My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Tag Archives: Porter Howell

Album Review: Little Texas – ‘Young For a Long Time’

61-e8qacvul2015’s Young For a Long Time is the second post-major label studio album from Little Texas, and like its predecessor, 2007’s Missing Years, it finds Porter Howell taking over lead vocalist duties from the now departed Brady Seals and Tim Rushlow. He is not as gifted a vocalist as his former bandmates, but he does a decent job. Unfortunately, the band’s sound is inevitably changed from what fans were used to, and the album’s material is not particularly inspiring. It’s a country rock effort, with no fiddle or steel anywhere to be found in the track listing.

The band members wrote all of the album’s songs themselves, and also shared production duties with Anthony Martin. The final product is somewhat uneven. There is far worse music being played on country radio as we speak. Young For a Long Time never quites rises to the levels of greatness, but it never sinks to the depths of terrible, either, with the sole exception of the bro-country number “Yeah Yeah Yeah” which is every bit as awful as the title suggests. I guess they didn’t get the memo that the bro-country trend was past its peak in 2015.
While the album’s up-tempo numbers are distinctly non-descript and unmemorable, the ballads aren’t bad. I quite enjoyed “Take This Walk With Me”, which would make a good wedding song, and “How Many Chances”, which finds the protagonist frustrated when the object of his unrequited love continues to turn a blind eye to the faults of her current lover. The album’s two best tracks, however, are re-recordings of Little Texas’ best known hits, “What Might Have Been” and “God Blessed Texas”. Both are decently performed, but their inclusion is bound to draw comparisons – probably unfavorable — to the band’s earlier incarnation. Re-recordings rarely recreate the magic of the original versions, even when the key players remain the same.

It’s difficult for any band that undergoes major personnel changes to remain commercially viable. Little Texas is certainly no exception. Young For a Long Time is not a great album by any means, but it exceeded my expectations. While I wouldn’t rush out to buy it, it’s worth listening to if it’s included in any streaming services (like Amazon Music) to which you might subscribe.

Grade: C

Album Review: Little Texas – ‘Missing Years’

mi0001766288After their eponymous album failed to reignite their career Little Texas all but disappeared. Tim Rushlow joined Brady Seals in perusing a solo career, riding high with the #8 “She Misses Him” when Atlantic shuttered its Nashville division in 2001 (which, if you may remember, also displaced Craig Morgan). Seals, despite multiple attempts, never gained traction with any of his solo recordings.

Duane Propes, Del Gray, Porter Howell, and Dwayne O’Brien resurrected Little Texas in 2004 with pushback from Rushlow, who sued in an attempt to block them from using the ‘Little Texas’ name. His attempts were unsuccessful and the band signed with Montage Music Group in 2007. The band’s first new release in ten years was The Very Best of Little Texas: Live and Loud, a concert album with Powell at the helm.

The band returned a month later with Missing Years, a proper studio recording produced by Anthony Martin. Little Texas hardly had a prayer of a legitimate resurgence, although it didn’t deter Montage from pushing ahead with three singles from the album.

They led with “Your Woman,” an awful and generic electric rocker, which didn’t chart. The title track was a slight return to form, a pop ballad, that miraculously peaked at #45. Final single “Party Life,” another generic rocker, also failed to chart.

Missing Years is nothing short of a disaster with zero tracks worth highlighting. The biggest misstep in this album specifically is using Howell as the lead singer. The man may have some talents but they aren’t his voice, an unlistenable mix of growly gruff. Martin places him in the grunge rock style run into the ground by Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert, which suits him, but not the audience.

I understand that spotlighting Little Texas wasn’t a popular choice amongst our readers and I can fully understand how they’d unnerve those who prefer a more pure take on country music. But I’ve always enjoyed both Seals and Rushlow and the contributions they brought to the band. Missing Years proves they were the band. Without either of them, Little Texas is nothing more than a waste of space. I have no problem with the band reuniting, but I’m with Rushlow in wishing they didn’t use the Little Texas name for this wasted second act. It doesn’t matter, though, as no one truly cared if they reunited or not. Certainly not those fans who pushed Big Time past double platinum.

Grade: D

Album Review: Little Texas – ‘Little Texas’

little-texasThe sands of time ran out quickly for Little Texas as their eponymous fourth album, their last for Warner Brothers, barely charted reaching #47. By this time lead singer Brady Seals had departed the band leaving Tim Rushlow in charge of lead vocals.

Little Texas
hit the marketplace thirty-one months after their third album, a delay that probably didn’t help their chances in the ever changing market. The three singles released from the album all tanked at radio with none reaching the top forty. Despite this, I regard this as possibly their best album, with tighter vocal harmonies and a nice array of songs.

The album opens with “Loud and Proud”, written in part by band member Porter Howell. This is one of the weaker songs on the album, sounding more rock than country, but it is not bad:

Show me a mountain
Tell me it can’t be climbed
I’ll find my way through any shadow of doubt
And I’ll meet you on the other side

I love a good challenge
Send them all my way
I’ll rise to any occasion
I am not afraid

To be loud and proud
And givin’ in to nothin’
Livin’ and a lovin’
I’ll never get enough
And all the ups and downs
I take ’em as they come
And I’ll be right here standing my ground
Loud and proud

“Bad for Us” from the pens of Porter Howell, Dwayne O’Brien and Tom Shapiro) was the first and most successful single, reaching #45. The song is a nice ballad about a relationship that seems to be on the rocks. Several radio stations featured this song as their pick of the week, but the song never did generate any momentum, not surprisingly since more than a year had passed since the band’s last single.

You really got a good one in
You hit me where it hurts
Just so you wouldn’t get the best of me
I fired back somethin’ worse

I put you down
You show me up
Good for you
Good for me
Bad for us

We keep goin’ around and ’round
When’s it gonna stop
Real love’s not a matter of
Who comes out on top

“Ain’t No Time to Be Afraid” by Porter Howell and Allen Shamblin is another nice ballad, this one rather philosophical in nature. I would have picked this song for single release:

I was scared half to death
I couldn’t catch my breath
‘Cause that old tree down by the river
Was thirty feet high

That’s when I heard my daddy’s voice
He said, Son you’ve got a choice
You can climb down now
Or you can fly

This ain’t no time to be afraid
Or look the other way
If your prayers have all been prayed
Then you just let it come what may

If you’re not brave enough to try
Then life will pass you by
All we have is today
There ain’t no time to be afraid

“Long Way Down” sounds more like up-tempo 60s pop than anything else. Nashville songsmith Bob DiPiero co-wrote this with Porter Howell and O’Brien.

The second single off the album was “Your Mama Won’t Let Me”, which died at #64 on the charts. It is pretty generic, pleasant but not all that memorable. Del Gray, Thom McHugh and Keith Follesé composed this song

Like to take you to the movies on a Saturday night
But your mama won’t let me
Steal you away for a Sunday drive
But your mama won’t let me

She’s one step ahead of me every time
When I get too close she draws that line
Thinks I’m trouble but I’m not that kind
Your mama won’t let me make you mine

“All In The Line of Love” from Porter Howell, Dwayne O’Brien and Stephen Allen Davis is yet another pleasant but fairly generic ballad

I think the label missed a bet in not releasing the Bob DiPiero-Walt Aldridge song “Living in a Bullseye” as a single. I don’t think it would have been a huge hit but I suspect it would have at least cracked the top thirty. The song is a mid-tempo ballad with clever lyrics that would resonate with any blue collar worker:

I heard the whistle blowing as I pulled in the gate
I knew without looking, I was already late
Praying the boss wouldn’t catch me again
Sweating bullets while I was sneaking in

I’m living in a bullseye, ground zero
It’s kinda scary when the arrows fly
I ain’t trying to be no superhero
I duck and cover just to stay alive
Living in a bullseye

Eight hours later, at a half past five
I’m listening to my radio and pulling in the drive
The music telling me a thing that’s good
So I’m crossing all my fingers and I’m knocking on wood

“The Call” by Walt Aldridge and Tim Rushlow was the final single released from the album, peaking at #71. It’s a nice ballad with sleek vocal harmonies. I heard it quit a bit here in Central Florida, but it apparently tanked elsewhere:

You can run but you can’t hide
You can keep it all inside
Take it from a fool who’s tried it all
Pay attention to a friend
Who swore he’d never fall again
You’re gonna answer
When you get the call

“Yesterday’s Gone Forever” (Dwayne O’Brien, Jim Rushing) has the feel and sound of eighties country minus the annoying synthesizers. When released it really had no singles potential, but I can recall times when this introspective ballad would have done very well with radio:

For all of my good intentions
Heartfelt every one
I’ve left so much love unspoken
So much of life I’ve left undone

I could’ve made a difference
I just never made the time
Now yesterday’s gone forever
And today ain’t far behind

Should’ve taken that job in Dallas
Or the one in San Antone
Should’ve left that girl in the city
And married the one back home

I’d love to run back through the years
To tell her I was blind
But yesterday’s gone forever
And today ain’t far behind

The album closes with the Porter Howell – Chuck Jones rocker “If I Don’t Get Enough of You”.

If I don’t get enough of you
I can’t think, I can’t sleep
If I don’t get enough of you
I can’t eat, I get weak

Without you there to hold me tight
Well, I can’t make it through the night
I don’t know what I’m gonna do
If I don’t get enough of you

If I don’t get enough of you
I don’t act like I should
If I don’t get enough of you
It’s a fact, I’m no good

I think this is a better album than their first three efforts – good production, decent songs (none of the Texas chauvinism that marred earlier albums) and a really tight band augmented by Jeff Huskins on fiddle and piano, and Dan Dugmore & Sonny Garrish on pedal steel guitar, plus really good harmony vocals.

Why then did this album tank ?

I think the answer is three-fold:

1) There apparently some element of dissension in the band. Both Brady Seals and Tim Rushlow thought that they could become big solo stars, something that neither achieved.

2) A long lapse between the release of the third and fourth albums – to put it bluntly, radio forgot about them.

3) Changes in the country music market place which ultimately led to the domination of faux country acts like Rascal Flatts and Jason Aldean.

I would give this album an A-

Album Review: Little Texas – ‘Kick A Little’

kick-a-liittleThe band’s third album was released in 1994. The title track and first single is a country-rock styled tune urging assertiveness which was a top 5 hit. Performed with energy and sincerity, it is rather generic but pleasant enough. Although not their biggest hit, peaking at #4, the next single, ‘Amy’s Back In Austin’ may be Little Texas’s best remembered song, and in my opinion it is their best. An airy vocal sells the wistful story of a young couple whose romance and dreams have foundered. It was written by Brady Seals with Stephen Allen Davis.

Unfortunately for the guys, their momentum came to a juddering halt with the album’s third single, ‘Southern Grace’, an uninteresting ballad. It cannot have helped that joint lead singer Seals had left the band by this point.

In ‘A Night I’ll Never Remember’ the lovelorn protagonist looks forward to drinking away his troubles. It’s a pretty good song and might have been a more successful single. ‘Hit Country Song’ lists all the clichés of country hits but has an attractive and traditional sounding melody and arrangement. You can even hear a fiddle. It sounds lovely, and shows the band could have made a stab at a more traditional sound.

‘I’d Hold On To her’ is quite pleasant but ultimately forgettable. ‘Inside’ is an earnest AC/Hallmark style ballad about finding good in everyone. In ‘Your Days Are Numbered’ the protagonist warns a love rival that the girl has been crying on his shoulder; it’s well written and sung with conviction but the arrangement is bland and more AC than country.

‘She’s Cool’ is boring and over produced, while the closing Southern rocker ‘Redneck Like Me’ boasts clichés about rural Southern life. It was written by Jay Booker (who also wrote the much better ‘Sunday In The South’ for Shenandoah), and is the album’s only outside song, with the band (at least Porter Howell and Brady Seals) composing the rest of the material.

Generally the album is generally a glossily efficient example of 90s country-rock, with full bodied vocals and prominent electric guitar. It’s not quite my cup of tea, but is preferable to some of the extremes we’ve seen since.

Grade: C

Spotlight Artist: Little Texas

dsc003271The founding members of Little Texas got their start in music 1983 when Porter Howell and Duane Propes joined forces while still in High School. Tim Rushlow and Dwayne O’Brian began playing together in Arlington, Texas the following year. They first came together, with additional members, as The Varsities, performing both on the road and at Opryland as a 1950s show band.

The band concept eventually dissolved and the guys invited old friends Brady Seals and Del Gray, who started as musicians in country singer Josh Logan’s backing band, to join them in their new venture as a country/southern rock band. They started playing 300 dates a year around the United States. The six of them officially became Little Texas, named for a place outside Nashville where they used to rehearse, in 1988.

They caught the ear of Warner Bros. and were signed to the label in 1989. The band released their debut album, First Time For Everything, in 1991. The album went gold and garnered the hits “Some Guys Have All The Love” (#8), “You and Forever and Me” (#5) and the title track, which peaked at #13.

Their biggest success came in 1993 with their 2x platinum, Big Time, which spawned “What Might’ve Been (#2), “God Bless Texas” (#4) and their sole chart topper “My Love.” The band’s rendition of “Peaceful Easy Feeling” was included on Common Thread: Songs of the Eagles, which won them the CMA Award for Album of the Year.

The Academy of Country Music named Little Texas their Top Vocal Group in 1994. Kick A Little came in September, with both the title track and “Amy’s Back in Austin” charting in the Top 5. The band also went through a regime change when Seals, who had co-written all the band’s biggest hits, departed to embark on a solo career. Their Greatest Hits album would feature their final Top 5, “Life Goes On” the following year.

With the band now in transition, they contributed “Kiss A Girl,” from The Little Mermaid to the various artists collection The Best of Country Sings the Best of Disney. Another tribute track, “Beast of Burden” was featured on Stone Country: Country Artists Perform The Songs of the Rolling Stones. They also collaborated with Jeff Foxworthy on “Party All Night” from his Crank It Up: The Music Album.

Little Texas released their self-titled fourth album, the band’s final for Warner Bros., in 1997. Coming three years after Kick A Little, they had lost their momentum and thus weren’t able to regain traction with country radio. Shortly thereafter the band officially disbanded. Rushlow went on to a one-hit-wonder solo career when the excellent Alzheimer’s themed “She Misses Him” peaked at #8 in 2000.

Propes, Gray, Howell and O’Brian resurrected Little Texas in 2004, but faced pushback from Rushlow and Jeff Huskins, who sued in a failed attempt to block them from using the ‘Little Texas’ name. This second incarnation has produced two studio albums – Missing Years (2007) and Young For A Long Time (2015). A concert album, The Very Best of Little Texas: Live and Loud has also been released.

I hope you enjoy our look back at Little Texas throughout the month, sprinkled amongst our Best of 2016 coverage.