When you think of Texas music, you think of Willie, you think country. But despite being the one-time home of Armadillo World Headquarters and current harbor to dance halls like Broken Spoke, White Horse, and Little Longhorn Saloon, there’s just not a ton of straight-up country coming out of Austin nowadays. As a matter of fact, the two core players behind today’s feature originally came from Houston. Multi-instrumentalist Phillip Brush and singer-guitarist Stephen Castillo first met through Craigslist in 2018 and quickly hit it off over a mutual love of ’80s/’90s country radio. After cutting their teeth with a few other musicians, Castillo and Brush decided to cut back and capitalize on their interpersonal chemistry by forming The Western Express the following June.
Despite practically zero connections in Austin, The Western Express chugged along with up to twenty gigs a month. Ultimately the duo caught the attention of producer-engineer JT Holt, songwriter David Ramirez, and eventually rockabilly legend John Evans. Recently Evans linked up with The Western Express to produce their debut album Lunatics, Lovers & Poets, a non-stop nine-song direct route to authentic cross-country twang. Its title derives from Willie Nelson’s mid-century radio program, and although the songs were penned solely by Castillo during a 2018 solo trip, the strands to Evans, Brush, and the backing band make for a rounded out group experience. Lunatics, Lovers & Poets drops August 5th, with the lead single’s music video already on the tracks and steadily rolling out. Today we got the first half of that special delivery from The Western Express – the album opener off LL&P that tips its hat to the pioneers of southern style, “Honky Tonk Saints”!