Up in Nashville, it's the women who have come to the forefront and are generally making the better music. But here in Texas, where we pride ourselves on being better than Nashville, and especially in Austin, there's a notable shortage of female Texas country talent, as I have noted here before.
Yes, there's Kelly Willis, who has raised her national profile in recent years, and is currently balancing her career with recent motherhood. But aside from her, there's not a lot of other notables. So in a way it's rather fitting that Willis sings on the first two songs of "Real Bad," the long-awaited debut album by Karen Poston, a disc that promises to bring some well-deserved attention to this talented singer and songwriter. After what's closing in on a decade in town, Poston has proven how well one can utilize the Austin scene to launch a career in real country.
Poston, an Ohio native, arrived in Austin as one-half of a country-folk duo, Aunt Beanie's First Prize Beets. Her first big break in being exposed to the world beyond Austin came in 1996, when she sang harmonies on Dale Watson's "Blessed or damned." More recently, she wrote the song Lydia that Slaid Cleaves recorded on his "Broke Down" album, as well as co-writing "Horseshoe Lounge" on that disc. And she's been a member of Ted Roddy's Tearjoint Troubadors, co-writing Se Habla Heartache and Something Good on "Tear Time," last year's release by Roddy and company. "Real Bad" lives up to the above credentials Poston has earned.
Like "Tear Time," it was produced by guitar maestro Jim Stringer and released on Stringer's label, The Music Room. Ten of the 12 songs are Poston originals (including the aforementioned Lydia), and are the sort of material that, if Nashville was still about country, would have won her prominence in Music City. And when Poston delivers a rollicking version of Liz Anderson's "Ride Ride Ride," it's also clear that the Music City that once was would have also embraced her as a singer. But since Poston is a real woman rather than a pin-up. Austin is obviously the place for her and her music.
Willis ended up on the album thanks to Lydia, which she sings on. A comment she made to Poston about liking the song gave Poston the opening to invite Willis to sing on her album, giving Poston an imprimatur of Texas country credibility. Adding to that is the presence of Roger Wallace and Cleaves singing on other songs, as well as musical contributions from such noted musicians as Roddy and Gurf Morlix. While the CD's overall homage to the classic country sound might make calling it state of the art Austin country a bit misleading, it is a statement of artistry as it is practiced here that proves once again that the devotion to country as many of us believe it should be remains strong in this city. And Poston has proven herself with the album and hard work in Austin's clubs leading her group the Crystal Pistols to be a notable representative of all that the Austin real country scene embodies.