North Texas Daily

Country music bands kick up Red Dirt

Country music bands kick up Red Dirt

August 09
22:00 2012

Michelle Heath / Staff Writer

When they get on stage, they say they’re from Denton, but Blacktop Outlaw has never played a show in their hometown.

The band’s fusion of country and Southern rock ‘n’ roll generates a red dirt Texas country sound that is well-known in Dallas and Fort Worth, but struggles to get recognition in the same town that produced country heavyweight Eli Young.

“Think of Lynyrd Skynyrd, but with Willie Nelson – if they had a baby,” hospitality and management sophomore and lead guitarist Ethan Dorsett said.

The Texas country scene in Denton has dwindled over the years, said Lloyd Banks, the owner of Rockin’ Rodeo, a nightclub on Avenue C that regularly hosts popular rock and country bands. Banks said the club only gets busy for big-name Texas country bands like Eli Young and Randy Rogers, something Blacktop Outlaw hopes to change.

“I think a lot of people hear the words ‘Texas country’ and it almost turns them off, because they don’t want to see a country show,” Banks said. “It’s not what you expect. It’s not going to be some guy in a big cowboy hat up there twanging away and singing about his dog.”

Performing every weekend in venues all over North Texas – except for Denton, where the band fights to book gigs – Blacktop Outlaw makes about $350 a show, performing covers of artists such as Cross Canadian Ragweed, Stoney LaRue and Hank Williams Sr.

“One thing I like about playing the old stuff is it’s a way of introducing it to the young people and reminding it to the old people,” music senior and bassist Lucas Pittman said.

Although the band fills the majority of their four hour sets with covers, lead singer Danny Dillon said the band is moving toward playing more originals while retaining its Texas country sound.

Even at Rockin’ Rodeo, which regularly hosts red dirt artists such as Wade Bowen and Charlie Robison, new Texas country bands have a hard time gaining a following in Denton, Banks said.

“I don’t know what it will take, and it’s not like we don’t have success with [country music],” Banks said. “Obviously, we do or we wouldn’t keep doing it. It’s just, you know, the market has shrunk a little bit.”

Banks said the scene was much larger when he attended UNT from 1989-1994. He said it seemed that other college towns have a more “country-oriented” student body, which makes it difficult for new Texas country acts to gain a foothold in Denton.

“You go to any other college town in the state of Texas and you throw any number of Texas music guys and red dirt guys, not even big names, and you usually have a pretty decent crowd,” Banks said.
When Pittman started studying music at UNT, he said people told him to keep his love for playing country music under wraps.

“I think they think it’s corny,” Dorsett said.

When Rockin’ Rodeo has big name bands play, Banks said it’s a “no brainer” that the venue will be packed.

The four members of Blacktop Outlaw hope to get some hometown recognition by opening for a bigger band, and become a part of Denton’s down-but-not-out Texas country scene.

“I think opening up for one of those bands [at Rockin’ Rodeo] will get us recognized,” Dillon said. “If we can get in there and open we’ll be good.”

For more information on Blacktop Outlaw and upcoming shows, go to facebook.com/blacktopoutlaw.

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