Feb 15, 2017–Every once in a red, white, or blue moon you stumble across a band that seems to be playing just for you.
Over the years, I’ve seen, heard, and written about every style and genre and level of bar band. But then you find something unexpected but inevitable.
Sometimes it’s a look.
Sometimes it’s a lick.
Sometimes it’s the name of the band.
Meet Lost Sounds of a Texas Honky Tonk.
I accidentally heard them at Albert Ice House, where the 5-piece country band plays a regular Wednesday night gig. They just sounded “right.”
So I contacted steel player Dennis Challman and asked who the hell they were.
“We are all veteran players, and we love that kind of music,” he said. “Ninety-five percent of it is from older Texas and country tunes, with some Bob Wills from the 40s. Hardly any new stuff. We’re criticized a little by the younger crowd, but the older crowd loves us.”
As a rule, I never review bands in this column. I don’t have the ability or desire to judge musicians. But something about this group made me want to tell people about them.
Their sound is comfortable. Their music is real. It has to be, to live up to their name.
As I watched and listened, I most enjoyed they way they clicked together. They all knew what the other was going to do before they did it. I tried to think of words to define it. Didn’t need to. Their fans did it for me.
“They play some great music,” said Phil Stein, “the Wednesday night bartender guy.” “They are old guys that have been doing it for a long time and they’re damn good at what they do and we’re glad they’re here.”
It was a fan that gave them their name.
“Yeah,” said Challman. “Someone yelled out, hey, you guys are great, just like the lost sounds of Texas honky tonks. It kind of stuck. Maybe because he shouted it more than once.”
Fan Becky Polk was so impressed, she became their marketing manager. She remembers walking into Pecan Street Brewery in Johnson City three years ago and hearing them for the first time.
“My husband and I heard this music in the back,” Polk said. “They were singing beautiful classic old country that we grew up on. We couldn’t believe it, and have been with them ever since.”
The musicians–Dobie Benson, drums; Dennis Challman, steel; Chris Reeves, guitar; Donnie Mauldin, bass; Kenny Penny, fiddle and guitar–seem less impressed than their fans.
When asked why he plays with this band, bass player Donnie Mauldin replied, “It gives me something to do.”
He was only half joking.
“I am retired, so this keeps me active,” said Mauldin, who still plays and records with several groups. “We’ve all been friends for quite a while, and kind of know what each other is thinking. You can see we have no charts. We can read each other.”
Kenny Penny could be playing with any band. He spent 30 years in Nashville, still tours with Johnny Rodriguez, and–in a rare musical reference that actually impresses me–laid down the harmony guitar licks on Jerry Reed’s East Bound and Down.
“These guys are authentic,” Penny said. “They love music. I love music. There is nothing phony about it.”
Even the guy sitting in for regular guitar player Chris Reeves seems to get it.
“Playing with these guys is a joy,” said Bill Starrett. “It’s so easy filling in. They’ve done this a long time. This band is full of guys who know how to play with other people.”
I’ve always believed the musical journey of a young man travels well-documented steps. First, they want to learn the instrument. Then they want to be popular. Next are dreams of being a star and making a living at it. Finally, when all those stages are passed, comes the best part: reaching the point where you simply appreciate the ability to play and enjoy the music.
Challman is right there.
“I always kept my day job, so I don’t have to make living at it,” he said. “ So I love every minute of it. I don’t have to go do the other gigs that pay $50.”
Maybe it’s a metaphor about something greater than the music.
Or maybe they just play good tunes, well.
What more do you want from a band?