Welcome to Playlists, a series where we turn over the reigns to artists to curate the next big playlist
Everyone’s got their idols, those trailblazing rabble-rousers who leave such an indelible mark on us, we begin to radiate those same traits. A Lubbock, Texas native, Ross Cooper, a former professional horseback rider, draws upon a wealth of some of country’s finest. From Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark to Ryan Bingham, Hayes Carll and The Damnwells, his style is distinct but familiar, expansive but intimate, dusty but polished. As a result, he decided to curate a playlist for B-Sides & Badlands, dropping today, called Amalgam of Influence: Songs & Songwriters That I Love.
This hodgepodge of influences is in full vibrancy on his new record, titled I Rode the Wild Horses (out March 9), which curls his fingertips around his most personal songwriting to-date and presses down on traditional fair, pedal steel and guitar framed on top. The titular cut has a particularly striking backstory, too. “I wrote the song as an ode to the west Texas rodeo-cowboys that I grew up around. Truly the last of a dying breed. There are a lot of small towns around where I’m from, and a lot of them dry up, or the city grows around them. It’s sad to see,” he explains.
“But then you have these old cowboys who are basically the last of the hardasses. When everything else is changing around them, they don’t. They’re revered and respected, because they were something in their heyday, and unfortunately, the majority of people around them have no idea.”
Below, Cooper gives us the walk-through of the brand new playlist.
“Cruel” by Calexico
I used to wake up really early every morning in middle school and watch a CMT show that featured a bunch of alt-country bands that I’d never heard. I heard this song and have loved this band ever since. I’d never heard anything like them before. Great songs, great band.
“I’m Good Now” by Bob Schneider
I bought this album from Ralph’s Records in Lubbock, TX, probably around 2005. It’s still one of my favorites. Sonically, the song has so much going on. And the storytelling is almost chaotic. For me, Bob Schneider at the time was what I thought Austin sounded like. The dude is a staple.
“Beaumont” by Hayes Carll
The first Hayes Carll song I’d ever heard. I don’t know if he can write a bad song. Would definitely be on my list of “If I could write with anyone, it’d be ______.”
“Dublin Blues” by Guy Clark
I’m not sure this even needs an explanation. Guy was the best there was. He had a voice as a writer that was not unlike that of an author. I can (and do) listen to the ‘Songs & Stories’ album all day.
“Bread & Water” by Ryan Bingham
When ‘Mescalito’ came out, I remember it spreading like wildfire. There was this cowboy that came from seemingly out of nowhere and put out this amazing record. “Bread & Water” reminds me of my rodeo days too ⎯⎯ great highway song.
“Loretta” by Townes Van Zandt
This was my introduction to Townes; the songwriter’s songwriter. Just flat-out great poetry. Still my favorite Townes song.
“Golden Days” by The Damnwells
I’d bought this iPod from a buddy of mine back when iPod’s were a new and big thing, but neither of us knew how to clear out all of the songs on it, so I just listened to the music he’d loaded and never added anything to it. Luckily, he had great taste. After a few months of scrolling through the ~11,000 songs, I found The Damnwells. Their front man Alex Dezen remains one of my favorite songwriters.
“Buick City Complex” by Old 97’s
As far as rock and roll bands from Texas go, I don’t think you can get any better. Country, folk, punk and rock all rolled together. “Buick City Complex” is my go-to off of the ‘Satellite Rides’ album. Love the melody and progression. When I first heard Old 97’s, I guess I never really heard anything like them before. Was an instant fan.
“In My Time of Need” by Ryan Adams
It’s hard to pick a favorite when you have a lot of favorites. I’ve listened to ‘Heartbreaker’ more times than I can count or care to admit. This song wasn’t my favorite until a couple of years into wearing the album out…guess I never gave it my full attention until then. It’s about being there for one another when times are tough. Who hasn’t lived that?
“Satin Sheets” by Willis Alan Ramsey
This album came out in 1972; it’s the only Willis Alan Ramsey album to ever come out, and damn near every song on it has been recorded by someone else. It’s my desert island album. For the longest time, you could only get it on vinyl, and you’d find it hiding in a lot of record stores. I’ve probably had three different copies. Now, it’s finally on iTunes, Spotify, etc. “Satin Sheets” is a top two favorite on the album.
“The Temptation of Adam” by Josh Ritter
I didn’t find out about Josh Ritter until a couple of years ago. He’s one of those guys that makes you feel smarter when you listen to his songs, and he inspires you to be better. This song is amazing.
“Give It Time” by Ross Cooper
So, I’ve had tons of influences, but this song was the first song that ever made me feel like a songwriter. I wrote it in about fifteen minutes from the back bench of a van after a horrible weekend. It was the first song that I could see from beginning to end without needing an instrument to write it on. I think it’s probably natural for a songwriter to be forever critical of what they do, but I’m still proud of this song. Everyone on this list were the folks I was listening to at the time that I wrote it.
Photo Credit: Jody Domingue