Their distinct blend of dancehall-ready fiddle country and introspective songwriting had a packed crowd at Billy Bob’s Texas singing along Friday night, and it wasn’t hard to see the appeal.
The five-piece from the Lubbock area had the standing-room crowd two-stepping and the table-seated crowd toe-tapping, and it was clear the band had grown leaps and bounds since the last time I saw them.
I first saw Flatland Cavalry open for Pat Green at a 2016 ACL Live show, where I compared them to early Turnpike Troubadours. That comparison is still apt, but I would also liken the group to a less-frat party-sounding Josh Abbott Band.
Songs like “A Life Where We Work Out” and “Stompin’ Grounds” showcased Laura Jane Houle’s fiddling and frontman Cleto Cordero’s ability to write forlorn love songs and crowd-ready sing-alongs, respectively. They had only released an EP and a crowdfunded debut album at that point, but they possessed a stage presence that belied their youth even then, and crowd was already singing along to “February Snow” and “No Shade of Green.”
Now, in town Friday to celebrate the release day of their sophomore album “Homeland Insecurity,” the group looks like they’ve been selling out dancehalls for years (and probably have; this is the first show I’ve been to where they headlined) even though the album’s subject matter deals with the insecurity and anxieties that come with young adulthood. Vocalist Cleto Cordero led the band through a mixture of new stuff and old stuff, light on banter and long on entertainment. They even got an encore call — something that’s become standard for every concert these days, but it’s still cool to see from an up-and-coming band you like.
As for the new album, it straddles that line between Texas country and mainstream country, à la Cody Johnson or Aaron Watson. “Honeywine” and “Old School” are crowd-ready sing-along party songs, while opener “Come Back Down” is a loss-tinged sequel of sorts to “Stompin’ Grounds,” where the protagonist comes home.
The songwriting is the standout, with plenty of introspection.
Cordero told Saving Country Music about the subject matter of the album, which is all about learning how to grow up:
“We’re in our mid-twenties. We’re all told growing up that by the time you’re out of school, you’ll have it all figured out, but that’s not really how it is. You’re still out there trying to find yourself. I think at some point, you feel like you need to grow-up, but you don’t know how. You’re searching for that path though. You’re overturning every rock trying to find the secret that gets on to the next. I’m not trying to be a teacher or anything. I just wish someone would have told me earlier on and saved me the heartache of it all.”
“Back To Me” and “Other Side Of Lonesome” are the standout sad love songs here, with the latter featuring the best use of the boom-chicka-boom drum/bass combo that I’ve heard in a long time. There’s something for everyone here, and I hope that soon, everyone finds this band.
Setlist from Friday night:
- Stompin’ Grounds
- February Snow
- Other Side of Lonesome
- Come Back Down
- Old School
- Traveler’s Song
- Lonely Then
- Missing You
- Living By Moonlight
- Humble Folks
- No Shade of Green
- Summertime Love
- Sleeping Alone
- A Life Where We Work Out
- One I Want
- Pretty Women
- Ballad of Roy Johnson -Coyote
- Years From Now
- Tall City Blues