“Ah, hell, I can’t complain: Been pretty well fed, pretty well paid” croons Jax Beach singer-songwriter Howdy on a new and bucolic dispatch called “El Paso.” The line, delivered as the song’s opening salvo over a tasteful tapestry of gaucho-baroque textures–including pedal steel, languid bass, and Howdy-namesake Landon Gay’s minimal fingerpicking–serves as the preface to what turns out to be a lovestruck missive.
In between sentimental descriptions of his confines (“Sun setting over Mexico and I can just see Juarez from El Paso”), Gay offers well-wishes (“How’s life on the silver screen? That West Coast everything you thought it’d be?”) in a way that belies a self-awareness not to sound too needy. The angst is barely disguised–and that’s certainly intentional.
Gay is clearly a studied purveyor of contemporary cowboy tunes. On “El Paso” he turns an explanatory postcard message into a pining ballad.
“I wrote ‘El Paso’ on the last leg of a cross-country tour with my best friends as a postcard to a friend of mine who was living in Los Angeles at the time,” Gay told us over e-mail. “I wanted to fill her in on the tour, how I was doing and to invite her to our show in Los Angeles the next weekend. We stopped for the night in El Paso, and from a motel balcony overlooking the outskirts of Juarez, the song spilled out in the same brief form it’s in now.”
Though he’s dressed up “El Paso” in LoFi duds, Gay’s indie sensibilities only serve to augment his authenticity (a solo performance of the song, which appears on Howdy’s IG, would assuredly earn him nods of approval at any early-60s Bleecker St. cafe).
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Gay recorded the song in his Neptune Beach garage with roommate Lazuli Vane on bass and behind the controls. Its release follows another tender and decidedly twangy number: “Cowboy Dream.” And with two singles under the nom de plume Howdy, Gay’s already carved out a nice niche in the local music scene, mining a novel brand of Americana with an indie mentality, modern sonic toolkit, and original songwriting.
Click play to hear Howdy’s lovelorn communiqué from West Texas.