Aside from the occasional concert at old-school favorite Sons of Hermann Hall, only chicken fried steak palace Allgood Cafe and the graffiti-marked walls of Adair's Saloon regularly featured nights of live country music.
With the opening of Mama Tried on Henry Street in July and Blue Light Live on Main Street in October, the style of music many people from outside Texas associate with Dallas-Fort Worth is ringing brightly and nightly. Both new honky-tonks are fresh additions to the neighborhood, not simply new tenants taking over an older venue. Well-known spots for rock, punk, hip-hop and electronic performances, including Trees, Three Links, Dada, The Bomb Factory and Double Wide are still rocking.
Until last summer, a country-loving guy or gal was better off heading elsewhere to catch a show by one of the popular acts filling the Texas country circuit. Suburban spots such as Plano's Love and War in Texas and Hank's Texas Grill in McKinney were better bets to lose those honky-tonk blues. Better yet, Fort Worth is home to a number of country venues, including the big daddy of 'em all, Billy Bob's Texas.
A freeway cruise isn't required for even the most finicky Dallas country fan these days, and even with the opening of two new country joints, there's no real danger of over-saturation in Deep Ellum. Both spots offer unique vibes and personalities.
Blue Light Live, an offshoot of the famed Lubbock Blue Light bar and concert venue, hosts music as many as five nights a week. Nationally touring artists such as country songwriter Adam Hood and El Paso roots-rock band Dirty River Boys have made their way through Blue Light Live already, and each Monday night, Fort Worth-based songwriter Zac Wilkerson hosts a songwriter open-mic night.
The space features only a few tables and a single bar. The star of the show is clear, as the stage is easily the focal point of the room. Dallas audiences are notorious for chattering their way through shows, but at Blue Light Live, fans can actually hear the lyrics. Socializing is OK to a point, but too much chatter will win a noisy group evil glances. Even better, most of the shows at Blue Light Live don't have a cover charge.
Mama Tried, situated a bottle cap's throw from The Bomb Factory, has an outdoor patio as spacious as its interior. Lined with old-school photos of Nashville greats such as Dolly Parton, this spot has plenty of room for two-stepping in front of the stage without mixing with the crowd along the 80-foot bar made out of massive live-edge cypress slabs. With plenty of local craft brews and saloon-certified staples like Lone Star, and a food menu with turkey legs and spicy catfish, there's more going on here than the live music two or three nights each week.
Before Naomi's closed in the late '90s, its side of neighborhood was often referred to as the "country side of Deep Ellum." Now, there's country music blaring from one end to the other every night of the week.
Header photo credit: John McClanahan