Photograph by Kiki Houston
Ron Steven Houston has more hand tattoos than most people.
Originally from West Monroe, Louisiana, Ron Steven Houston is best known from his time playing with the Sickstring Outlaws, whose album Johnny Drank Jack was nominated Best Local Recording at the 2013 San Diego Music Awards. He was diagnosed with Covid-19 at the end of October. “I suffered severe symptoms for almost two weeks: fever, chills, body aches, no taste or smell, and hallucinations from the daily fevers. I don’t remember much about that two weeks of being insanely sick. My lungs are not the same, but seem to be slowly getting better. The coughing is not as bad as last week, but deep breaths are not easy. My smell and taste are not back all the way, but better than when they first went away.”
Fatigue remains a major issue. “Doing simple things takes a lot out of me. Brain fog is another symptom that I’m battling. It’s very frustrating to not feel like I’m in reality. I’m having short term memory problems, and I’ve had two very scary incidents while driving on the freeway, actually hitting a center divider because I was in a dream state and only snapped out of it when I hit the divider. The brain fog is the weirdest and scariest thing I’ve ever dealt with. That being said, I’m so grateful to have survived the severe symptoms, but I’m definitely not the same person I was before getting covid-19. I have no idea how long these lingering symptoms will last, or what if any damage to my lungs, heart, or brain the virus may have caused. Only time will tell. I’m fighting every day.”
Houston says he holds no ill will toward whoever gave him the virus. “I’ve been playing the risk game and it caught me…I tried my best to be safe but, as a singer, was not able to wear a mask while singing. I blame nobody for this. I know I got the virus playing out. I love trying to give my friends and family time away from whatever problems they may be experiencing in their lives by playing music for them. I knew there were risks, but was willing to take those risks to put smiles on my friends’ faces. I assume all responsibility for catching this very real and very damaging virus.”
Houston has released several albums with the Sickstring Outlaws, as well as contributing music for Buckshot: The Movie, which includes a Sickstring original as well as Houston singing a song written by director Josh Smith. They also collaborated with Liberty Call Distilling to produce their own brand of liquor called Electric Moonshine, which is sold online, in stores, and at shows.
His upcoming solo album is called A Long Road Home. “It’s my first ever solo CD. I’ve been sober for over a year now, for the first time since I was 14, and started writing songs to keep my mind busy. I kept wondering how my fans who know me from the Sickstring Outlaws would take my new musical direction, which is more like John Prine and Ryan Bingham. One day on my walk, I had almost talked myself out of doing a solo CD, and I turned onto a street and there was a car with the license plate that read ‘Ballads.’ I knew that was a sign and I had to do it. The CD is my own personal and spiritual release of things deep inside me.”
The album’s first single “Take a Walk With Me” is inspired by the protests over the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. “I’ve been called a sellout for writing the song because I was, and I quote, ‘sticking up for the blacks.’ I knew right then I had hit a nerve and the song had to be heard.”
According to Houston, “When people ask me what made me finally want to do a solo CD, I tell them I don’t really know. I’m not the driver on this journey anymore. I’m the passenger. I’m going wherever it takes me.”