About the first track on All Hail West Texas, an album that originally came out in 2001, poet Zachary Schomburg has stated: "I know I'm not alone in adopting this particular song as a rallying cry for not being afraid, but that is what it became. It gave me permission for unashamed pursuit, and a sense of urgency and belonging."

He is of course referring to 'The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton', in which John Darnielle very firmly suggests that "When you punish a person for dreaming his dream / don't expect him to thank or forgive you" in reference to the two young men in the song who are split up after associating themselves with such an "aggressive" style of music. But as Schomburg has suggested, the line could be said about anybody with any kind of ambition.

This isn't the only time that Darnielle, who is currently 46, has been regarded so highly by someone who is deeply concerned with language. There was, for a while, a petition on petitions.whitehouse.gov that sought to make him the Poet Laureate of the United States. So it is clear that Darnielle's words mean a great deal to many people.

And this is, for his sake, a very good thing because, while it is likely rather overwhelming at times for him to have so many people latch onto what he says, his lyrical ability is what makes All Hail West Texas (and many other Mountain Goats albums) so interesting. A John Darnielle album (during this time of his career, at least) will never be too polished in terms of production and instrumentation - nearly every track consists of the singer-songwriter, his acoustic guitar, and the nicest sounding recording his Panasonic boombox would allow at that particular moment. Yes, it is definitely the songwriting that carries the album; his generally narrative writing style and the urgency with which he sings songs like 'The Mess Inside' have the ability to keep the listener's attention for an incredibly long time. The reissue of All Hail West Texas, with its seven bonus cuts, is just over an hour long and offers very little in terms of musical variation.

Nearly everything about the production of this album suggests that Darnielle is just a regular person singing about other regular people to the best of his ability, and it's all very endearing. There are many times, however, where there's a darker side to this reality, and Darnielle's narratives make this clear. 'Fall of the Star High School Running Back', for example, is about just what the name suggests - a young, promising athlete who is dealt a rough hand and makes some poor decisions. But there are times when things don't seem to be so bad. In 'Jenny', Darnielle sings about the protagonist/narrator of the tune and the girl for whom the song is named being "the one thing in the galaxy God didn't have his eyes on," and it doesn't seem to get any better than that.

It is actually pretty difficult to think that an album about the very personal stories of several people in the state of Texas could be so relatable, but All Hail West Texas is almost hopeful in its hopelessness. Some bad, irreversible things may happen to a few of the characters, but at least bad things aren't only happening to them. They happen to everybody. One just needs to keep at it, and be thankful that John Darnielle himself has kept at it. Mr. Schomburg certainly is, and I'm positive that many others are as well, just as they were when the album first appeared those twelve years ago.