Friendly Advice on Just About Anything from the Hill Country’s Happiest Songwriter

By Al Barlow

(LSM Sept/Oct 2011/vol. 4 – Issue 5)

Dear Al,
Some time back I read somewhere that you have a private “Al Barlow Museum.” I don’t suppose that’s ever open to the public, is it? Even if not, what kinda stuff do you have in it? I bet it’s a fun trip down memory lane!
— Alice, New Braunfels

Hi Alice,
For most of my life I’ve collected things here and there that interest me. Most of the stuff I’ve kept had been sitting in cardboard boxes up in the attic for years. Then, several years ago, I found a couple of fine, old display cabinets and pieced the Barlow Museum together in my new home. We had this room (called a “formal dining room”), and since I’m not a formal type of guy, I simply turned the room into my very own museum. I’ve got treasures from around the globe. My pair of Terri Hendrix overalls are always a big draw, and so is my Pearl Beer stuff. Posters from dozens of great musicians hang everywhere, and I’ve got all sorts of souvenirs, postcards and other treasuries, like the “quail-shaped peanut.” Sure, I let folks come in the museum and browse around. People who know me seem to really enjoy it. Let me know if you’re interested, and we’ll see about getting you in for a peek!

Hey Al,
Who’s that guy who runs sound for you at the Phoenix Saloon on Sunday afternoons? He looks a lot like Jesus.
— Ryan, South Houston

Dear Ryan,
The gentleman who does sound for us is a man by the name of Daniel Thomas Phipps, and yes, I guess he does resemble some of those traditional, artistic impressions of Jesus. Daniel Phipps is truly an amazing soundmeister, and we are blessed to have him at the board on Sundays at the Phoenix. But that’s not even half the story! Have you heard this guy play and sing? He is unbelievably talented. There simply isn’t a better singer-songwriter around! Daniel has been playing with a band called the Kinfolk, but is doing a bit more solo work these days. He’ll have a new CD out soon, and I’ll be the first in line to buy one.He is absolutely fantastic.

Mr. Barlow,
You recently stated that your favorite Texas singer-songwriter was Guy Clark. Do you have a local favorite in the Texas Hill Country?
— Robbie W., San Antonio

Dear Robbie,
That kinda question sorta puts me in a spot, because I know so darn many musicians and entertainers, and I’d sure hate to leave anyone out. But since you asked, here are a few of my personal area favorites. The most professional and entertaining solo act is Gruene Hall’s favorite, Bret Graham. Simply put, Bret Graham is the gold standard, in my opinion. My favorite band is a group called the Jon Hogan String Band, out of Austin, I believe. This band not only produces great, foot-stompin’ Texas music, but they are all absolutely fantastic entertainers! It’s a joy to just sit back and watch them go. Wow! The best overall musician is Paul McLaughlin. This fellow can play virtually any musical instrument set before him, and play it well. He plays piano, guitar, mandolin, bass, drums, saxophone, tuba, clarinet, banjo, etc. Paul is another one of my favorites. I could go on and on, but I’ll have to tell you about more of my personal faves later. Thanks for writing!

Dear Al,
What’s all this talk I’ve been hearing about a musical event in Terlingua this October? Does it have anything to do with the Chili Cookoff thing?
— Brenda G., San Angelo

Dear Brenda,
Oh thank you! I’m so glad you mentioned this! The 17th Annual Terlingua Music Bash takes place in Terlingua the 15th, 16th, and 17th of October this year. Musicians from around the country show up to sing and share music with one another for an amazing show in the beautiful Big Bend region of Texas. It’s not affiliated with the Terlingua Chili Cookoff in any way. This festival has everything to do with music, and believe me, there’s always plenty of music in Terlingua the third weekend in October. This year’s get-together has been designated “The Year of Love.” It’s well worth the drive, so make it out if you can. You won’t regret it!