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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!

Ever since becoming deeply moved and then essentially obsessed with reggae music as a teenager, Dave has always strove to learn as much as possible about the history and culture of reggae music, Jamaica and Rastafari, the ideology and lifestyle intertwined with reggae. 

Over the years, he has interviewed many personalities throughout the reggae world including Ziggy Marley, Burning Spear, Lucky Dube, Bradley Nowell and many artists in the progressive roots scene.

Dave has also written and published a novel, “The Cosmic Burrito,” a tale of two friends who drive across the USA in search of the ultimate burrito. He plays ice hockey weekly for a recreational team he founded and manages, Team Rasta.

Reggae music has filled his life with a richness for which he will forever be grateful, and he gives thanks to musicians far and wide, past and present, whether they perform roots, dub, dancehall, skinhead, rocksteady or ska, whether their tools are analog or digital, as well as the producers, promoters, soundsystems, selectors and the reggae massive at large who comprise the international reggae community.

You can follow Dave on Instagram at @rootsdude and Twitter at @ElCosmicBurrito.