Editor's Note: Austin Music Map is a documentary project that explores Austin's diverse music communities. Each week in December, CultureMap will showcase a new video from the project to celebrate the recent launch of this collaborative, community-focused initiative.
Its roots have been firmly planted in Austin for decades, but in just the last couple of years, the local country music scene has experienced a resurgence that, while still steeped with tradition, has given it new life in some previously uncharted territories.
Not since the progressive movement of the 1970s has country music in Austin witnessed such a boom. “It’s kind of been held down,” says country musician Al Dresden of the local scene in the ‘90s and early 2000s. That was the case until recently, when a new breed of country music lovers began filtering into established haunts — like the Broken Spoke — taking to heart the tunes, and the two-stepping, of the scene.
Tattooed hipsters and traditional two-steppers congregate in harmony to experience what Denis O’Donnell calls the “magic — romance — of dancing in a dim, dirty honky-tonk.”
This newfound interest in “traditionally-inspired” country music (not the neighboring “Texas country” genre), has sparked the scene’s expansion beyond traditional honky-tonks into new venues like the East Side’s White Horse, which opened in late 2011.
Whether it’s down south at the Spoke, or tucked into a space east of I-35, tattooed hipsters and traditional two-steppers congregate in harmony to experience what White Horse proprietor Denis O’Donnell calls the “magic — romance — of dancing in a dim, dirty honky-tonk.”
“I’ve always felt like a square — until recently,” Austin-based songwriter Brennen Leigh says. “Because, I don’t know, I felt like young people weren’t interested in my music… But it seems like now they’re starting to show up in droves.”
This piece from Austin Music Map explores the new movement of country music in Austin, from the traditional followers at the longstanding Broken Spoke, to the modern two-steppers at White Horse.
“We’re in a special time right now,” O’Donnell says, “where the quality and integrity of the songwriting, the showmanship… it’s really beautiful.”