In the past decade, the influx of so-called “Red Dirt” Texas-based artists has been as all-encompassing as the Lone Star State itself. Check the current list and you’ll find artists like the Randy Rogers Band, Aaron Watson, Kevin Fowler and others, none exactly radio heavyweights but powerful enough to forge their own loyal fan bases throughout the country. Their common bond? They can all trace their lineage back to Pat Green.
Green was one of the first regional Texas artists to become successful in the mainstream, through his party-style live shows and mainly his 2003 single “Wave on Wave,” which managed to crack the Top 5 on the “Billboard” country charts. A number of artists will heartily maintain that Green’s breakthrough led the charge for Texas-influenced music and opened the doors for them on a national scale.
As such, Rogers, Watson and a host of other acts are saluting Green on a new album, “Dancehall Dreamin’: A Tribute to Pat Green.” The salute features Jack Ingram’s take on “Wave on Wave,” Josh Abbott Band on “Take Me out to a Dancehall” and Watson’s version of “Crazy.” Fittingly, the album is set for release on April 5th, Green’s 46th birthday.
As Green takes a seat inside his management office, he lets on that he was totally unaware of the album until it began to take shape. “I got wind of it a few months into the process,” Green says with a smile. “It was a neat surprise, I can tell you that.” A humbling one as well. “If somebody isn’t humbled by a tribute album while you are still alive,” he says with some emphasis on those last two words, “then there’s probably something wrong. I am very lucky to have had a career that people think is worthy of something like that.”
Green’s career actually dates back more than 20 years, starting with his 1995 independent album “Dancehall Dreamer.” His music was raw and straightforward, right out of the honky tonks, an alternative to the polished country coming out of Nashville. Green’s lively performance at Willie Nelson’s July 4 picnic in 1998 vaulted him to national recognition. His first major label album “Three Days” came out in 2001, with the highly successful and acclaimed “Wave on Wave” album following two years later. Sparked mainly by Green’s popularity, Texas music started to catch on, especially with country purists. The timing could not have been more perfect.
“Country music and Nashville got to be too big,” Green explains. “The mushroom fell over and we were standing there. Around the time of the late ’90’s, there were 900 huge, hot-air-balloon size bands all at the same time. It was the first time in history that there were more country stations than rock and roll stations. Everybody was getting platinum albums. The Texas guys were standing there and going, ‘Well, here’s a guitar and a violin and a drummer and bass player.’ It all circled back to that simplicity. And the doors just blew open.” With a sly grin, Green concedes, “We got a little lucky there.”
You could easily make the case that Green spawned such current Texas gunslingers as the Randy Rogers Band, Cory Morrow, and the Josh Abbott Band, all of whom appear on “Dancehall Dreamin’.” But Green also drew inspiration from fellow Texans like George Strait and Jack Ingram, who built their fan bases in the clubs and roadhouses that dot the Texas landscape. “George is just the man,” Green smiles. “He was doing it long before all of us came along. Jack Ingram is one of the first guys I looked up to. He told me that it was OK not to write every song, and I was one of those who wanted to write everything. I wanted to be the king of my space,” he adds, laughing. “He also taught me that if you really like a piece of music, don’t be afraid to record it. That helped me broaden my scope a little bit.”
Ingram’s rendition of “Wave on Wave” for the album is a bit more subdued than Green’s original. He also interprets it with an almost Bob Dylan-esque phrasing style. “He did it in just the right way,” Green says in admiration. “I think it’s a fine compliment to the song.”
The Randy Rogers Band helps jumpstart the album with the group’s version of “Three Days,” featuring guest vocalist Radney Foster. “That just took my breath away,” Green says. “His voice is like Willie’s, man. You know who it is right away.” Green also extends high praise to Josh Abbott Band’s performance of “Take Me out to a Dancehall,” calling lead singer Abbott “an amazing vocalist. His range far surpasses mine.”
Green leans back on the couch where he’s seated and contemplates the whole Texas movement. There’s a ton of Texas-born-and-bred talent out there, he agrees, and it gives him a proud papa smile. “Texas is like an ocean now,” he says. “There is all this competition now, but it’s fun to see it all happening. Anytime that art and expression grow and get strength, it just makes the world a better place.” And the Texas world can thank Pat Green for the inspiration.
“Dancehall Dreamin’: A Tribute to Pat Green” is available now.