Whenever I see ZZ Top described as "Southern rock" it makes me wince a wee bit. Granted, the trio certainly has quite a bit in common with Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers Band and Black Oak Arkansas: All of them loved blues-stained boogie and high-volume groove exploration. Ultimately, though, I'm of the opinion that Billy Gibbons and company emerged from a Texas-bred lineage of rock 'n' roll that can be considered distinct from its Southern rock relative. This reflects Texas' complex relationship to the American South in general. While Texas rightly is considered a Southern state, it also possesses a heritage and history all its own, one that allows its music and culture to stand apart. Just as important: Texans are a stubbornly independent people and damn proud of it.
In an attempt to define this very lineage, my "Don't Mess With Texas ... Rock" playlist charts its multifaceted evolution from the '50s (Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison) right up to the modern day (The Sword, The Mars Volta). Along the way you'll encounter both its bluesy pioneers and Tex-Mex icons, including Edgar Winter and Doug Sahm, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Janis Joplin. But be prepared to encounter the heavy and weird as well. That's because the Lone Star State also has coughed up plenty of metal (Pantera, Hellyeah), underground rock (Butthole Surfers, Big Boys) and psychedelia (The Red Crayola, Bubble Puppy). Whether you're a proud resident of the fine state of Texas or merely looking for some quality jams to crank, "Don't Mess With Texas ... Rock" will knock your socks clear off.