Hey Baby, Que Paso?
Texas artists cover a San Antonio legend and more on new collaborative album for state parks
The sounds of Texas are as varied as Willie's guitar and the cooing of a roadrunner. (Contrary to popular belief, it is a coo rather than an old fashioned car horn). Even as Texas has become more urban, it'd be silly to separate its musical heritage from the wide open spaces that inspired so much art to come. One album this fall explores and commemorates musical identity in the Lone Star State from its past, its present, and the from Texas wild, which happens to lend its name to the project. And the first single, out May 2, kicks things off in a fittingly hybrid style that will delight listeners of all genres.
Texas Wild is part of the 100 Years of Texas State Parks Celebration, which has inspired a long string of onsite (and offsite) events in Texas parks all year. The party is now bringing the whole state together for one united musical endeavor (released by Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation (TPWF) in partnership with Rambler Sparkling Water). So far, 16 artists from around the state have covered tracks from older Texas artists that influenced some of the state's defining genres: blues, cumbia, country, hip-hop, R&B, electronica, and possibly more.
The first single gives the Houston treatment to a San Antonio classic, "(Hey Baby) Que Paso." Originally written by members of the Sir Douglas Quintet, the bouncy Tex-Mex track was popularized by Tejano group Texas Tornados, and retains much of its good-natured inquisitiveness (que paso?) when sung by rapper Fat Tony. The instrumentation is much funkier, but this cover is about as faithful as they come without being direct copies — until the rap verses hit. Paul Wall joins in and the "San Antonio national anthem," in Doug Sahm's words, is fit for any summer block party across the state 40 years later.
While Paul Wall reps Houston, more big names on the record include Shakey Graves (Austin), and Ray Wylie Hubbard (Dallas), and even the smaller fish in this particular pond are making big waves in the industry. Although the album is regionally well-balanced among big cities, there's only so much the Live Music Capital can do to keep from pulling focus.
Many of the contributions are by Austin artists, including the overall production headed by local singer-songwriter Walker Lukens, who has faithfully proved his skill in bringing retro sounds sincerely to life. Other Austin contributions in both performance and songwriting come from Sir Woman, Adrian Quesada, Daniel Johnston, Willie Nelson, and more — not to mention those who shared their talent largely in Austin without spending their entire career, like the legendary Townes Van Zandt.
"Texas Wild is an album that encompasses that wild, untamed spirit for which Texas is best known," said TPWF executive director Anne Brown in a press release. "Incredible artists from across the state have come together to put their unique stamp on Texas classics, resulting in an exciting playlist that music fans will want to play on repeat. We're thankful for the many talented artists who made this extraordinary album possible."
If this first track is any indication, this album should appeal to many of its contributors' fans regardless of their interest in Texas history or local pride. Still, Texans heard it first, and should look out for two more singles in June and July, followed by the entire album in digital or vinyl formats in the fall. Texas illustrator Mishka Westell created the cover art featuring Texas wildlife, and sales will benefit TPWF.
Tracks announced so far on Texas Wild:
- Fat Tony featuring Paul Wall — “(Hey Baby) Que Paso” (Original Track: Sir Douglas Quintet)
- The Texas Gentlemen — "(That's Right) You're Not From Texas" (Original Track: Lyle Lovett)
- Shane Smith and The Saints featuring Hayes Carll — "Pancho and Lefty" (Original Track: Townes Van Zandt)
- LUNA LUNA — “Si Una Vez” (Original Track: Selena Quintanilla)
- Ryan Bingham — "Possum Kingdom" (Original Track: The Toadies)
- The Suffers — "My Maria" (Original Track: B.W. Stevenson)
- Shakey Graves featuring Jess Williamson — "True Love Will Find You In The End" (Original Track: Daniel Johnston)
- Sir Woman featuring Ray Wylie Hubbard — "Texas Sun" (Original Track: Khruangbin and Leon Bridges)
- Adrian Quesada featuring US and The Soul Supporters — "Say My Name" (Original Track: Destiny’s Child)
- Sarah Jaffe — "Flying Too Close To The Ground" (Original Track: Willie Nelson)
- The Toadies — "Since You've Been Gone" (Original Track: Kelly Clarkson)