Texas singer-songwriter Red Shahan has already drawn on the parallels between the lives of touring musicians and rodeo and ranch cowboys in his brand of storytelling. That’s in part due to growing up with the likes of pals Jacobs Crawley and Dean Wadsworth, both of which are both professional saddle bronc riders. Now, he’s released an official video for the gritty guitar-thumper “Waterbill,” the opening track for Culberson County, Shahan’s latest album.
For the music video, Shahan recruits Wadsworth for a weekend adventure with shades of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas as they burn up the desolate open highways and crowded bars of West Texas. Along the way, they hit up old stomping grounds like Lubbock‘s Blue Light and Crider’s in Hunt, Texas.
“The similarities between what we do and what professional cowboys is essentially no different than the bearded lady and the feller selling turkey legs,” Shahan tells Wide Open Country. “You have to show up and perform. It’s hard, but it’s fun. It’s a lifestyle, but it’s all the same circus.”
“Waterbill” finds Shahan delivering a tightly wound narrative that bobs and weaves with a blazing speed. In just a few lines, he’s already carved out a canyon of character development and thrown you in the middle. His detail is incredibly precise and exact. Still, it’s not with a highbrow slant. And when he belts out “I’m on high hopes, you ain’t living unless you’re living life broke” on the chorus, it resonates with just about everyone who’s been strapped for cash or behind on a bill.
“Waterbill,” in many respects, falls in line with other cowboy songs such as the introspective “Long Way to Fall” and the desert-swept and cinematically-charged “Men & Coyotes,” songs found on Shahan’s highly-acclaimed debut album. While there’s certainly a playful tone to “Waterbill” that highlights more of the highs than lows of rodeo life, it still draws from the same well. It’s still an intense and harsh character sketch that banks on Shahan’s insider perspective and candid honesty. Through it all though, he’s able to present it through a lens that feels authentic, yet remain universal all at once.
“Waterbill” was filmed by videographer Mason Wright and Bernard Van Weydeveldt of Hooey, a western lifestyle and sports brand. Culberson County was released via Thirty Tigers earlier this year. Shahan is currently on a Northwest run with fellow Texas Music troubadour Cody Jinks. For tour dates, click here.