Saturday August 3, 2019
Cooder Graw barreled out of the gate in 1997, amidst a ferocious stampede of Texas artists including Jason Boland and the Stragglers, Cross Canadian Ragweed and Roger Creager, on a trail blazed by legendary Texas musicians turned national stars like Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green and Jack Ingram, in the heat of the uprising Texas and Red Dirt music revolution. No shortage of excitement on stage, their unpredictable live show and hard-charging, guitar-driven sound – uniquely branded “loud country” – coupled with that enigmatic yet unforgettable name, set Cooder Graw firmly among the landmark acts that built the Texas music machine around the turn of the millennium.
From modest beginnings playing covers at the Golden Light Cantina in Amarillo, the band – including lead singer/songwriter and rhythm guitarist Matt Martindale, lead guitar Kelly Turner, and Paul Baker on bass guitar – quickly earned a loyal fan base and in 1998 released their debut album, Home at the Golden Light, which credits Matthew McConaughey, a fraternity brother of Martindale, as executive producer. The live offering led to opening shows for such renowned country artists as Willie Nelson, Alabama, Dwight Yoakum, Robert Earl Keen and Asleep at the Wheel, among others. In 2000 came their debut studio release, the self-titled Cooder Graw, co-produced by multiple Grammy Award-winner Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel and Hayden Nicholas, nine-time #1 country songwriter and guitarist for Clint Black. The sophomore effort made itself at home on the national radio charts for 13 straight weeks and delivered classic favorites like “18 Wheels of Loving,” “Dirty Little Hometown Girl,” and “My Give a Damn is Broken.” In early 2001, Cooder Graw issued their second live album, Segundo, which mixed previously unrecorded tunes with renditions of favorites from their debut, and spawned the group’s first top 10 hit on the Texas country charts with “Willie’s Guitar.” A second 2001 offering, the studio album Shifting Gears, scored two more top 10 Texas hits with “New Dress” and “Better Days,” the latter of which remained on the charts for an incredible 40 weeks, and inspired the band’s first music video that aired on major country music networks including Great American Country (GAC). The band’s 2002 installment in the famed Live at Billy Bob’s Texas album series opened with “Llano Estacado,” the now-infamous loud country anthem that was featured on a series of national Dodge truck commercials and made Cooder Graw a household name across the Lone Star state. In 2004, the Panhandle band released their sixth album, Wake Up, featuring the chart friendly single “Lifetime Stand.” Described by Martindale as “edgier and a little more raw,” with the hard rocking live show staple “Clarksdale” and haunting melody of “That Girl Crystal,” the release was a decidedly different offering from the group who had matured musically.
Cooder Graw toured relentlessly for most of a decade, playing 200 dates a year at many of the finest venues across the Southwest, and by the end of 2006 the road weary band was feeling the toll of living their songs nightly and longing for home. They played a final show at The Horseman Club in Fort Worth on New Year’s Eve and announced they would stop touring indefinitely. After a six-year hiatus, the group came together in 2012 for what was expected to be a short reunion tour but the Cooder fan base is as fervent as ever and the band is enjoying a relaxed touring schedule without expectations, having a good time playing well-worn songs and writing new ones. With the 2016 release of Love to Live By, a six song EP, the Panhandle band marks the beginning of a new chapter. Produced by Rich Brotherton and recorded at The Congress House Studio in Austin, the long awaited seventh album release is a sweet taste of all that fans love about Cooder Graw. The chart-climbing lead single, “Heart of Breaking Up,” delivers with Martindale’s signature down home lyrical style and the good-feeling, loud country sound that fans know and love. Same with the hard rocking “Virginia Slims and Little Kings,” a nostalgic, adolescent love anthem set to be the song of the summer. The title track, “Love to Live By,” a sensual slow burner that calls for dancing slow and close, is accompanied by a powerful new music video with a message of support for military veterans and their families. With the return of drummer Kelly Test, and the addition of Carmen Acciaioli on fiddle and Danny Crelin on pedal steel, the momentum continues to build for Cooder Graw, blazing a new trail and leaving their unmistakable mark in Texas music history.