Dr. Craig Clifford isn’t just a philosophy professor at Tarleton State University, he’s a musician/singer in The Accidental Band and has released his new book called Pickers & Poets: The Ruthlessly Poetic Singer-Songwriters of Texas.
It all started with an essay Clifford wrote for Tarleton’s Langdon Review journal, Too Weird for Kerrville: The Darker Side of Texas Music.
Clifford worked with three songwriters, David Rodriguez — a college friend of Clifford’s — Townes Van Zandt, and Terry Allen.
“All three of them are dark in different ways so I wrote the essay and I had the idea that if I could add Guy Clark and expand on what I’d done, I would have a nice little 120-page book,” Clifford said. “I met Craig Hillis (lead guitarist for Jerry Jeff Walker, Michael Martin Murphey, and others in the early 1970s) through a mutual friend and he was finishing up a dissertation in American Studies at the University of Texas on Texas music in the 1970s. So I said, ‘Why don’t we co-edit a book of essays?’ He agreed and six years later the book is now out.”
The book also features works from some of the top writers in the state who have written about Texas music.
“It’s about the first generation of folk songwriters,” Clifford said. “These are folk singers doing what Bob Dylan did in the late 60s, early 70s, except they were Texans who were rooted in Texas.”
The book is divided into three parts starting with the first generation songwriters: Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, David Rodriguez, Terry Allen, Steve Fromholz, Michael Martin Murphey and others. The next is about the second generation like Lyle Lovett, those influenced by the first.
“In the final part of the book we raise the question: Is there anyone now carrying on this tradition? And I’d say mainstream Texas and Nashville music, no, but there are some people who are studying that tradition and trying to play that kind of music,” Clifford said. “So like Ryan Bingham who went to Tarleton for a couple of years, Hayes Carll and Kacey Musgraves, so we deal with a few young songwriters at the end of the book.”
Pickers & Poets is published by Texas A&M University Press and can be purchased from Clifford directly by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The book can also be purchased at Amazon and Texas A&M University Press.
“I would love it if people would buy it from me,” Clifford said.
There is a release party/book signing event in the works that will happen somewhere in Stephenville within the next month or so, Clifford said. The date and location has not been finalized at this time.