Cooder Graw, now with new energy, to make Tri-State Fair debut

Posted by Chip Chandler on
Cooder Graw will play Saturday at the Tri-State Fair.
Photo by Rock Williams

By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer

Cooder Graw, the successful Amarillo-based Texas country band, ended a six-year hiatus with increased touring and a new album. Now, they're making their Tri-State Fair debut.

The band will play at 9:30 p.m. Saturday to close out this year's fair; the concert is free with fair admission.

"We never have played the Tri-State Fair," lead singer Matt Martindale said. "I've never even seen an artist play there, so I'm really excited to get to play there.

"We don't play in Amarillo really often, so it means a lot for us to be here."

The band formed here in 1996 as Coup de Gras (the name changed to a country styling later thanks to another group that had dibs); Martindale had been playing acoustic sets at Golden Light Cantina, where he met drummer Joe Ammons and bass player Paul Baker. Guitarist Kelly Turner came on board soon, and after Ammons later, drummer Kelly B. Test joined up.

The band played five or six times a week around the region at its height, and its single “Llano Estacado” was licensed by Dodge for a national series of commercials.

"Llano Estacado" (live), Cooder Graw

After 2004's Wake Up, the band split in 2006, only to reform six years later to undertake a low-key touring schedule, in part because the band isn't centralized: Martindale and fiddler Carmen Acciaioli live in Amarillo, but Turner lives in Lubbock and Test and Baker live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

"Better Days," Cooder Graw

The road schedule, though, has increased somewhat since the release of the EP Love to Live By in March. 

The quartet of Martindale, Baker, Turner and Test are still the core of the band, which now also features Acciaioli and Danny Crelin on steel guitar.

"These guys all fit together really well," Martindale said. "Everybody together gives it that big band feeling, and we can do these very traditional Western swing/country things, then go completely hardcore rock 'n' roll."

"State Line" (live), Cooder Graw

The new EP has been well received, Martindale said.

"The first single ("Heart of Breaking Up") got into the Top 20, which is a lot better than I thought it would do," Martindale said. "(And) we've put out a video of the title track but (haven't) pushed it as a single; we'll probably do that starting in the spring."

"Love to Live By," Cooder Graw

Beyond that, Martindale expects to return to the studio in the not-too-distant future.

"I've written two or three songs that might make the cut again, but we're not in a big hurry," he said.

Before that, though, Martindale said he's looking forward to his first Tri-State Fair performance.

"You get kids and old folks and everybody in between," Martindale said of such gigs. "You get to introduce your music to people that might not ordinarily see you, who wouldn't come to a bar or a rodeo dance, but they would come to a fair.

"And it's all of the fair stuff, the cotton candy and the funnel cakes and the rides," he continued. "There's something electric in the air that adds to the nuance of the show."





Chip Chandler is a digital content producer for Panhandle PBS. He can be contacted at, at @chipchandler1 on Twitter and at on Facebook.

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