by Mathew Sturtevant
from the book THE SOUND OF AUSTIN Portraits
Long before there was something called alt-country, the Wagoneers made high-intensity, twang-infused music that combined the sounds and subject matter of traditional country with the raw energy of rock and roll. Respectful of what came before yet brash enough to make it their own, they showed everybody that playing country could be cool.
Formed in 1986, the band played the very first South By Southwest festival in 1987. In 1988, the Wagoneers released Stout & High and quickly followed with Good Fortune in 1989. They received rave reviews, played on Austin City Limits, at the Grand Old Opry, and found themselves sharing the stage with both country and rock legends. Then, in late 1989, they suddenly called it quits, but not before establishing themselves as originators and innovators. They truly helped lay the foundation for the Americana and alt-country movement of the 1990′s.
In 2011, the Wagoneers were asked to get together and play a brief set at the Austin Music awards to coincide with their induction into the Austin Music Hall of Fame. The band found that playing together again felt so natural, they booked a few shows around town. Next thing you know, there’s a full-fledged Wagoneer’s revival going on.
The band has re-released their first two albums on CD as The Essential Wagoneers and they are working on a new album. The original four members of the band are the ones making this happen, so it’s not one of those reunions with just one or two original members. The most impressive thing is that you would never know that the band ever broke up. They don’t sound like a band that took a twenty-plus year hiatus. The response at their shows makes it seem like they’ve been together with their audience the entire time.