It’s go time on the gridiron, and the weather is theoretically cooling across the Lone Star State. While it may mean Pumpkin Spice Season for some, it’s the official start of Tailgating Season for many others.

From stadium parking lot parties to backyard get-togethers, it’s the magical time of year when it’s cool enough to go back outside as we fire up our grills, smokers, pits, and open flames. Burgers and brats are great, but for me, it’s all about the brisket, ribs, sausage, and sides that make this season so special.

While many states claim to have the best barbecue (aka BBQ), a clear and definitive end has been put to the debate over which state has the best barbecue. Spoiler alert: It’s Texas, and there isn’t a close second. Austin, San Antonio, and Dallas consistently rank among the top barbecue cities in America, and many smaller Texas cities are quickly growing in national reputation. The competition over barbecue perfection is fierce here as more and more dives, joints, trucks, and restaurants are popping up statewide.

As the post oak produces burnt ends across the state, Principal/Associate Creative Director Jason James has fired up a new Spire on Spotify playlist that sounds as good as it smells. It’s called Vol. 48: B2BBQ. Because where there’s smoke, there’s Spire.

Jason, what is the name of your album?

My playlist is called B2BBQ. It’s a homage to my personal love of barbecue, and a tip of the cowboy hat to the award-winning creative piece Spire initially created in 2021.

As you may or may not know, our B2B agency created a self-promotion piece where we designed our own packaging for a special barbecue sauce. The Original Bold and “C-Suite and Sassy” sauces won countless industry awards, including North Texas’ only national ADDY at the AAF American Advertising Awards.

How would you describe this mix?

Sometimes it’s low and slow, other times the heat gets turned up. We start with some classics and then let some new artists crank out some fire tracks. Texas barbecue is a mixture of old and new, with some 100-year-old institutions alongside newer establishments expanding the fold with cutting edge ideas who are pushing the culinary genre forward. This playlist represents these old and new flavors that reflect the colorful history and future of Texas barbecue.

What was the inspiration behind it?

I’ve traveled far and wide, all over the southern United States in search of barbecue perfection. I’ve eaten from some of the most legendary pits on planet Earth. Texas barbecue truly is a culinary experience unlike any other. It’s decadent, it’s raw, its messy, and it’s blissful.

I appreciate classic, tried-and-true spots like Blacks or Kreuz Market in Lockhart, as much as I love to try forward-thinking places, like Distant Relatives in Austin or Hurtado in Arlington. There was a point where I was worried that since I’d had the best tray of barbecue possible, which is at Goldee’s in Ft. Worth, that I’d have nowhere else to go from there.

Then, a couple weeks ago I made the trek to a place that had a lot of buzz around it: Barbs-B-Q in the heart of ground zero for Texas barbecue, Lockhart, Texas. There, I had a revelation. The future of Texas barbecue won’t be about brisket perfection; plenty of places have already achieved this. It will be about growth, experimentation, and new ideas carried along by a new generation of skilled pitmasters.

What is your favorite song, and why?

“Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. This song is universal, a classic: The deeper you fall in love, the more dangerous it gets. And if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

If your playlist was a brand, what would it be and why?

Tabasco. A staple for adding heat to any dish, Tabasco has been around since 1868. The first documented Texas barbecue joint opened 10 years later in Bastrop, Texas. While the Tabasco brand has ancient history with its signature Red Pepper Sauce, the company has not shied away from experimentation in recent years, thus paving the way for a future of flavor.

Any specific memory that comes to mind when you listen?

As a kid, I often went camping with my family. My dad would bust out a cast iron skillet, which he’d place over the fire for dinner. Then he’d cut up sausage and fry it to the point where it would develop a blackened crust on the edges. This acclimated me to the char and smoke that I’d later seek out in the Texas barbecue scene.

What makes your playlist unique?

This playlist is a mixture of old and new tunes, akin to the sometimes classic and other times cutting- edge cuisine of modern Texas barbecue. It’s perfect for that road trip towards destination barbecue. It gets your cravings going that will surely be satisfied once you’ve driven long enough and waited in line for that fall-off-the-bone experience.

That playlist is totally on point (cut), Jason. And thanks for stoking our creative juices. Stay tuned to the Spire Blog and Spotify Channel for the smoke to rise on our next agency playlist.

Jason James is a Principal and Associate Creative Director at Spire – AMA DFW’s 2023 Agency of the Year. Jason is a designer and one of Dallas’ most-awarded creatives.