It’s Me-Me Monday again at Full-Tilt Backwoods Boogie.
Last week, some of you may have noticed I was quiet—well, quiet for me, anyway. That’s because I loaded up with my long-suffering husband and even longer-suffering parents and went to the Texas Hill Country for some R & R.
The Texas Hill Country has its own magic. Squatty mesquite trees cast dappled shadows over the white rocks and cactus bushes. Longhorn cattle graze in endless rolling fields. Deer loiter along the roadside.
The deeper into that country I get, the more my imagination runs wild with stories about Native American ghosts fighting cowboys and rattlesnakes…and the occasional werewolf sheriff. The tension I carry in my shoulders melts. Sometimes, on special occasions, I even forget to worry.
That’s what happened to me at Luckenbach, Texas. Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings put Luckenbach, Texas on the map with the song they made famous in the 1970s.
Part of Luckenbach’s charm is that it’s not all shiny and new and clean. The roaming roosters add to the effect.
Luckenbach is an old, un-airconditioned building crammed with souvenirs. One narrow aisle runs through the middle. It leads to a no-frills saloon covered in graffitti, old pictures, and stuff I wouldn’t touch even if you gave me a sawbuck.
There weren’t too many places to sit, and it was hot as hades in there anyway. The only thing to do was buy a cool drink and sit out back at a wooden picnic table and pray for a breeze.
Eventually, darkness came, and, with it, marginal relief from the heat. That far out in the country, the sky doesn’t turn the color of spilled ink. It turns the color of blueberries—or the color of light filtering through blue stained glass.
Beneath that stained glass blueberry sky, a group of musicians played softly. They were a casual bunch, singing anything from originals to Pink Floyd covers. Sometimes, a lady with a mandolin or a man playing a ukelele joined in.
To the soundtrack of this simple, unencumbered music, people milled around an open window buying beers and chatting. Nobody was in a hurry.
There was no freeway roaring in the background. Only the crickets and the roosters and the occasional burst of applause interrupted the music. The night got so dark stars were visible against that stained glass blueberry sky. You don’t see that in the city—too many fluorescent lights.
The hour grew late, and the musicians packed up their instruments. One feller said his fingers felt all twisted together. Another guy kept his seat, though, and he said he had one more song to play. This dude played one of my all-time favorite songs.
No, this is not the guy we listened to that night in Luckenbach. This is Ray Lamontagne, whose music I love.
I had a hard time deciding which version of this wonderful song I wanted to share with you guys. Townes Van Zandt, one of the best songwriters I know of, wrote “Loretta.” Click here for Townes Van Zandt’s version of Loretta.
Here are a few more covers:
Finally, those last notes of “Loretta” echoed themselves out of existence. It was time to go back to the motel. In the dirt parking lot, I turned to take one last look.
In Luckenbach, Texas, population three, there’s no hurry, no hustle-bustle. It is what it is with no apology. For this country girl, who has grown tired of the city, it was like a soothing balm on a raw patch of skin. The magic of that place is that it made me forget the rest of the world.
[Note: Eat before you get to Luckenbach. There are no restaurants in Luckenbach, Texas. They do have a concessions window, but I’ve never seen it open. Though Luckenbach is closer to Fredricksburg, I recommend Hill Country Cupboard in Johnson City, Texas. They really do have the world’s best chicken fried steak. My favorite restaurant in Fredricksburg is Der Lidenbaum.]