Things to Do: Sam Turner and the Cactus Cats, Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon, November 6, 2021


There is a song on Rodeo dog, Sam Turner and the Cactus Cats’ new album, titled “Back to Houston”, but listening to the LP, you might imagine yourself driving a way of town looking for a good time in a Hill Country honky-tonk. “Back to Houston” has something to say about Turner’s hometown and his own honky-tonk heritage, but it also speaks to the commitment he and the band have recently made to creating classic country songs.

While the band have a record release event planned for Saturday, November 6 at Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon, Turner admits the venues they’ve performed in in recent years don’t necessarily conjure up glory days at Gilley’s.

“We played at Satellite Bar, Continental Club, Shoeshine Charley’s – those kinds of places are definitely not honky-tonks,” he said. “We’ve played so many of these shows after putting our first album together and releasing it and it’s been a long time since it’s released. On this album, we weren’t exactly the same as we are now. There are country songs from singer-songwriters, but there were also simple rock songs and old crooner-type songs.

“I don’t know if that’s necessarily a good thing when it comes to being successful in music, but we’ve always been able to blend in with a lot of different projects. It’s opened up some shows at the Satellite Bar and these types of places that you don’t necessarily think of “honky-tonk country music” when you think of those places. ”

While not always the center of attention, classic country has been at the heart of the group, which formed in 2013. Hearing Turner, guitarist Michael Trakhtenberg, bassist WD Hesser and Troy Tabner on drums today proves their long-standing love for the genre. Rodeo dog is a collection of exceptionally well-written original songs performed by a band that now follows their true north with confidence. They got some big assists on the album from violin player Ellen Story and Kevin Skrla on steel guitar, two busy country music artists attached to bands like The Broken Spokes and Western Bling. Turner even asked his sister Maggie Turner to be the vocal guest and said, “Since I started playing music we’ve had family harmony type things going on. She’s on some of those songs.

Whether it’s a “Baby What a Shame,” a rave-up with full backing vocals, or “GS ‘Lament” – so plaintive it would give Hank Sr. the blues – or “Lonesome For”, that we and Turner tab as favorite piece of Rodeo dog, the songs sound as good as they do because the band is confident that they are doing what they were meant to do after a period of resentment. The journey began almost 10 years ago when Turner met Tabner through Tabner’s wife, who is a childhood friend of Turner’s.

“He moved here from the Dallas-Fort Worth area and his wife introduced us and we started playing together and recording songs. That was around 2013, ”Turner noted. “We did this for a few months and we had friends and all of a sudden, through a friend of a friend, Michael, who now plays guitar with us, showed up and s “sat for a little jam session in Troy’s garage apartment in Montrose. He became a permanent member after that night, or so.

“After that, probably a month or two later, we were looking for a bass player all the time and randomly William was hanging out, coming to these meetings,” Turner continued. “I never said he played bass or anything. Out of nowhere his girlfriend told us he played bass and we were like, “Well, fuck it, come on.”

Click to enlarge Guests like Kevin Skrla (far left) round out the sound of Rodeo Hound - PHOTO BY JUAN MENDEZ, COURTESY OF SAM TURNER

Guests like Kevin Skrla (far left) round out the sound on Rodeo dog

Photo by Juan Mendez, courtesy of Sam Turner

“It’s taken a long time in terms of that chemistry and that seal, that cohesion,” Turner said. “It comes from the fact that we’ve been together for so long and it speaks to Ellen and Kevin, how talented they are that it fits in perfectly.”

The moment for Rodeo dog is right, because there seems to be a resurgence of interest in honky-tonk music in big cities like Houston and Austin.

“Part of that is knowing the history of Houston. Neon Boots, where we play our album, was once called The Esquire Room. Growing up I heard stories about this place and how Willie Nelson would sell a song for five dollars, a beer and a sandwich to Ray Price. And it’s also a hit song that he’s selling, ”Turner said. “You hear stories like that and about the Telephone Road honky-tonks and even Anderson Fair right there in Montrose that had people like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. I don’t know how well they would call themselves country artists or songwriters, but I associate that with them.

“I always had in my head just hearing these stories that Houston is one of the last truly honky-tonk cities. Okay, these days it’s definitely changed a bit, but I think from what I’ve seen – and it might not be a Houston-specific thing – there’s just some kind of old-fashioned country sound renaissance happening. I saw it in Houston too, just watching people like The Broken Spokes and Western Bling playing western swing music and bringing people in to dance to it. When you go to see it live, you can see that there is a home for it. It’s gone, looks like, but I think it’s coming back.

The album was released on all streaming platforms on October 22, but the band is playing their official release event this weekend. A quick tour of Neon Boots with its owner convinced Turner he was in the right place.

“I’ve been there a couple of times, but she kind of gave us the big tour, showed us this wall, it’s a big poster that had all the names you can think of in classic country music, the people who played there, ”he said. noted. “If she had just shown me that I would have thought, okay, this is the place, but then you go out and see the big dance floor and you just go back to that time when Houston was really a honky. – sky tonk.

“Bonnie Montgomery will come and open the show for us. If you haven’t listened to her, I mean, she’s a very talented songwriter and singer, amazing voice, just really cool style. She’s going to open things up for us, and then we’re going to take the stage and try to keep people on the dance floor as long as possible.

Turner said they plan to play the new album in its entirety, along with a few well-known country classics that night and that “God willing and the stream don’t go up, we’re going to have vinyls on the night of the. disc output. That’s when we’ll start selling them and supplying record stores around Houston and everywhere else.

Click to enlarge The album cover is a tribute to classical country music and Turner "best mate," Clay - ALBUM COVER

The album cover is a tribute to classic country music and Turner’s “best buddy” Clay

Album cover

If you miss the outing show, the group has booked a date on Saturday December 11 for Shoeshine Charley’s Big Top Lounge. We ended our discussion by asking Turner about the album title. It’s partly an homage to the band’s chosen classic country sound and partly a tribute to a dear friend, Turner said.

“I thought about Rodeo sweetheart, this album from The Byrds. They started off as kind of a folk rock band and then released this country album which was just, I mean, a very iconic album, ”he said. “So we were thinking about it and maybe Rodeo clown to make fun of ourselves a little and remind us of this kind of idea.

“The real reason we stayed with was that the dog that is on the album cover was my dog ​​that I had for 12 years and he passed away about a year ago, a year ago. year and a half. It’s pretty much just me devoting something to her and immortalizing her in every way I can, “Turner said of her late dog, Clay, brought to album cover life by artist Rosanna Romero. “We got a very talented artist to draw this and show her what the cover looks like. Red-headed alien by Willie Nelson, which is another little call.

“This is the real reason,” he said. “I appreciate Rodeo dog, I think that sounds good, and then this dog was my best friend.

Sam Turner and The Cactus Cats Celebrate the Release of Rodeo dog Saturday 6th November at the Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon, 11410 Hempstead Road. With Bonnie Montgomery. 8 p.m., $ 15- $ 40.


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