There’s no shortage of great music being made in Texas, by Texans: from slide guitars to 808s, from accordions to distortion pedals, the tapestry of Texas includes the traditions of George Strait, Pantera, UGK, At the Drive-In, and Freddy Fender. Today’s burgeoning artists are tomorrow’s legends, and on the Daily Post’s song premieres, artists explain why their latest tracks are worthy of your time and attention.
This week, singer-songwriter James McMurtry follows up his critically acclaimed Complicated Game, released in February, with a song that he didn’t write: “Big Things,” by the late Venice Boardwalk-based street singer Ted Hawkins. The track appears on a Hawkins tribute album, Cold & Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins. McMurtry answers a modified version of our questionnaire below.
What about this song resonated with you?
My manager, Jenni Finlay, picked the song for me. Cold & Bitter Tears is her project.
Can you tell me about your relationship with Ted Hawkins’ music?
I was touring with the Candyland record and got to open for Ted Hawkins at a place called Largo on Fairfax in L.A. I came in and it turned out it was a transvestite birthday party. I was the opening act at a transvestite birthday party. I was young, the sound was kind of weird, and I wasn’t real happy with my performance. And then Ted came in. The first thing out of his mouth was, “Is everybody having a good time?” He smiled real big. It was like the sun came up over his head. I’ve never seen anybody do that.
When you interpret a song like this, how do you start building your own version?
With Ted Hawkins’ songs, you first have to figure out where to insert minor chords. He played an open-major tuning with a glove on his left hand, so all of his chords were major.
What do you think people should be doing when they listen to this recording?
Whatever they feel like doing.
If you had to compare this song to a food, what food would it be?
Pastrami on rye. Canter’s Deli, Fairfax across from Largo, 1993.
(Cold & Bitter Tears: The Songs of Ted Hawkins will be released October 23rd on Eight 30 Records.)