From the Panhandle of West Texas, the Panhandlers are a collective of four singer-songwriters who have banded together for a self-titled — not to mention self-aware — project.
Recorded with producer Bruce Robison, the band captures the wide open spaces and the occasional melancholy of their home turf, but not without some sly humor mixed in.
Take a look at their music video for “No Handle,” then find out more about their hopes for the album from each of the artists — Josh Abbott, John Baumann, Cleto Cordero, and William Clark Green.
CMT: Your sense of place on this record is specific but I think the emotions are universal for those of us who grew up where there’s “nothing to do.” What do you hope that people who listen to this record in full will take away from it?
Josh Abbott: “While this album is a conceptual reflection of the Panhandle and West Texas, there is certainly a commonality to its underlying theme: the cognitive dissonance influenced by identity and geography. Every part of the country has folks who love it and folks who leave it. Those that stay and love it understand the downsides but they emphasize the benefits. It is a process in which we all tell ourselves that the decisions we’re making in life are the correct ones and that allows us to feel good about our lives.
“This album at its core is a reflection on agrarian rural lifestyles, influenced at times by outsiders in politics and energy. People can relate to that in the Midwest, Southeast, North California, and so on. And that is what I hope people feel when they hear this record. I hope it causes people to visit where they’re from. I hope it stirs a sense of pride in those that have stayed the course. And I hope it makes those back in the Panhandle and West Texas proud of the album we made.
John Baumann: I hope they appreciate their lives, and embrace how beautiful a simple life can be. Less is more in my opinion, and it’s true on this record, in terms of thematics, sonic presence, and production. But in this modern time of short attention spans and always competing for likes, or wealth, or material gains, this record is a reminder that life is better when it’s simple and sweet. And when we’re all grateful for what we have.
Cleto Cordero: I hope that upon listening, folks will learn to do a double-take and see the beauty in their surroundings no matter where they live… it is home after all.
William Clark Green: I hope people from the area appreciate it the humor and seriousness of the album. This is a tribute to a place on the planet that has done so much for me and my life.
In “This Flatland Life,” you’re singing about the “South Plains dream.” Can you tell me more about what that means? What is the dream?
Baumann: I envision the South Plains dream as living a happy life: healthy, making a decent living, a community around you, and enjoying the natural wonders of the region: the weather, the open sky, the flatness — just embracing a life that might look rough or difficult outside looking in.
Cordero: To me, the South Plains dream is utilizing the regions natural resources (wind and oil) to earn a living and raise a family. With boom, however, eventually comes bust. When it does bust, you’re stuck just living the Flatland life.
Abbott: A lot of our friends that stayed in the region work in oil and gas. There’s that dream of working hard, getting lucky, and getting rich. Everyone thrives when oil prices are high, and everyone feels the consequences of when it is low. Wind energy has staked its claim as well. At the forefront of all of this is the constant battle between the left and the right to keep it all centered. The South Plains dream is riding the wind through the highs and the lows, and find the balance in it all.