West Texas supergroup The Panhandlers united for only its seventh show ever during an official AMERICANAFEST showcase at Nashville’s Basement East on Sept. 21.
The group of esteemed songwriters — Josh Abbott, John Baumann, William Clark Green and Flatland Cavalry’s Cleto Cordero — hadn’t played together in nearly a year, but showed no signs of rust as they sped through several songs from its new album Tough Country, released in March.
This included the tongue-in-cheek honky tonker 'West Texas Is The Best Texas' (with lines like “Austin Texas which is lost in Texas / Californians coming in like it is going out of style”) along with 'Where Cotton Is King' and glass raiser 'The Chilton Song' (“When life gives you lemons / Make you a Chilton”). The album’s title track, 'Tough Country', a Cordero and Green co-write inspired by the struggle many ranchers face in tending their land, made an appearance as well.
Also making the cut were several songs from the band’s debut and self-titled 2020 effort such as 'This Flatland Life' and 'Panhandle Slim'. However, none of these songs could quite stand up to the heartfelt nature of Charlie Stout's cover of 'West Texas In My Eye' that illustrated the group’s collective love for home, and how no matter where they go, that pride and sense of place will always be with them.
That love overflowed into every other aspect of the band as the night went on, something that Abbott reflected on before diving into the group’s first ever single, “No Handle”, that closed the show.
“What I love most about this band is that for the last three songs I’ve been able to just stand up here with a drink in my hand,” joked Abbott in reference to the band’s multiple vocalists and how they give a reprieve to one another. “I’m just as much a fan as you all.”
The Panhandlers next run of shows together will take place in January 2024 and includes gigs everywhere from the Rocky Mountains of Steamboat Springs, Colorado to Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest continually operating dance hall.
Taken from their live performance at the Basement East in Nashville, Tennessee on Thursday, September 21st, 2023.
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All photos by Laura Ord