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First Listen: The San Antones – “Luckenbach”

“Out in Luckenbach, Texas, ain’t nobody feelin’ no pain.”

                                                                    -Waylon Jennings

                                       “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” 

The onset of spring brings a sense of relief and optimism for many people, making it the perfect time for The San Antones to release their new album, Riverwalkin’ Love Ranger, which drops tomorrow. The west Texas duo with crucial reggae chops offer up a collection of six upful instrumental tracks loaded with jazzy guitar licks, along with dub versions for the heads that like their roots a little more subdued with some echo and delay.

To share our excitement about this impending release, today Rootfire premieres maybe the most joyous number of them all, titled “Luckenbach.” Probably the first (and likely to remain the only) reggae song to be named after a Waylon Jennings tune, the band aptly chose this name in deference to his 1977 song due to the lyric referenced above. (Perhaps the country music equivalent to the quintessential Bob Marley quote from “Trenchtown Rock.”

“One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.”

What is so special about this Texas hill country town that has multiple songs named after it? Immortalized by the Waylon song, Luckenbach is known for having the oldest dancehall in Texas. While it maintains a ghost-town feel today with its throwback wild-western aesthetic, it remains a live music venue and also features a general store and saloon which share space with a now decommissioned post office.

Except for the absence of heavenly vocal harmonies, The San Antones’ music may remind listeners of The Expanders, one of the most respected and adored outfits known for expertly recreating that vintage reggae sound. This is not a coincidence; San Antones drummer Geo Ramos spent several years working as The Expanders’ “merch guy” and driver, and Expanders guitarist John Butcher plays guitar on a couple of tracks, including the song premiering here.

According to bassist Kevin Groeneveld, “Luckenbach” is one of their favorite songs on the new album. “It all started with the drumbeat and bassline when Geo and I were just jamming,” he said, adding that “John Butcher and Roger Rivas (keyboardist of The Aggrolites and founder of the L.A.-based label/studio called Rivas Recordings who mixed and mastered the album in addition to playing keys throughout) really brought it to life.”

If you need a dose of spring sunshine or just have a hankerin’ for some newly bloomed reggae music, saddle up with the San Antones!

Dave is the author of "The Cosmic Burrito", a tale of two friends who drive across the USA in search of the ultimate burrito. In the past, he has written for various music publications and interviewed a range of artists including Sublime, Everclear, Burning Spear, Big Mountain, Bad Brains, Neal Casal and Lucky Dube. Dave has a deep passion for reggae music, Rasta consciousness and island culture. In reggae circles, he goes by the name "Rootsdude," and he has dubbed his extensive music collection “Rootsdude Sound System.” David plays ice hockey weekly for two recreational teams he founded and manages, Team Rasta and The Wailers.