Brian Shapiro Band’s “Better in TX” is the first single from the band’s third album You Me Future Now. It rises to a level of social awareness rife throughout many Shapiro’s lyrics while retaining the necessary artistry to sound like more than a “protest” song or politically motivated satire. A big reason why is the empathy that consistently comes across in his music even when its pointing fingers or taking a stand. “Better in TX” arguably illustrates that better than any other similar song from the Brian Shapiro Band thus far. It sparkles musically, as well, without ever obscuring the lyrical message.
There’s no question he wants listeners to heed to the latter. It’s important to note, however, that Shapiro isn’t attempting to change anyone’s mind but, instead, stating where he stands. He doesn’t use a sledgehammer to do so. Instead, Shapiro mixes the earthy and intelligent in the song’s lyrics, sometimes opting for outright statement, other times asking listeners to think. It has a recurring structure that will strengthen its connection to casual listeners and blends it with the individualistic stance defining his work.
Amelia Bushell duets with Shapiro through significant stretches of the song. It will sound structured as a call and response, however, though few will quibble with the outcome. She has a clear emotional stake in her performance that we don’t hear from Shapiro. They nonetheless compliment each other. She doesn’t exert a presence throughout the entire song, but there’s no doubt she has an enormous impact on the final results.
The addition of piano makes the song for me. I am quite taken with the balance they achieve between the several key musical points that form the song’s foundation. The piano, however, spices things up with such flair that you can’t help gravitating to its sound. It expands the song’s appeal thanks to its deceptive melodic value, the sound is natural and quicksilver, yet it incorporates well into the song’s shape.
“Better in TX” won’t sound dated soon. Take any sort of topicality from the song and you still have a song about what it means to be human. It happens to cover subject matter that few songs dare risk. It’s one of many factors that, I believe, make the Brian Shapiro Band must-hear songwriting. “Better in TX” even has a playful edge that you may not hear on a first listen.
It’s present in the half-smirking musical arrangement. The aforementioned piano is a bit of a gag, musically, as we get to hear the Brian Shapiro Band approximate a satirical “Texas” sound. It’s the piano, but it’s drummer Ben Kutner-Duff’s playing as well. He does an exceptional job keeping close to the band’s essential character but likewise lays down an unlikely swing that gives the cut distinctive character.
“Better in TX” previews You Me Future Now without giving up the store. Shapiro built his reputation for surprising listeners with his first album, so anyone going into this track believing it represents the album as a whole is profoundly mistaken. It gives listeners the best of all possible worlds, however, and deserves your time.