Singer-songwriter-guitarist Anthony Garcia manages to encompass, if not all of his home state of Texas, at least a significant portion of its cultural landscape.
Texas, Texans like to remind, is huge and multifarious — geographically (it spans some 10 climactic and 11 ecological zones), demographically (it has been populated over the decades by immigrants from pretty much every nation in the world) and culturally, with its tangle of musical traditions, from Tex-Mex and Cajun to gospel and rock ’n’ roll.
You’ll hear a bit of each — and much more — when Garcia makes his Jackson Hole debut Friday and Saturday in The Wort Hotel’s Silver Dollar Showroom, performing solo from 7 to 10 each night.
“Lots of great music has come from [Texas],” Garcia said recently. “The University of North Texas is one of the greatest jazz schools in the nation. We have a lot of great classical musicians. And our mariachi festival in San Antonio is world renowned.”
Garcia was immersed it in all from the beginning, absorbing the sounds and languages and textures, even if he didn’t immediately embrace them all.
“I grew up in Lubbock,” he said, “which is one of the most boring places you could find in the world. … The first thing I wanted to do was leave Texas. Which I did.”
He heard a lot of Willie Nelson, George Strait and their ilk in his hometown.
“I didn’t want to play it,” he said, “but I loved it. All my friends and family played it.”
But when he picked up the guitar as a kid, his first inclination was to jump into the hard rock and heavy metal end of the pool, which you still can hear in six-string solos, distortion effects and power chords.
Later he picked up playing piano, which he ended up studying formally, with classical training, at college.
“And I dabbled with jazz a little after that,” he said. “I’ve spent time with a lot of different genres. I love all kinds of music,” performing it and also writing it.
The funny thing, though, was that as his peregrinations took him farther from home and from the music he was raised on, the more he began to appreciate his origins. Today he calls Austin home, but even in boring Lubbock he can find beauty and inspiration. And he finds himself returning to the musics of his native environment.
“I regret taking it for granted,” he said. “Now I come back to it, and I’m proud of that, proud of all the culture of Texas.”
Garcia’s journey has added up to a sound that has been described as “mariachiesque Queens of the Stone Age,” “like something out of a Cormac McCarthy novel” and, in France, “Americana hypnotique.”
Another handy phrase has been “cinematic Americana,” which suggests words and sounds that evoke images and narratives that take listeners far beyond any one story, to their own personal realm of emotions and memories and personal associations. That makes his latest CD, the self-produced, many-layered “Acres of Diamonds,” less a volume of short stories and more a bone fide Jim Jarmusch film festival — with some Richard Rodriguez and Coen Brothers thrown in.
“I think sometimes the music tells as much of a story as the words,” Garcia said, “sometimes more. I’m moved by a creative idea and I have to follow wherever that idea goes. … In the spirit of creativity or improvisation, I don’t have control, I’m just reacting to what’s happening.”
The vastness of Texas gives Garcia a wide and deep pool from which to draw inspirations, ideas and thoughts.
That in turn gives audiences plenty of ways into his music and plenty to respond to. Which is why, while Garcia has mostly worked the turf around his home and up the Rocky Mountains, he also has found avid fans in Europe.
“They love American music,” he said of listeners in Spain, Germany, Switzerland and elsewhere throughout the Old Country. “Rock ’n’ roll, I play lot of Spanish music — they love all the genres, they know all the songs. They’re probably the best audience over there, they just love music. I played at a line dance festival last time I went to Germany. It was insane: 300 line dancers all decked out in rhinestones and matching shirts. I was the only American there, and the only one not wearing a cowboy hat.”
Garcia cruises up from Texas this week on what originally was a Northern Rockies tour. The coronavirus put the kibosh on that, but he still has a few dates that haven’t fallen through, and he’ll use the rest of his time to explore the landscapes and communities that are almost as wide and varied as those of Texas. ￼