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Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin's Progressive Country Music Scene

Travis D. Stimeling

Reviewed by Jay Trachtenberg, Fri., July 15, 2011

Summer Reading

Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin's Progressive Country Music Scene

by Travis D. Stimeling
Oxford University Press, 173 pp., $35

As your dissertation adviser, Mr. Stimeling, it must be said that although your research and analysis are impressive, you should realize that your paper will read like a tight-assed academic endeavor to anyone not ensconced within the halls of higher learning. The other advisers will just love the references to Austin's flagship progressive country radio station, KOKE-FM, as embracing the "Texas nationalist ideals of masculinity, colonization, and ownership of indigenous peoples, and a rhetoric of Texan exceptionalism." That said, your efforts should be viewed as a useful primer for the extraordinary musical, social, cultural, entrepreneurial, and political forces that converged in Austin during the 1970s. The coming together of hippies and rednecks, most notably at the Armadillo World Headquarters, would lay the foundation for an Austin music scene that is now revered globally. You cover the decade's important personalities (Kenneth Threadgill, Willie Nelson, Eddie Wilson), influential songs (Michael Martin Murphey's "Cosmic Cowboy," Ray Wylie Hubbard's "Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother"), major events, and necessary support systems. The chapter on the history, tradition, and subsequent revival of Western swing and its role in uniting the generations vis-à-vis Asleep at the Wheel was my favorite. Your challenging insights, afforded by a perspective of nearly four decades, are an intriguing counterweight to journalist Jan Reid's 1974 real-time coverage in The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock. Mr. Stimeling, you have a clear affinity for the subject matter, but your delivery is as dry as Texas dirt.

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