For anyone interested in Texan folklore and the songs of Townes Van Zandt, Butch Hancock and Guy Clark this album is an intriguing listen. Tim Henderson, who died in 2011, was from West Virginia but moved to Austin, Texas when in his 30’s. Influenced by his grandmother who played mountain dulcimer Henderson took up music at an early age but once in Texas he joined in the budding musical scene there releasing his first album in 1978. While his fame never expanded much beyond the State’s borders, at home he was feted with Townes Van Zandt championing him as he won a best song award at The Kerrville Folk Festival in 1977 while he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy of Texas Music in 2011 for his “timeless contributions to Texas music.”
Gone To Texas is the first volume of a six album set which gathers Henderson’s recording together and, as the title hints, it concentrates on the songs he wrote about Texas history, culture and people. Released last year in The States it’s coming to our attention now due to the ministrations of promoter Rob Ellen who heard about Henderson when he was on the road with an artist Henderson mentored, Chuck Hawthorne. Ellen attended a concert celebrating the album release and was knocked out and amazed at the galaxy of Texas artists who turned up to pay homage and undertook to try and spread the word further. For that we say, Thanks Rob.
Listening to the album I was struck time and again as to why Henderson isn’t better known. His songs range from vibrant retellings of pivotal moments in Texas history to songs packed full of humour and wit. His Ballad Of Whiskey John (one of the songs that helped him win the Kerrville New Folk Competition – Van Zandt was a judge that year) is a folk tale, almost a talking blues, which recalls Loudon Wainwright and Kinky Friedman. Witch Of West Lynn, written in revenge against getting a ticket for running a red light, cackles with an absurd humour with Henderson roaring like Shel Silverstein while Jesus Would Have Loved El Paso is a sly dig at television pastors such as Jerry Falwell who delighted in calling Texans sinners and it’s delivered with a passion similar to that of Tom Russell.
Russell comes to mind again when Henderson dips into the border territory as on La Dona Maria and Maria Consuelo Arroyo, both replete with Hispanic sounds and the latter leading us into another comparison, this time with the rawness of Terry Allen’s Juarez. There really is so much treasure here (some not so polished, the living room recording of Texas Morning Ride gains from its lo fidelity) with songs such as Dust and Texas In His Ways truly embedded in the Texas tradition but our favourite is the magnificent Miss Amelia Harris, Spinster, a song which sounds as if you had bundled together all of the artists we’ve mentioned here and added a dollop of John Prine.
Gone To Texas is a tremendous listen and it whets the appetite for the accompanying volumes. Hopefully it and the other five discs serve to spread Henderson’s legacy further afield, we’d certainly love to hear more of the man. Thanks again, Rob.
Here’s some vintage footage of Tim Henderson…
And here’s Chuck Hawthorne singing Miss Amelia Harris, Spinster (just for good measure)