Ryan Culwell captures his conflicted love/hate relationship with the Texas Panhandle in the new video for his dark and mysterious “Red River.”
“Shooting this video made it easy to see the truth,” he tells CMT Edge. “Things are uglier than we think, but things are much more beautiful than we realize.”
A Perrytown, Texas, native – right in the heart of Dust Bowl country – Culwell starts “Red River” slowly and deliberately with a brilliant series of lines about finding Native American arrowheads. But that’s about as uplifting as things get.
Wrapped in the muted colors of a Texan winter, his video conveys the song’s foreboding feel perfectly, like something bad is always just around the corner.
According to Culwell, that was no camera trick. The history of the place keeps it feeling that way.
“There is a highway shot of those awful wind turbines in the beginning of the video,” he says. “If you follow that road another 40 miles, you’ll end up at the Adobe Walls, where 28 hunters defeated 700 Indians in 1874. Billy Dixon shot a warrior off his horse from a mile away to end that battle. That shot brought on the Red River War and led to the Plainsmen Indians being relocated to reservations in Oklahoma.
“Go nine miles past Adobe Walls, and you’ll end up at (billionaire entrepreneur) T. Boone Pickens‘ house on a 68,000-acre ranch. Thirty more miles and you’ll be in Pampa, Texas, where Woody Guthrie experienced the Dust Bowl, and my grandpa taught math.
“I worked with Amarillo, Texas, native Ben Rollins because I needed a director who could really see what I see out there. I’m proud that we were able to show the Texas Panhandle the way it really is — good and bad.”
“Red River” is just one of the songs on Culwell’s upcoming album Flatlands (out March 3), all of which show that it takes toughness and grit to live in a tough, gritty place.
As a primer to the project, check out the CMT Edge premiere of his “Red River” video.