To celebrate the centennial of Texas State Parks, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation is doing something it has never done before: dropping an album.
Fort Worth makes a strong showing on “Texas Wild,” which features recordings exclusively by artists with roots in the state.
Local supergroup the Toadies, Yellowstone’s Ryan Bingham (from Austin) and a cover of Fort Worth native Townes Van Zandt are just a few highlights on the album that was designed to be as diverse as the state’s flora and fauna.
Produced by singer and songwriter Walker Lukens, the album includes 11 songs that span genres from country to cumbia and electronica to rap. All of the artists put their own twang on the classic Texas tune of their choice.
The Toadies are present both as songwriters and performers on the album: Ryan Bingham and The Texas Gentlemen cover their 1994 hit “Possum Kingdom,” and they put their own spin on “Since U Been Gone” by Burleson’s favorite daughter, Kelly Clarkson.
“Ryan Bingham wanting to do ‘Possum Kingdom’ is exactly what makes an album like this special; a big artist in one genre taking a chance by doing a popular song in another genre,” Lukens said in a press release. “Plus, Richard Bowden’s fiddle solo is one of the coolest things that’s ever happened at our studio.”
Currently, the Toadies are busy recording new work, but guitarist Clark Vogeler offered his support of the cover in a statement. “Ryan Bingham and The Texas Gentleman bring their own style to the tune, imbuing it with a uniquely haunting touch,” he said. “A lurid and chaotic violin pairs with the guitars creating an original appeal. This is a great cover that takes the song to new places.”
Executive Director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation Anne Brown credits Lukens with creating organic collaborations.
“Walker would talk to one group and they’d be like, ‘Hey, we’re going to get so-and-so to come in with us and cover that,’ And that’s how the Toadies found out … because Ryan did theirs,” she said. “And then they’re like, ‘Hey, we’ll do Kelly Clarkson.’”
Funkytown secured another spot on the album with a cover of Fort Worth-born Townes Van Zandt’s song “Pancho and Lefty.”
The track, which was named one of the “100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time” by RollingStone, takes on a new life with the help of Shane Smith and The Saints, also featuring Hayes Carll.
“I’ve always loved Willie and Merle’s recording, but the song has been very impactful since Townes Van Zandt wrote it,” Shane Smith wrote. “Everything about it represents Texas, from the overall story to the music and, of course, the intricate lyrics that Townes wrote.”
It was a coup to pull this effort off between everyone’s touring and recording schedules, Brown said. The album is just one piece in a larger celebration that includes events at each of the state’s 89 parks.
The full album and its vinyl pressings will be released this fall, but a specific date has yet to be announced. In the meantime, three singles are available online, including the newly released track “Pancho and Lefty.”
“Music always happens around a campfire; that was one of the initial thoughts,” Brown said. “So, hopefully, what we’ve done is engage a different sort of artist than you think about singing those songs. We wanted artists that look like the audiences we want to come to state parks and engage with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.”
Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.