Honky Tonkin’ Around Town
By Johnny Griffith
There is a soundtrack to Americana that plays in our brains as we consider certain times and places. Always, without fail, in my head when I think about rural America in the 30’s and 40’s, nothing epitomizes that time period and the life of the common man more than Hank Williams Sr. His direct, everyman lyrics along with driving, simple tunes dialed into the soul of the working class at that time and has been influential to many artists since. One of the local artists heavily influenced by this accessible style of music has blended it with other genres to deliver a raw, straightforward, rock-a-billy set of music that has locals tapping their feet, dancing along, and enjoying the stripped down sounds of Allen Wayne Nichols and The Outbound Train.
Born and raised in East Longview, Nichols attended Hallsville schools and was raised on country music. As he aged, Allen found a love for skateboarding and got turned on to punk and metal at local backyard half-pipes. After his dad purchased a bass guitar for Nichols, he took a few lessons and started jamming with friends from skateboarding. This early repertoire included tunes from the Sex-Pistols, The Doors, as well as some original music.
Fast forward to the present and Nichols is not only a working musician, he’s an accomplished tattoo artist and was one of the co-proprietors of 3rd Street Art in Longview before taking the time to be more flexible with music. After calling on a childhood acquaintance and a connection from another music project, The Outbound Train was formed and has been playing shows all over East Texas. In addition to a recent gig at ETX Brewing Co. in Tyler, The Outbound Train has been playing in Austin and Dallas as they broaden their base of fans.
Make no mistake, The Outbound Train won’t be mistaken for an easily digestible pop country or radio rock. This is in-your-face, no-frills, working class music that is long on substance and short on fluff. With a driving beat, the smooth low end of an upright bass, and the compact melodies of Nichols on the guitar and vocals, The Outbound Train is a throwback that you can honky tonk with all night long.
Recently I caught Allen in between trips to Austin and asked him a few questions about this latest project:
Johnny: Let’s start with who’s in the band besides yourself. Who’s aboard The Outbound Train?
Allen: The rest of the band members are Doghouse Dave Stopani on upright bass and Kevin Blalock on percussion.
Johnny: How did the band meet?
Allen: I’ve known Kevin since we were kids. I was in a punk band, and he was in a metal band. We would play shows supporting each other, but it’s kinda crazy that this is the first project we’ve worked on together. My friend David Smith recommended Doghouse when we were looking for an upright player for Lulu and the Black Sheep. Dave fit right in, and when Lulu decided to take a hiatus from music, Dog and I continued to play shows together. When we added Kevin, the Outbound train was born. I am grateful for what these dudes bring to the table every show. Playing and traveling with them is fun, and everyone’s down to make stuff happen. We’re like a tight military unit on a mission for fun.
Johnny: What’s the significance of the name?
Allen: We have always had that train sound to our songs, and the band is a vehicle for us to travel and escape the mundane, everyday routine boredom. In that respect, it’s like every show is a train to endless possibilities.
Johnny: In your own words, how would you describe your sound?
Allen: I’ve heard it described many ways, but I call it hillbilly. It’s part Country, part punk, and part bluegrass with a generous helping of honky tonk mixed in to hold it together.
Johnny: Why that style of music? It’s certainly not a style that gets the most real estate on stages around the area. What led you to your sound?
Allen: It’s what comes naturally. Being raised on Country and coming of age with punk, I played in punk bands for years, and most of the music I wrote was just fast loud Country. I still play some of those songs in my set today.
Johnny: Who are some of your significant influences musically?
Allen: Wayne ‘the train’ Hancock, Hank Williams Sr., Hank 3, Bob Wills, Leadbelly, Scott H. Biram. Really all the country, folk-punk, thrash-grass, rockabilly, and blues bands out there.
Johnny: What have been some of the challenges of getting The Outbound Train onto stages around East Texas and beyond?
Allen: Our biggest obstacle with booking is not having proper promotional material to send to booking agents that don’t know us. Also, some venues want three or four hours. Although we sometimes play those longer gigs, we prefer to bring another band with us to cover longer sets.
Johnny: Who in music (besides The Outbound Train) currently excites you with what they’re doing?
Allen: That’s a hard question to answer simply because we have a great music scene in East Texas, and we all support each other across genres. We love playing on stage, but we get just as excited to sit down and listen to the other local bands in the area that are working hard to put themselves out there.
Johnny: What’s on the horizon for you guys the rest of this year?
Allen: This year we hope to do as much traveling as possible. We also recently recorded five songs, so we’re gonna go back in and produce a full-length cd, hopefully by the end of the year. We are about to start working on a music video. The dude we are working with has a really cool vision, and we are stoked to be working with Dark Letter Entertainment.
Johnny: What experience are you guys trying to convey to your audience at a show?
Allen: I’m stoked when people relate to our music. We want people to have fun at our shows and feel like they can let go. We have nothing to prove and nothing to hide. We are real people just like you, and we are all in this together.
Allen Wayne Nichols and The Outbound Train can be found at:
EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide
Jason Herrin, Shooter Jennings, Dirty River Boys in Concert this Weekend
March 9th (8pm) Jason Herrin will be at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Tickets are available at the door. Cover is $7.
March 10th (8pm) – Shooter Jennings – Shooter Jennings is an American singer-songwriter, active mainly in the outlaw country music and Southern rock genres. He is the son of country music legend Waylon Jennings. Tickets range from $35 -$45. Liberty Hall is located at 103 E. Erwin St., Tyler. Tickets are available at libertytyler.com.
March 10th (8pm) – Dirty River Boys with Pushwater will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $15 for general admission.
March 16th (8pm) – Parker McCollum will be at Coach’s & Cowboys. Tickets are available at wildtexastickets.com. Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Parker McCollum treats each song he writes with a painstaking level of dedication, reverence, respect and as he will readily admit, even a bit of obsession. His new album “Probably Wrong” follows the Austin-based performer’s ultimate goal is to reinvent himself with each record he makes. Tickets are $13-$20.
March 17th (8pm-1am) – St. Patrick’s Day Metal Massacre will take place at Click’s Live, 1946 ESE Loop 323, Tyler. The St. Patrick’s Day Metal Massacre features Edge of Misery, No Due Respect, and LowLife. Cover at the door. Doors open at 8pm.
March 22nd (7-10pm) – Zach Winters and Jason Barrows will perform at The Foundry Coffee House, 202 S. Broadway, Downtown Tyler. They will be performing songs from their new albums and changing every city they visit to the city of brotherly love. Early bird tickets are $10. Pre-sale ticket are $12. At the door tickets are $15. Doors at 7pm and music starts at 7:30pm. All ages are welcome. For more info go to zachwinters.com or jasonbarrows.com.
March 24th (8pm) – Bibeau Record Release Party & Concert – will be held at Click’s Live. Tickets are available at the door with proper ID.
March 25th (8pm) – Texas Sunday Returns with Brandon Rhyder at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $15 for general admission.
April 7th (9pm-1am) – Post Profit with Travis Christian will be at Garage Bar, 418 E. Erwin St., Downtown Tyler. There is a $5 cover.
April 7th (7pm) – Sam Riggs will be at Coach’s & Cowboys. Tickets are $15-$20 and available at wildtexastickets.com.
April 8th (8pm) – Texas Sunday: Jason Boland & The Stragglers will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $20 for general admission.
April 12th (8pm) Wesley Pruitt will be at Moore’s Store in Ben Wheeler. Tickets are available at the door.
April 12th (7pm) – The Legendary Johnny Rodriguez in Concert – Texas Country Music Hall of Famer, Johnny Rodriguez, has had fifteen top-ten singles and 6 number-one hits since 1973. Some of Johnny’s classic hits include: “Pass Me By,” “You Always Come Back (To Hurting Me),” “Riding My Thumb To Mexico,” “That’s The Way Love Goes,” and “Just Get Up and Close The Door.” For tickets call (866)710-8942. Tickets start at $35.
April 15th (8pm) – Texas Sunday: Chris Knight will be at Love & War in Lindale. Tickets are available at outhousetickets.com. Tickets are $20 for general admission.
April 21st (8pm) – Mouse & The Traps – After more than 50 years together, Mouse & the Traps continue to be one of the best examples of “Texas Rock & Roll.” Formed in Tyler, Texas in 1965, Mouse, Nardo, Dave & Larry continue to give the public just what they want – great rock and roll. Whether you remember “Public Execution,” “Hit the Bricks,” or not, Mouse & The Traps has something for everyone. Tickets are $20-$25.
April 21st – Bowling For Soup at Clicks Live (8pm) – American pop-punk band Bowling For Soup emerged in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1994, but have since relocated to Denton Texas. Tickets are on sale at the door for $19, and may be purchased in advanced online for $15 at etix.com.
The Blacksmiths: Still Like That Old Time Rock & Roll
By Johnny Griffith
Bob Seger has a well known hit from the early 80’s called “Old Time Rock And Roll.” This song laments the lack of soul in the contemporary music of that time period and declares his intent to keep playing classic rock as a solution. I’ve never gotten the chance to meet Mr. Seger, but the closest thing we have here in East Texas is Chris Austin of the local classic rock band, The Blacksmiths. A native of Chapel Hill, Chris played drums on the drumline at Chapel Hill High School and went on to graduate from the Dallas Sound Lab with a degree in Audio Engineering and Sound Techniques. Blessed with parents that loved music and supported him in his endeavors early and often, Austin developed a love for classic rock through the sounds he heard coming from his parents’ collections and eventually started a band and is still playing to this day.
We managed to get a word in with Chris recently to find out more about The Blacksmiths
Johnny: What is the current lineup of the band? Any changes over the lifespan of the band?
Chris: The current lineup consists of myself on lead guitar and vocals, Joshua Stewart on drums, Angelo Lopez on bass/rhythm guitar/vocals, and Ben Carter on bass and vocals. Angelo and Ben have both been filling the shoes of bass player when available, but recently we decided to shake it up a bit and go with a 4 piece instead of 3 with Angelo on guitar as well…as our busy schedules finally allowed. The lineup has changed immensely over the years. I haphazardly started this project about 6 years ago with a couple of friends just messing around in my kitchen,,,which was the only place we had to set up all the equipment at the time…typical broke musicians haha. We eventually gained a keyboard and rhythm player and were a 5 piece band by the time we started playing shows. We decided to go back to a 3 piece after about a year for convenience and scheduling issues. Our drummer at the time had to move for work but introduced me to Joshua before doing so. Joshua had played with Angelo before with “Something Blue” and I met Ben after watching him play for “King Richard and the Bayou Boys” …and as they say, the rest was history.
Johnny: Who were some of your early musical influences?
Chris: My parents were very into music and had a plethora of vinyl records to dig through. I was turned on to The Doors, The Who, The Allman Bros, Deep Purple, Grand Funk Railroad, The Beatles, Black Sabbath, CCR, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, SRV, David Bowie…but most importantly Led Zeppelin. When I was 12 I received a cheap electric guitar and Led Zeppelin IV on cassette tape for Christmas and that changed everything..
Johnny: At what point was the decision made to be a primarily classic rock band? Have to say you guys are a bit younger than most of the other ones in the area.
Chris: That’s really the stuff I always enjoyed playing the most and felt most comfortable with, because those tunes were ingrained in me from a young age. When we first started, we tried a lot of 90’s stuff and some 80’s Metallica and Misfits which we were pretty decent at but learned pretty quickly what we had more fun with. Even though we’re a bit younger, I feel we were all entranced by that era of music growing up. We were very lucky to have Miss Robin Griffith from XLN on 5th street give us the chance to really explore our potential. We played every Sunday there for quite a while as the house band which gave us a lot of quick feedback from the crowd…and from the venue owner haha.
Johnny: Is there any specific period of classic rock you guys gravitate towards over others?
Chris: Not really, I’ve just personally loved the 70’s era most, but we cover the 60’s and 80’s as well. We do seem to cover a lot of Creedence Clearwater and The Doors though, if that says anything.
Johnny: Where did the band name come from?
Chris: The guys from the original lineup and I were hanging out after practice having a beer or two and trying to come up with something, After a length of time and much pondering, we looked around the room and noticed the main theme of what we were looking at…which was old, broken down, second hand, very junky equipment that I had been hoarding and frankensteining together with duct tape and zip ties for years. I’m really not sure how we didn’t shock or hurt ourselves but I remember us saying…”well, we sure know how to make something out of nothing…like a dang ole’ blacksmith” (speaking of the ramshackle but playable equipment). And just like that, it stuck.
Johnny: do you guys do any originals at this point or is it primarily covers?
Chris: I’ve had a couple of blues tunes in the works for a while but we’ve honestly been so busy playing shows and working full time day jobs or careers it’s been tough to find time, but I think this is our year to shine.
Johnny: You’ve been playing music in this area for a while now, do you have a favorite memory so far?
Chris: I’ve had a lot of really cool experiences along the way getting to play with some amazing musicians. I was the guitar player in a band with Jonathan Scott from Resident Hero for a while and grew up with the singer Ryan White. I also toured a bit as guitar player for Stewart Mann and the Statesboro Revue out of Austin. I’d have to say though, my favorite memory thus far is a recent one. Joshua and I were both taught drums by Nardo and I learned guitar from Larry Stanley. We had the opportunity to open for Mouse and the Traps for the New Years Eve party at Love and War in Lindale and man was it an experience! We got to open for the guys who taught us everything in a packed room. Too cool
Johnny: Where can people get their Blacksmiths fix over the next couple of months?
Chris: Our next scheduled gig is March 31st at Club 155 on Frankston highway…at least for the public. We do a lot of private parties, bike rallies, and events as well. But always keep an eye out for us at XLN on 5th street…that’s our main stomping ground
Johnny: What do The Blacksmiths have on the radar through the rest of the year?
Chris: We have a lot of new stuff planned for this year. A whole new set of songs, some killer merchandise and a new demo ep. Also, I’m told that you might see us opening for Mouse and the Traps again in the near future…so keep your eyes peeled
Johnny: What can a new listener expect to see at a Blacksmiths show?
Chris: A good ole’ Rock show with lots of classic favorite tunes played by guys that do the best they can to respect and represent the music for what it is….life and love
EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide
Date Night: From Fancy to Simple, Tyler Offers a Lot of Romance
March 24th – Tyler Azalea 10k, 5k, and Kids Run plus MORE!
Theatre Guide: March 15-18th, “The Lucky O’Learys” on Stage
The Apple Didn’t Fall Far From The Tree
March 24th: Save the Mayfair Fundraiser, Dinner & Live Music
“Playhouses on the Plaza” Downtown Tyler Through March 22nd
UT Tyler Graduate Student Exhibits Feature Steel, Wood Creations
DATE CHANGES!! April 2nd: Glass Rec. Center, Summer Camp Registration Open
The Skinny on Cooking at Home: The Cookbook Junkie
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