Forty years ago, Waylon Jennings released “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love),” a country Number One and crossover hit with pop audiences even though – according to lore – he’d never been to the one-horse town that bore its name. Now Cody Jinks and Paul Cauthen, two modern-day Texans with similarly outsized personalities, have paid the song tribute with considerable help from Nik Lee and the Texas Gentlemen.
Written by Chips Moman and Bobby Emmons, Jinks and Cauthen’s rendition of “Luckenbach, Texas” was recorded for Amazon Originals’ new Open Road project, a 30-song playlist featuring covers of classic songs. Also appearing on the playlist are the Walkmen’s Hamilton Leithauser, Son Volt, and Shawn Colvin, among many others. It was cut at Modern Electric Recorders in Dallas, the home base for the Texas Gentlemen, who were the backing band on Cauthen’s 2016 LP My Gospel.
Unlike Jinks and Cauthen’s recent tribute to Chris Cornell, which turned the psychedelic grunge of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” into an eerie country dirge, they do a mostly faithful rendition here of “Luckenbach, Texas.” Cauthen, who digs deep to match Jennings’ legendary baritone, takes the first verse and Jinks takes the second. The real surprise comes when Texas Gentleman Nik Lee sings the final verse, delivering a dead ringer for Willie Nelson’s airy tenor. Listen below.
“The first time Cody Jinks and I really got to hang out, we drank a bunch of wine and cut one of our favorite songs, ‘Luckenbach, Texas.’ Nik Lee is singing the third verse to really reign in the Willie part,” Cauthen tells Rolling Stone Country. At the end of the song, he ad libs a welcome announcement that references famous battles from Lone Star State history. “Remember the Alamo, remember Goliad,” he says. “If you want to feel freedom, come on down to Texas.”
Open Road will be available for streaming on August 4th via Amazon Music. That same day, Jinks will be performing at Verizon Theatre in Grand Prairie, Texas. The Texas Gentlemen, meanwhile, release their debut LP TX Jelly September 15th on New West Records.