Pat Green was born in San Antonio, raised in Waco, spent his college days up in Lubbock and now resides in Fort Worth. Just about every corner of the state of Texas claims him. And they’re absolutely right. Without Pat Green, the state of Texas Country music looks, feels and sounds very different.
25 years into his storied career, Green can add one more notch onto his belt. Dancehall Dreamin’: A Tribute to Pat Green is the star-studded tribute album Texas country fans didn’t realize they needed until it was announced this past January. In many respects, it’s the tribute Green himself didn’t realize was needed either.
“This was a surprise to me. My management did this without my knowledge. I appreciate them just as much as I want to thump them in the head for making me feel old,” says Green with a chuckle. “Once they told me they were doing it, I was just flabbergasted. Thank you, but damn it.”
It’s not that Green doesn’t appreciate the gesture. There’s plenty of heartfelt gratitude heard in his voice when he speaks about Dancehall Dreamin’. It’s more so that no one really asks for their own tribute album. While it may remind Green of his own mortality and place as one of Texas’ wise elder statesmen, it’s also a testament of just how important Green has been to Texas’ budding music scene on a regional level.
Dancehall Dreamin’ arrives on April 5, Green’s 45th birthday.
A Tribute of Tributaries
At 10 songs long, Dancehall Dreamin’ is a healthy and mixed collection of Green contemporaries and up-and-comers who grew up on his music. Undoubtedly, Dancehall Dreamin’ could have been 50 or 100+ songs long had they wanted. There wouldn’t have been a lack of willing participants anxious to cut a Green dancehall anthem or intimate deep cut.
But with a roster of Randy Rogers, Radney Foster, Jack Ingram, Josh Abbott, Cory Morrow, William Clark Green, Aaron Watson, Kevin Fowler, Walt Wilkins, John Baumann and Drew Holcomb, Dancehall Dreamin’ more than delivers the necessary highlights.
“I think a record like this is important for past legacy, but also for all the new generations of Texas Country bands and fans to understand just how legendary Pat Green really is,” says Abbott. “It’s incontrovertible to say that he’s not one of the greatest of all time in Texas Country music. What Pat did for Texas Country is enormous. It’s like what the iPhone did for Apple.”
Abbott’s take on “Take Me Out To A Dancehall” captures Green’s early days with a youthful exuberance that shimmers. Longtime Green fans will easily be flooded with waves of nostalgia as they hear Abbott’s version. The slow-rolling two-stepper is paced with ample amounts of fiddle and banjo that both compliment Green’s original cut as well as Abbott and company’s interpretation.
While Abbott, Fowler, Watson and Rogers and Foster handle some of Green’s most iconic dancehall singalongs, Ingram and Baumann deliver some of Dancehall Dreamin’s some of the Green’s more down-home and intimate moments. Ingram’s slowed down approach to “Wave On Wave” highlights Green’s innate ability to write anthems on a personal level. It builds over time with a tempered awareness.
“Nightmare,” one of the deepest of Green cuts, falls right in Baumann’s wheelhouse. While Green certainly popularized the “Texas Song” movement (i.e. “I Like Texas,” “Songs About Texas” “Texas On My Mind”), one of his best Texas songs is the understated “Nightmare.” Baumann pulls you in close as he sings about Stevie Ray Vaughan, Buddy Holly and Townes Van Zandt.
“It was kind of the perfect song for me,” says Baumann. “That song has kind of been in my Rolodex since I was a teenager. It was one of the first songs I learned to play.”
A simple, yet effective bonus on Dancehall Dreamin’ is the added commentary from Green himself at the end. At his core, Green’s a lively storyteller. It’s where he’s most comfortable and most charming. He delves into the story behind the songs, shedding a light on each.
Paving a Path
Pat Green is Texas.
It’s why Waco, Lubbock, San Antonio and others all claim him as theirs. As an up-and-coming songwriter in the early ’90s, Green’s songs were latched onto by a passionate and die-hard fanbase. In part, it was because he was from their own backyards. His songs inhabited a space that felt incredibly familiar. Yet, they weren’t second-rate to what was being played on national radio.
“I had so much ambition. I’m not going to say I’m a leader or an innovator, but I am an instrument of my ambition,” says Green. “When I was playing a tennis racket guitar in junior high in front of the full-length mirror in my parent’s house, I wasn’t closing my eyes dreaming about playing the coffee shop. I was dreaming about playing in front of a stadium full of people.”
That combination of drive, worth ethic and talent impacted a whole generation of singer-songwriters from Texas. Green albums such as Dancehall Dreamer, Carry On, Three Days and Wave on Wave not only motivated artists coming up after Green, they were rough blueprints on how to write songs.
“I write with broad strokes trying to capture the biggest portion of the population,” says Green. “I believe that’s the way you can capture people in three-and-a-half minutes.”
Those broad strokes cut deep and resonated. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Texan who couldn’t rattle off a handful of Green titles. Within Texas’ rich and diverse music scene, Green’s a staple. He’s that unofficial uncle who made it big and taught you your first guitar chords.
“I started listening to Robert Earl Keen and Pat Green,” remembers Baumann. “From then, it was just the floodgates being opened. Charlie Robison, Cory Morrow, Jack Ingram. The list goes on. There’s kind of like this working class aspect to them. You don’t think about it at the time, but they really started all their own little businesses.”
In many respects, Green (and others’) success paved a way for the middle-class artist. You didn’t have to be George Strait, Alan Jackson or Garth Brooks to have an impact. It was cool if you did, but the realization that a middle ground was achievable was paramount in the growth of Texas music. Dancehall Dreamin’ is a testament to that growth. Pick a current songwriter or band and you’ll be able to trace back their sound to Green roots.
“It’s important to remember all these great songs that Pat’s put out over the years and for younger audiences to really fall in love with them,” says Abbott. “Hopefully, they’ll dive in and realize that Pat was the king of Texas Country music.”