In the liner notes of William Clark Green’s Ringling Road, the final Thank You Green throws out is preceded with the tongue-in-cheek—but ultimately truthful—“the next big thing out of Lubbock, TX, Dalton Domino.” He’s sitting across from me with a pair of fresh tacos and his typical “aww shucks” grin strewn across his face. A Blue Light flame tattoo is cut off by a rolled up sleeve.
In early May, Domino released his debut album, 1806, a collection of battle-tested love songs, West Texas country howlers, and a handful of “fuck you” ballads that cut straight to the bone. After spending the better part of two years playing at The Blue Light Live on Monday nights amongst the other Lubbock up-and-comers and long-lost forgottens, Domino began to take shape as a songwriter.
While named after The Blue Light’s address, 1806, really isn’t about the life of struggling songwriter. Rather, it’s a collection that hits the ups and downs of declining relationships and grasping for some sense of relief.
“’Killing Floor,’ that was the song that really brought everything together,” says Domino. “It really brought the band together.” In the early, early days, Domino and fellow (and former) Front Porch Family Band players would sit on the porch, play a few new songs, and drink a few beers before heading off to Blue Light to do it all over again.
For a guy with as much momentum as Domino, he really never talks much about the success of 1806, his budding career, or the like unless he’s prodded with questions. There’s still a hesitation and unsureness lurking within. He hasn’t even mentioned his recently inked booking deal with The Paradigm Agency or the upcoming push for his third single, “Jesus and Handbags.” He’d rather talk about his songwriting buddies and those who came before him.
“I may be bias, but I think Lubbock puts out more successful and genuine songwriters than any place in Texas,” says Domino. “A place like The Blue Light, it’s like a lineage.” It’s a real Steve Earle standing on Dylan’s coffee table kind of declaration. He wears those influences on his sleeve.
It’s not a sense of entitlement either. Though he’s tagged as that “next big thing from Lubbock,” he doesn’t wear the claim like a beacon of privilege. And even with a signature Johnny Cash pose on the cover and a blown-up copy already hanging on a Blue Light wall, there’s a healthy dose of humility with Domino.
“Will [Clark Green], Red [Shahan], and Charlie [Shafter]—those three I think have had a bigger impact on me than Sturgill, Willie, Waylon, or anyone else playing now. It’s not that I don’t like their music, but for me, those guys are real people.”
He goes into favorite songs by each, listing reasons and recalling lines. “They write about things that go straight to the gut,” Domino says.
There’s more than a handful of gut-punching lines scattered across Domino’s 1806, with none more honest than the final line of the album on closer “7 Years”: I guess the things you might want at 16 ain’t what you need at 23.
It’s on songs like this that Domino admittedly isn’t bored with yet. Even with 1806 hot off the presses, he’s already speaking about what’s next. It’s one thing to be a rising sensation and someone who has their sights on longevity and leaving a mark.
There’s no slowing down. There’s no easing off the pedal. TM