Of course, Lone Star State honky-tonkers The Western Express are aware of the renewed interest in the eras of country music that inspire them—and the major-label artists who are leading that surge in popularity with radio-friendly hits—but they’re not chasing trends. “My first real concert was the Judds at the Houston Rodeo in the late ‘80s. I sang George Strait songs at every talent show I could enter as a kid,” says Stephen Castillo, one half of The Western Express, along with Phill Brush. “I’ve just always been immersed in it.” Their sound is real, and it goes deep.  

Drawn to the tragic or notable lives of writers and performers such as Dean Dillon, Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz of Watchhouse, and Chavela Vargas, Brush and Castillo’s unique set of influences are balanced with classic country troubadours like Willie Nelson, Hank Williams and Alan Jackson. It is through this lens that they refract a sound all their own. Touching on classic pop country, Latin blues, gospel, and even a little outlaw, The Western Express are cultivating their one-of-a-kind brand of Texas country.  

Pro Country debuted The Western Express’ “Flower of the Rio Grande,” the first single from their upcoming full-length album, Lunatics, Lovers & Poets. With a swaggering, moody Mex-Tex feel, “Flower of the Rio Grande” tells the story of a lovelorn man roaming the desert, as Castillo puts it: “searching for the dark-eyed woman who now only lives in his dreams.” A lonesome fiddle and a reverbed-out electric guitar dance in and out of Castillo’s vocal melody, painting a perfect, cool desert evening scene. “He wants her and she knows it,” says Brush. “And she’s not giving in that easily.” Fans can check out the music video for “Flower of the Rio Grande” now at this link and stream it here. A full list of The Western Express tour dates can be found below or at thewesternexpress.band

More About Lunatics, Lovers & Poets: Lunatics, Lovers & Poets was produced by rockabilly star John Evans (Emily Bell, Hayes Carll, Corb Lund). “John is a childhood hero of mine. Over the years, he’s always been very encouraging and very helpful,” Castillo says. “Without him, we would have had a decent record, probably, but it would not be what it is. He was making decisions deliberately, quickly, and concisely. He facilitated a cohesive sound out of a record that may not necessarily have had one without his touch. 

In addition to Evans’s sonic choices, the nine songs on Lunatics, Lovers & Poets work together despite their differences—much like Brush and Castillo themselves—because of Castillo’s strong, but not self important, songwriting decisions. There’s an old-school storytelling style masking deeply personal reflections in “Flower of the Rio Grande,” and “Leyenda,” unflinching honesty over upbeat melodies in “Trust Me, You Can’t Trust Me” and “Emptying Me,” and straightforward, dancehall-ready love stories in “You and Me and the Neon” and “Lovin’ You for a While.”  

“I took the craft of writing these songs seriously,” explains Castillo, who wrote much of the album during a solo trip to West Texas in the fall of 2018, “but the songs themselves don’t take themselves very seriously.”  

Lunatics, Lovers & Poets Tracklist: 

1. Honky Tonk Saints 

2. Flower of the Rio Grande 

3. You and Me and the Neon 

4. Trust Me, You Can’t Trust Me 

5. Leyenda 

6. Lovin’ You For A While 

7. Last Apology 

8. Emptying Me 

9. Quesadilla Mamacita 

Catch The Western Express On Tour: 

June 25 – Blanco, TX – Real Ale Brewing 

June 30 – Austin, TX – Broken Spoke Dancehall 

July 16 – Austin, TX – Guero’s Oak Garden 

July 20 – Austin, TX – Broken Spoke Dancehall 

August 4 – Austin, TX – Broken Spoke Dancehall (Album Release Show) 

August 7 – Helotes, TX – Floore’s Country Store 

August 19 – College Station, TX – Calvary Court 

More About The Western Express: Phill Brush and Stephen Castillo, together known as The Western Express, met via Craigslist in early 2018 and bonded over their shared love of first-rate songwriting and the country hits of the 1980s and ‘90s. While they’re aware of the renewed interest in those eras of country music and the major-label artists leading that surge in popularity with radio-friendly hits, they’re no bandwagon act: Brush spent his youth in Texas Hill Country, while Castillo grew up deep in East Texas. Their debut album, Lunatics, Lovers & Poets, produced by rockabilly star John Evans (Emily Bell, Hayes Carll, Corb Lund), features nine songs written by Castillo and inspired by a wide range of genres and styles, from Country Music Hall of Fame members Dean Dillon and Willie Nelson (whose 1950s radio show is the band’s namesake) to Emily Frantz of the bluegrass duo Watchhouse and ranchera singer Chavela Vargas.