participating in something that means so much to me.
“I’ve been a musician forever,” he continued, “but I didn’t see this one coming.”
2. “Three Days” – Randy Rogers Band featuring Radney Foster
3. “Nightmare” – John Baumann
4. “Wave On Wave” – Jack Ingram
5. “Take Me Out to a Dancehall” – Josh Abbott Band
6. “Crazy” – Aaron Watson
7. “Washington Avenue” – Walt Wilkins
8. “Adios Days” – Cory Morrow
9. “Dancehall Dreamer” – Drew Holcomb
10. “Southbound 35” – Kevin Fowler
11. “Wrapped”: Story Behind the Song
12. “Three Days”: Story Behind the Song
13. “Nightmare”: Story Behind the Song
14. “Wave On Wave”: Story Behind the Song
15. “Take Me Out to a Dancehall”: Story Behind the Song
16. “Crazy”: Story Behind the Song
17. “Washington Avenue”: Story Behind the Song
18. “Adios Days”: Story Behind the Song
19. “Dancehall Dreamer”: Story Behind the Song
20. “Southbound 35”: Story Behind the Song