Flatland Cavalry is here to carry on the rich, but often under appreciated, tradition of music coming out of Lubbock, Texas. And the rootsy panhandle five piece is well on their way.
"I'm a big fan of Josh Abbott Band, William Clark Green, Cory Morrow and Pat Green," frontman Cleto Cordero tells Wide Open Country. "So many great artists came out of Lubbock already, I figured why not try to do the same."
Built off a friendship forged in Midland, Texas, Flatland Cavalry gets its name from the endless landscapes out in West Texas. Primary songwriter Cordero met drummer Jason Albers in Midland before moving up to Lubbock and expanding their sound.
It basically came down to whether Cordero wanted to go to school at the University of Texas in Austin or Texas Tech University in Lubbock. "Being from Midland, I didn't really want to go to a big pond like Austin," he says. So he made the two-hour drive north.
Now Cordero and Albers have guitarist Reid Dillon, fiddler Laura Jane and bassist Jonathan Saenz around them, building tracks that float effortlessly between the Americana leanings of Texas country and the folksy songwriter influences of singers like Townes Van Zandt and Robert Earl Keen.
Sonically, they land not far from Oklahoma's favorite sons, Turnpike Troubadours. Which makes plenty of sense, because Cordero cites the Troubadour's Evan Felker as a key influence on his own writing style. "I love his vivid imagery," Cordero says. Felker, Randy Rogers and John Mayer make up a trio of key influences for the band.
Cordero's smooth, effortless delivery glides along in the tracks. As he puts it, they're "easy listening." But the band's songwriting certainly focuses on the all-important modern day hook. There's a necessary pop factor to Cordero's phrasing and the band's featured melody lines. Just look to the song "February Snow" for proof of that.
Flatland Cavalry achieved rare chart notoriety with their first album release. After a crowdfunded EP Come May got their name out around Lubbock in May 2015, the band returned later in the year to record their debut full length. They recorded in Lubbock's modest Amusement Park Studios with producer Scott Faris.
"We're all about good vibes, and we had a really good vibe with Scott," Cordero says. Clearly.
That album, Humble Folks, took off more than they could've hoped. Released in April 2016, it peaked at No. 2 on the iTunes Top 100 Country Albums chart. Even more impressive, they hit No. 17 on the Billboard Americana/Folk Albums chart and No. 38 on the Country Albums chart.
For comparison, Aaron Watson didn't hit the chart until seven years and six albums in (at No. 60). For a young band to chart on their first release -- well, that's special. Flatland Cavalry is plugged in with some of Texas' best names in management and booking. But they've got the kind of sound that folks far outside the Lone Star State will appreciate, too.
Now, the band enjoys visiting places they've never been before -- including all the nooks and crannies of Texas. Even if Flatland Cavalry doesn't have a big grasp of some towns in Texas (like Priddy, Texas, where the band recently played a local festival), those towns already know them.
"We're far away from home and people are still in the front row screaming our words back at us," Cordero says. "That's probably my favorite part right now."
Obviously, the quintet has tons of time and room to grow. But as long as they hold on to that easy-on-the-ears, heart-on-your-sleeve sound, the endless Texas sky is the limit. And with plans to return to the studio later this year, there's no slowing down for the band.
They achieved something special with nothing but friendships and a few bucks, and the trail ahead looks promising for Flatland Cavalry.