Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, a new country music tradition is picking up steam: The 4th Annual Way Out West Country Music Festival is returning to Southwest University Park on Saturday, Oct. 12.
This year’s performers include smash rising stars Midland, The Wild Feathers, Desure and Madison Kozak. The festival, which began in 2016, is the borderland’s premiere country music event and has been billed as “Where Texas begins, and the party never ends.”
Here’s the scoop on the artists playing this year’s Way Out West Fest:
In a country music scene dominated by synth-ridden “bro-country” like Sam Hunt and Florida Georgia Line, Midland is an acclaimed breath of fresh air. The band specializes in a neo-traditionalist braid of roots music all set to the tried-and-true blueprint that George Strait laid down in 1982.
Its debut album, “On The Rocks,” yielded three gigantic hit singles; “Drinkin’ Problem,” “Make a Little,” and “Burn Out,” – the latter of which reached No. 4 on the country charts and 45 on the Billboard Hot 100. Midland’s latest album, “Let It Roll,” continues that formula, leaning slightly more toward rock-n-roll and blues-based sounds.
Ironically, Midland is not from Midland, but rather from Dripping Springs, Texas – a suburb of Austin. Their mononym is taken from the Dwight Yoakam song “Fair to Midland.”
Comprising singer Mark Wystrach, guitarist Jess Carson and bassist Cameron Duddy, the trio earned the praise of country music titans such as Garth Brooks and Brooks & Dunn – who featured Midland on their latest album, “Reboot,” for a new version of the classic hit “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”
Midland is no stranger to the Sun City: The band recorded its self-titled EP and a series of demos at Sonic Ranch in 2014, even inviting borderland artist Emily Hardtke to sing backup on the recordings.
Aside from its music, Midland members also turn heads with their debonair and retro style of dress, and as Billy Gibbons once said, “every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man.” Like Jonathan Tyler once said: “Country, blues and rock-and-roll are pretty much all the same thing – just wearing different clothes.”
And that’s exactly what Midland is good at.
The Wild Feathers
Fitting snugly alongside Midland’s roots music stew, The Wild Feathers are more akin to blues-based southern rock and Americana artists like Little Feat, The Band, or Ray LaMontagne than traditional boot scootin’ “country music,” but spiritually they drink at the same dusty honky-tonk bar. Their third and latest album, “Greetings From The Neon Frontier.” wears slightly more of that rock influence on it’s sleeve.
Some of the greatest country crossover successes stem from the meeting of two or more genres, and that’s exactly what Josh Desure’s plan is. Evoking the sounds of sweet Laurel Canyon folk through the lens of bright, 80s “yacht rock”-style production, Desure is making music that suits a sun-kissed day at the beach as much as a night driving down a desert highway listening to “On The Border”-era Eagles or Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The 22-year-old Madison Kozak has been singing country songs since she was 10. Her single, “First Last Name” was written for her Dad as a Father’s Day gift and is now putting her on the map. Kozak is now the flagship artist for Songs & Daughters, a female-focused division of Big Loud Records started by noted songwriter/producer Nicolle Galyon, who is responsible for such hits as Dan + Shay’s “Tequila” and Miranda Lambert’s “Automatic.”