With the opening round of 64 in our Ultimate Texas Country vs. Red Dirt Album Showdown now in the books amid a total of over 70,000 total votes cast — and with voting already underway now for Round 2 — we can take a brief look back at what we’ve learned from the initial match-ups.
While we didn’t explicitly label the seeds for each bracket entry, we did have them baked into our initial bracket, largely determined by sales history relative to other albums of similar release dates. Cross Canadian Ragweed’s Soul Gravy was deemed the overall top-seed by virtue of it being the highest selling album in Lone Star Music’s 17 years of operation, with over 3,000 units sold online at LoneStarMusic.com and in our physical store. Other 1-seeds were Jason Boland’s Pearl Snaps, Randy Rogers Band’s blockbuster Rollercoaster and Pat Green’s game-changing Carry On.
As expected the 1-3 seeds rolled into the round of 32 with little resistance, though the Eli Young Band’s Level did give Josh Abbott Band’s 3-seeded She’s Like Texas a real run for its money before the boys from Lubbock took it home to advance. And then, the wreckage started …
Anyone who’s filled out NCAA tournament brackets knows the 4-6 seeds are in precarious positions, and that held true here in Lone Star Music Bracketland as well. Owing partly to our in-house policy of making an artist’s second entry an “underdog seed,” Red Dirt royalty Ragweed, Boland, Mike McClure, Stoney LaRue and Turnpike Troubadours advanced two albums each, often at the expense of artists and albums that served to effectively forge the Red Dirt scene in the first place. So alas, we bid adieu to releases from Bob Childers, Jimmy LaFave, and the Red Dirt Rangers — albeit with a friendly reminder that those records (along with every other contender “eliminated” here) is absolutely worth revisiting or discovering for the first time. (Shining a spotlight on all of these records was a big part of our goal with this whole bit of fun from the get-go.)
Perhaps the biggest surprise (to us, at least) came on the Texas side of the bracket, where the Wylie Lama’s 4-seeded, greased-up (ooh, it just sounds nasty) classic Snake Farm fell to relative newcomer, Whiskey Myers’ Firewater. Likely a case of Whiskey Myers being under-seeded by our selection committee and maybe owing a tiny bit toward recency bias, we were nonetheless a bit surprised to see Snake Farm bow out this early. (Though all that said, rest assured Hubbard himself is doing just fine. In fact, he was too busy rocking Houston last night with rock ’n’ roll legends Joe Walsh and Bad Company to probably even keep tabs on the voting.)
While the Texas side of the bracket largely played out to form, according to seed, there were still a few nail-biters — including one that actually drew some serious blood: Cory Morrow’s Nothing Left to Hide vs. Kacey Musgraves’ Grammy-winning Same Park, Different Trailer. At one point, with nearly half the votes submitted, a single solitary vote separated the two as they were essentially split 50%-50%. In the end, Morrow eked out the narrowest of wins with a hair over 51% of the vote. So Musgraves is gone, and with her — well, sadly, every other female artist. Given the status quo of the Texas Country and Red Dirt music scene, this was perhaps inevitable — though it’s still a bummer. (For the record, we fully expect women artists to give their male counterparts much more competition in future LSM Tournament Brackets focusing more on songwriting chops than mass popularity.)
The voting also oscillated back and forth between Kevin Fowler’s Beer, Bait and Ammo and Casey Donahew Band’s self-titled release before ultimately settling on the latter in a 52%-48% squeaker. In other closely contested matchups, albums by Aaron Watson and William Clark Green edged out those by Cody Johnson Band and Roger Creager, respectively.
As several folks noted the difficulty in making these picks on social media, with our favorite being a possibly tongue-in-cheek post stating “Some of these were the hardest decisions I’ve made so far this week …”, things don’t figure to get much easier in the round of 32. On the Okie side alone, Stoney faces Boland and McClure in separate matchups while Cody Canada fans are forced to choose between the Departed’s homage to the Red Dirt forefathers, This is Indian Land, and Ragweed’s eponymous (or Purple, as it’s most often called) release. On the Texas side, will Whiskey Myers and William Clark Green continue their cinderella-story marches through the likes of Jack Ingram and Reckless Kelly? The winner of the JAB-MMC matchup could potentially yield a Braun vs. Braun Sweet 16 matchup or, further down the road, a highly-intriguing Randy Rogers Band/Josh Abbott Band showdown (and yes, we DID take both of these scenarios into account when compiling/seeding the bracket).
But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Yet. On to Round 2!