Confession: I'm a native Texan, but until last weekend, I had never been to Billy Bob's Texas. As a kid, I visited Fort Worth a handful of times, a grade-school field trip to the Kimble with lunch at Joe T.'s, comes to mind. After I got married, my wife and I would take the kids and her visiting parents to see the cattle drive and buy boots and cowboy hats.
But Billy Bob's remained elusive and needlessly so. As nights as a high school and college student were spent in Deep Ellum, seeing concerts, I never ventured out to Fort Worth for music. (As a teenager, I almost got tickets to see Junior Brown at Billy Bob's for any number of shows but for whatever reason, I never went, a regret I still want, and need, to right.)
Fast forward to 2023: Our high school son is very much into country music — a surprising fact, really, considering that he never showed much interest in the genre prior. But suddenly, this past year, as boots and Wranglers became the couture du jour, he found a handful of country artists that spoke to him, and that he liked very, very much. Included in that list is Texas-based Flatland Cavalry, especially their gem, "A Life Where We Work Out."
The song, a duet between husband-and-wife duo Cleto Cordero and Kaitlin Butts is bittersweet, telling the story of a hopeful reconciliation for a relationship that went sideways. It is a song that, as a family, we enjoy singing in the car, with our high schooler hitting the high notes, comically so. It was also a song that everyone in our family very much wanted to hear live (heck, all of Flatland Cavalry's tunes are top-drawer, so hearing them live was an expected highlight, indeed).
After heading over to Cooper's BBQ for some pre-show brisket, we made a beeline over to Billy Bob's — the honky tonk to end all honky tonks, complete with a massive dance floor, pool tables and bull riding — and one that does strive to be family-friendly.
The set started off strong with bangers like "One I Want" getting an earlier airing as well as a rousing cover of John Denver's "Thank God I'm A Country Boy." Live, the band was fantastic — and Cleto Cordero proves himself to be one of the great country frontmen. “I feel like I'm too far from some of you," he said, going into the crowd to perform "Sleeping Alone" — a track off their 2019 album Homeland Insecurity. Phones came out, illuminating a sea of lights and making one of the evening’s highlights.
For "A Life Where We Work Out," Cordero did ask the audience to make Miss Kaitlin Butts feel welcomed. The whole place erupted in applause. The husband-and-wife team's live rendition was truly special, a tune that we listened to on the long drive back to Dallas, and a tune that I heard echoing out of my son's room well into the following evening.
I didn't go to Billy Bob's as a teen, but I'm sure glad my teenage son did.
For upcoming shows and events, check Billy Bob's official site.