Texas music is a one-of-a-kind phenomemon in the United States. There's really no other example of an independent music community that has morphed into its own viable industry in 20 years.
Annual festivals, record labels, radio stations, recording studios, websites and magazines are now devoted to the Texas country and red dirt music communities. That kind of growth and bounty brings with it the downside: bickering surrounding some of the genre's best-known names and events. One of the best places to catch the controversy is on Twitter, where a Texas-sized storm seems to roll in every other weekend.
But here's the bright side: Without a thriving, fruitful landscape, no one would be interested or invested enough to argue about what does and doesn't belong in their beloved corner of the music world. So, in that twisted way, controversy is a good sign.
In that spirit, let's take a look back at the year in Texas country-versy. In each example, I'll give sarcastic ideas about what I wished would happen next.
'Mainstream' country on an indie radio station
The controversy: On a Friday afternoon in March, notable Fort Worth radio station KFWR 95.9 The Ranch introduced an alteration to its format by including some artists from the Nashville mainstream and classic rock realms.
The fallout: As the weekend rolled on, social media warriors aimed their venom at station program director and afternoon host Shayne Hollinger. As songs from mainstream country types including Chris Young, Zac Brown Band and Dierks Bentley were infrequently sprinkled into the station's offerings, the angry mob seemed to forget that their beloved "Texas country" station had, for years, been spinning non-Texas artists Turnpike Troubadours and Jason Isbell as well as non-country cuts from the likes of Leon Bridges and Grace Potter. After a few days, station personalities addressed the alterations on the air and online, thanking their listeners for their passion and loyalty and promising to always try new things to make the station better.
The sarcasm: As the Ranch continues to tinker with its format, it has yet to abolish Casey Donahew from its playlist. We would like to think that the day is soon coming where playing his pandering redneck propaganda will be grounds for the FCC to revoke a radio station's license.
Sam Riggs' flaming guitar
The controversy: Sam Riggs ended his set at the Larry Joe Taylor Texas Music Festival by lighting his guitar on fire.
The fallout: As pictures and videos surfaced of Riggs dousing an acoustic guitar with lighter fluid, then lighting it on fire as he held it high with one hand and beat his chest with the other, differing opinions on the stunt emerged. What was known for certain, though, was that Riggs and his crew were asked to leave the festival grounds immediately.
Riggs wasn't supposed to light a guitar on fire: A request from Riggs's camp months prior had been denied by the festival, yet the band went ahead with the plan, which included lying to the festival stage manager about why a fire extinguisher was placed on the stage. A statement a few days later from Riggs offered an apology for the disrespect he showed to the festival, but alas, he would never "apologize for my passion on stage."
The sarcasm: If it were up to us, Riggs would capitalize on the controversy by stocking his concert merch table with caps (engineered to be worn backwards, naturally) and sleeveless T-shirts featuring the Texas flag, the Alamo and a Shiner Bock bottle engulfed in flames with the hashtag #SorryNotSorryBrah. Maybe he'd tweet, "I wont apologize for, you know, being lit... get it? Lit, like, IDK, is both fire and my favorite band."
The day Texas music (didn't) die
The controversy: In June, free alt-weekly paper Fort Worth Weekly published "What Happened to Texas Music."
The fallout: Jeff Prince's piece trolled readers by taking shots at Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen and Ray Wylie Hubbard, among others. Prince continued by writing that each new generation of Texas music was a "dumbed down" version of the wave before it. The second section of the piece featured a Q-and-A with three Fort Worth-based music scene veterans, including Joey Green, a singer-songwriter who had already moved to Nashville.
The resulting conversation between the trio was rife with the puckered language of someone drunk on sour grapes. The "get off my lawn" lingo was met with disdain by not only Texas country fans, but plenty of artists and industry professionals. Though some truthful points were made in the piece regarding the prominent commercial aspect local musicians must sometimes meet in order to be considered a success, overall, the article to land with a spectacular thud throughout the state's country community.
The sarcasm: Here's an idea for another string of articles: "What's Wrong with Cute Puppies?" "What's Wrong with Your Sweet Grandma?" and "What's Wrong with Amazing, Delicious Brisket?"
Midland: the Texas country imposters
The controversy: In September, as neo-traditional country trio Midland prepared to release its debut full-length album, the Twitter community raised questions over the group's experience, history and authenticity. The discussion grew loudest after band member Cameron Duddy said in an interview with Rolling Stone Country that his group had put in "our 10,000 hours" by performing in small clubs.
The fallout: These guys aren't as believable as they wish they were, thanks in part to an eyebrow-raising combo of glamorous past jobs (including underwear model, shoe company CEO, and Bruno Mars video director), a slavish dedication to Instagram-worthy retro fashion, and the high-dollar publicity campaign of Big Machine Records.
The narrative -- that these guys are a long-suffering group of Texas road warriors -- is not technically false. But it was understandably laughed at by artists and fans from Texas who weren't familiar with Midland's dive bar days.
The sarcasm: Midland could relocate to Brooklyn where lead singer Mark Wystratch will accept the role of conductor for the Williamsburg Artisan Handbell Choir. We can picture the press release now: "As a lifelong student of the chromatic scale, Wystratch has gone through literally millions of pairs of bedazzled gloves in pursuit of perfect pitch. A more authentic Ringer shall not be found." Confused bloggers would declare "He's a fraud! No one that devastatingly chiseled has ever rocked 'Carol of the Bells!'"