As if a Marlboro Red was singing you a tune, I am just one of many that immediately became entranced by Colter Wall the second his booming voice and old-fashioned anthems graced my speakers.  I can’t recall exactly where I was the first time I heard him, I can’t even recall which song, but I do know that his music has been one of the few consistencies in my life since I first heard him.  Along with his haunting voice, like a 90-year-old cowboy who still regrets letting that woman go decades ago, Colter Wall is also a mighty fine musician.  By mixing delta blues, folk, and good ol’ classic country with a little bit of honk-tonk and a lot of sorrow, Colter Wall’s discography has had a universal appeal since his 2015 debut, “Imaginary Appalachia” all the way to his latest album, 2023’s “Little Songs.”

Colter Wall’s “Little Songs” tour was sold out for both nights he was in Dallas at the historical Longhorn Ballroom.  Along with getting to see Mr. Wall, something I thought would never happen as he rarely tours, preferring to spend most of his time on the range, two birds were killed with one stone when I also got to attend such a prominent venue.  The Longhorn Ballroom has welcomed many guests through its timeless doors from Nat King Cole, to Merle Haggard, to the damn Sex Pistols, with Haggard and the Pistols even sharing the sign out front.  On my way into the Ballroom, I ran into one of the best modern country songwriters, Vincent Neil Emerson, gave him the horns, told him I was a huge fan, and headed inside.  The entrance of the Ballroom was covered in tiny, framed photos of country music’s best: Ernest Tubb, Johnny and June Cash, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, and George Jones.  Along the right side of the ballroom there were glass cases full of country music artifacts: Waylon Jenning’s guitar and vest, Tammy Wynette’s guitar, and a whole Sex Pistols display to name a few.

Red Shahan won me over the second he took to the stage, a Texas-born, Forth-Worth based man of many talents, his mix of angst-ridden rock and roll with classic country and some Skynrd-esque southern rock got the crowd going immediately and had boots stomping to the beat for the full hour before Colter Wall took to the stage.

Before Colter made his appearance, I decided to take some time and do a little people watching.  Colter Wall has long been an enigma to me, his tunes are so undoubtedly old-timey and country that it would almost do the music more justice to call it straight up cowboy music.   Either way, labels are irrelevant in this situation, as the man could pull a CROWD.  I was reminded of the beginning of the 70’s outlaw country movement I’d read so much about while looking around: a time of musical freedom where the hippies and the bikers and the cowboys and the guy in a suit that just got off his 9-5 could all come together and have a good time, and that we did.  Mr. Wall is a man that humbly carries the torch of classic country music tradition into the modern day with great dignity, so while it felt kind of like a high school reunion at some points, surrounded by obnoxious dudes in square-toed boots, big belt buckles, bigger egos, and phones with the camera flash on that likely got there in trucks that had no need to be lifted, there was an overall loyal base of two-steppers and bolo ties that could appreciate what Mr. Wall’s mission was.

As this was the “Little Songs” tour, Colter Wall and his “Scary Prairie Boys” knocked out live renditions of “Evangelina, The Coyote and the Cowboy” and more from his latest album to prove that this was very apparently already a classic in the hearts of many.  Muskrat Jones graced the nearly extinct pedal-steel with ease while Jake Groves shredded on the mouth harp alongside Jason Simpson on bass looking like Rob Zombie got off at the wrong stage as Patrick Lyons rocked a dobro, electric guitar, and mandolin, all backed up by Russ Patterson banging out some honky-tonk rhythm.  Along with the newer material, Colter and his boys sprinkled in an instrumental cover of the Appalachian, Carter Family classic “Wildwood Flower” and some tunes from past albums such as “Thinkin’ on a Woman, Motorcycle,” and the hardest, heaviest, goosebump-givin’ rendition of “Sleeping on the Blacktop” you’ve ever heard, as well as the beloved anthem, “Cowpoke,” that had the whole ballroom yodeling as one.

It all felt like a fever dream to have been able to attend one of Colter Wall’s rare appearances.  This young man from the plains of Canada that set out to keep the traditions and sound of country alive and relevant to the next generation of lonesome ramblers is succeeding on all accounts, in addition to being at the forefront of a new country-folk revival that will carry on for a long while as far as my pearly blues could tell.