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One Track Mind: Chris Rea “Texas”

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Chris Rea is something of a lingering figure in popular music. He had a top 20 hit way back in 1978 for “Fool (If You Think It’s Over)” and then a smaller one in 1986 with “On The Beach.” Both of these songs cast him as a lightweight, adult contemporary minstrel, and so it took people by surprise when he put out what is arguably his opus, Road To Hell at the end of the ’80s. A thematic, sharply focused effort, Rea took aim at the excesses and evils of late twentieth century Western society.

Even as he’s proven himself to be a good singer and songwriter, Rea is quite an accomplished guitarist, too. He can fingerpick his axe like Mark Knopfler and he plays a real nice slide guitar. His passion for blues rivals Eric Clapton; not even EC has recorded and released an 11(!) CD box set covering all permutations of the blues, from West African chants to Chicago electric blues. Rea did it two years ago, and did it convincingly, I might add.

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But we’re here to discuss this certain rock song of his, from that Road To Hell release. “Texas” is a tale of a family who is trying to escape the worries of their everyday life and the narrator father’s solution is to pack up the clan and move to the Lone Star state. The wife is a little skeptical about his plan (“she says ‘what?!'”…I said ‘Texas’…”she says ‘what?!'”). His reasons aren’t for better paying jobs or friendlier people; rather, the allure is:

Warm winds blowing
Heating blue sky

And a road that goes forever…

It could be that Texas could be just a euphemism for any place on the other side where the grass looks greener. The whole “let’s get the hell out of here” sentiment fits in perfectly with the overall disillusionment theme of the album, but at least here it’s tinged with hope.

The song itself is just a repeating five chord pattern, and the drum machine that’s vintage of its time churns out a heartbeat rhythm in sync with the pulsing bass line. In spite of all that, the song works, because of the conviction that it’s sung with and that sweet, weeping slide of Rea’s that makes itself known in the instrumental breaks at the middle and particularly in the end. Combined with his baritone voice it does sound as if Rea is from Texas (not even close, he hails from Middlesbrough, England).

I was able to find the original video for this, but it’s somewhat cheesy. Play it, but you might want to close your eyes and come up with your own imagery. Visualize the “big long roads out there” and the “big stakes, big girls, no trouble there” that is Chris Rea’s notion of Texas:

“One Track Mind” is a more-or-less weekly drool over a single song selected on a whim and a short thesis on why you should be drooling over it, too.

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