What he found, gradually, was a budding Oklahoma scene that filled the gaps of the roots-music scene that Bob Childers, Tom Skinner, the Red Dirt Rangers and others had forged in the ‘70s. First came the “red dirt” bands: Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jason Boland & the Stragglers and other roadhouse warriors whose proliferation mirrored similar Texas-circuit acts such as Reckless Kelly and Randy Rogers Band.
The current crop of talent pulls from influences well beyond red dirt. Fullbright’s gravitation toward piano suggests the influence of Oklahoman Jimmy Webb, the masterful songwriter responsible for many of Glen Campbell’s biggest hits as well as pop smashes such as “Up, Up and Away” and “MacArthur Park.” A few years ago at the Blue Door, the pair did a spectacular duo performance of Webb’s classic tune “If You See Me Getting Smaller.”
And it’s not out-of-place for Oklahoma roots acts to give props to the Flaming Lips, the Oklahoma City band that grew from dive-bar underdogs to theatrical mega-sensation by the turn of the century. Or Hanson, the sibling pop trio that parlayed their 1990s bubblegum smash “MMMBop” into adulthood roles as ambassadors for the Tulsa music scene with their state-of-the-art 3CG Studio in the downtown Brady Arts District.
Such facilities, and the production assistance of Fullbright, lured rising roots-country band American Aquarium from their North Carolina home base to Tulsa in late 2017 to make their upcoming album. Band leader B.J. Barham says he’s impressed at the bonds between artists that have transcended stylistic boundaries.
“They just look at it as music,” Barham says. “A lot of those folks are just friends, and they don’t look at it as genres. It’s more of a scene, and that’s a cool thing.”