For his sixth studio album, Keegan McInroe scared up a ghost town.
“I had been thinking about wanting to find an interesting space other than a traditional studio to do a project for a while,” the rootsy Fort Worth singer-songwriter said, and not only did he lay down tracks in Santa Inez, an abandoned mid-20th-century adobe church in Terlingua, he devoted Agnes to the Bend Bend-area town and to the Catholic martyr after whom the church is named, St. Agnes, the patron saint of rape survivors and chastity.
Historical tales and figures who crisscrossed Terlingua populate McInroe’s haunting, jazzy songs. “Boom or Bust” is about a failed mercury mining company in the 1940s, while “Talking Sight Unseen Blues” concerns gentrification and entitlement. “La Puerta” tells the old yarn of a drug-smuggling sheriff.
“Once the decision was made to record in the church, it seemed appropriate to tie the writing in with the setting,” McInroe said. “I wanted the songs to make sense and have significance within the story of the album’s recording. I enjoy writing, making concept records, so while thinking on what this album should be about, I started with the church’s namesake, Inez,” a Spanish variation of “Agnes.” “That started the wheels turning on thematic elements.”
McInroe wrote two pieces with upstart local guitarist Jack Barksdale (“Then You’ll Know,” “Man in the Ground”) and co-wrote one, “Old Road,” with star Fort Worth singer-songwriter Matt Tedder.
McInroe recorded the album with Bill Palmer, who produces records in and around Terlingua and inside Santa Inez. Several musicians traveled from the Fort to pitch in, including bassist Aden Bubeck (Miranda Lambert, Bertha Coolidge), guitarist Morris Holdahl (Thieving Birds, Simon Flory, Bogus Green), harmonica master Gary Grammer, and drummer Forris Massey. Agnes also includes contributions from Terlingua artists Palmer and Sarah Burton on backing vocals, Ted Arbogast on keys, and Doug Moreland on fiddle. Co-produced by McInroe and Palmer, the album was engineered and mixed by Palmer and mastered in London, England, by Pete Maher (U2, Katy Perry, The Pixies).
“The goal is always progress,” McInroe said. “With the creative part, I’m very proud of it, and I’m happy how it turned out, and I hope this will progress and lead to a team. … I believe this is the best album I’ve released.”
An international traveler, McInroe will tour Germany in November following Agnes’ release Friday on all streaming platforms. The gigs are part of a promotional campaign via the German company ROLA Music. Plus, he said, his band is based in Deutschland.
On the day the album comes out, McInroe will perform with Summer Dean, Cameron Smith, and Jacob Furr as part of Americana Fest in Nashville. The artists are sponsored by Hear Fort Worth, a nonprofit working to raise the city’s music profile nationally.
McInroe said he’s lucky to be able to travel the globe as a musician who’s been living off his art for nearly 20 years.
“I’m someone who is not satisfied completely,” he said. “I feel fortunate, and the lifestyle suits me, creating the reality that I wanted. I can still live a meaningful existence.”
Keegan McInroe & Band
7pm Fri, Sep 29, w/Reagan James, Katie Robertson, and Jackie Darlene at Southside Preservation Hall & Rose Chapel, 1519 Lipscomb St, FW. $15. 817-926-2800.