Mar
11

Kevin Fowler’s “How Country Are Ya?”

March 11, 2014 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  41 Comments

Oh Kevin Fowler, what are we going to do with you?

kevin-fowler-colt-fordIf anyone rolled up to this article, saw Kevin Fowler’s name, and without reading another word navigated down to the comments section to elucidate just what a cheese dick he is and how much they hate his face, I couldn’t blame them. Not that the guy doesn’t deserve kudos when considering his entire body of work and what he’s done on and off the stage to help the entirety of the “Texas scene” get its feet under it, but the guy has the propensity to put out some of the most plastic banana bullshit songs you can imagine, and during pretty much the entirety of his career, this has been the material out in front, defining who Kevin Fowler is. Remember when he was running around with women’s underwear on his head, singing a country rap song with Colt Ford? I rest my case.

Let’s face it, Kevin Fowler is kind of a shallow, good-timing dude. Fun at parties, but he’s not going to go all Jason Isbell on your ass and get you crying over an emotionally-charged Cancer song. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with that either, nor do songs like “Hip Hop In A Honky Tonk” or “Pound Sign” necessarily portray his entire body of work fairly.

But here he is doing himself no favors, and lending all sorts of fuel to the bonfires of his detractors by putting out an album with a wild-ass, caricaturist cover, a caricaturist title track, complete with an intro by Earl Dibbles Jr. doing his “crack a cold one” bit, and right off the bat you feel like you’re beholding the Disney version of Texas country.

kevin-fowler-how-country-are-yaWhen I first surveyed this album, you have no idea how much I was licking my chops to use it as the sacrificial lamb in my want to expound on how Texas country can many times be just as bad as Music Row, and in fact seems to be trending more in that direction every year. But I’ll be damned if Kevin Fowler didn’t instill enough redeeming songs and redeeming qualities to this album to where I’d feel like a bully doing anything but saying the good probably outweighs the bad.

To begin with, this is a country record. And when I say country, I mean it is positively drenched in pedal steel, with fiddle and twangy guitar right out front throughout the album, with not really any of the rock-driven sound that at times has defined Fowler’s career. From a music standpoint, and even with some of the songwriting, How Country Are Ya? is pretty smack dab in sort of that early 90′s Alan Jackson, hard country sound with a propensity for a few silly songs and an upbeat kick. Maybe Kevin Fowler is benefiting from mainstream country moving so far away from the traditional sound that his country rock flavor now feels more like authentic honky tonk, but even then I think this is a pretty purely country record through and through.

And I’ll be damned if there isn’t some pretty damn good songs here too. The tracks are quick and catchy. It’s almost like a punk album in the way the songs just seem to fly by. “Before Someone Gets Hurt,” “If I Could Make A Livin’ Drinkin’” and “Girls I Go With,” these are pretty good songs. Like Kevin Fowler says himself in the track “Panhandle Poorboy,” he’s just sort of a simple guy from the Texas plains, and I’m not sure if his lack of a deep poetic brain muscles is something we should let get in the way of enjoying the music. How Country Are Ya? even has an instrumental; the very fun “Mousturdonus”.

At the same time, there’s some real stinkers here, especially to start you off. It’s not that How Country Are Ya? is laundry list or “bro country” per se, it’s that Kevin Fowler makes his own little universe of redundancies and clichés with the sheer amount of drinking songs he does on this album and along his entire body of work. This is unfortunate because taken alone, songs like “If I Could Make A Livin’ Drinkin’” and “Whiskey and I” are really pretty good. He also has a propensity to really rehash tired country themes like “Habit I Can’t Break” comparing quitting cigarettes to quitting a girl; this has got to have been done 100 times by now, or the blatantly obvious “Borracho Grande.” “These day José Cuervo, he’s my only amigo…” Yeah, okay Kevin, could have left this one on the cutting house floor, despite the music for the song being pretty cool.

I wanted to hate this album, and I didn’t. And for a guy that once put Fowler on a “blacklist” (whatever that means) for collaborating with Colt Ford, I guess that’s saying something positive about this album even beyond the specific praises about the country instrumentation and some of the songs. At the sake of sounding blatantly obvious, Fowler could really benefit from reeling in all the bits and and drinking songs, but guess what, that’s him. He’s a wise ass. And where his last album was made with the enemy in Average Joe’s Entertainment (Colt Ford’s label), this one is on his own label. Hidden behind all the antics might be a retrenching of sorts for Fowler on this album, and though you may not like all the results, you can’t fault the man for being himself.

1 1/2 of 2 guns up.

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41 Comments to “Kevin Fowler’s “How Country Are Ya?””

  • Just want to say here, I had a really hard time grading this album. In the end I decided to focus more on the positive than the negative, but I could have just as well graded it a shade lower, but still as being more positive than negative. So there’s that.

       6 likes

    • He had me at good-bye with “Hell Yeah I Drink Beer” and as far as me is concerned he’s a minor part of the big problem and can go fuck himself

         8 likes

  • Kevin Fowler is a cheese dick and I hate his stupid face. There, now I’ll go read the artcle.

       18 likes

    • ALMAO!!!!!

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  • Fowler can be simultaneously charismatic and animative, as well as insufferable, to my ears.

    I robustly agree with your assertion that his choice of musical elements and flavors is fully consistent with the country genre, and on that basis alone I maintain a heightened respect for him as a musician. I think his love of the musical tradition is sincere.

    On the other hand, there’s something about his stage personality and evolving image that is starting to really get on my nerves. It appears to me he’s trying to have it both ways; in that he wants to seize the sex-symbol spotlight that Luke Bryan and Jake Owen are basking in right now, but have his other foot fully immersed in reverence and respect from the traditional country music community and press.

    The contrast is just too wide that it feels cartoonish. Fowler can achieve his aim of appearing charismatic and engaging to youth without making it look so haphazard and contrived. It isn’t like Fowler’s escapades with the title track and “Hip-Hop In A Honky Tonk” have done him any favors in building his presence on mainstream radio anyway. Does he really want to risk tainting his brand in the Texas scene?

       1 likes

  • For me Kevin Fowler has always been a good time. I have never thought he was some lyrical poet, but he is fun and has a lot of those anthem songs to sing along too, when you are looking to be out with friends and just have a good time.

       5 likes

  • Kevin Fowler will forever be known as the “Don’t Touch My Willie Guy” and rightfully so! (lol) Kevin does put out a decent song now and then but they tend to be few and far between and are about as rare as a Lesser Prairie Chicken (if I can believe Bobby Ewing on Dallas that is…).

       1 likes

  • To me Fowler is what he is and always has been from beer bait and ammo to don’t touch my willie to 100% Texan. His stuff has always been just good time music for the tonks nothing more nothing less. You will be entertained at his shows, hence his consistent drawing power, but no heavy darker type story songs are likely to come from his pen. Not my first choice but there is dang sure worse out there at least the instrumentation is firmly rooted in country tradtions. Now excuse me while i go back to listening to some TVZ !

       4 likes

  • The album art looks like someone held a contest for how many country stereotypes you could fit in a small image and screams “I’m a shallow douche bag with a small dick”

    I’m not even bothering to listen to it.

       9 likes

    • That cover looks like one of those Farce The Music parody album covers.

         16 likes

    • Has it occurred to anyone that the album art and highly exaggerated tropes could be partly satirical? I think it’s hilarious. I don’t think Kevin Fowler actually thinks some of the things he sings about in his songs.

      Like Jason Boland routinely admits, they all fake it. There’s a performance aspect.

         6 likes

  • While I still need to listen to this album, I had the same concerns about it that you express here. From the title to the artwork, my thought was “give me a break”. How Country Are Ya? Seriously, that’s what country music needs to GET AWAY from. I hold out some hope now though since you say its not as bad as you had expected. I would have hated for it to have brought bad attention to the Texas Country Scene, as there really are loads and loads of talented singer/songwriters out there playing Texas shows every night that deserve a listen.

    I don’t dislike Kevin Fowler. While I don’t care for his silly live shows, his songs do tend to be catchy and fun. Good beer drinking music overall. One thing I do appreciate about Fowler is his spokesmanship with the Department of Transportation and Parks and Wildlife in Texas (he’s done some commercials for them) for things such as littering and visiting state parks. At the least, he knows he can use his fame for some good in the state that he loves. That’s a redeeming quality in my eyes.

       3 likes

    • You do realize that sometimes celebrities doing things like that is a PR setup and a lot of times they’re just told to show up somewhere so they people investing in them have an advertisement bullet point.

      I’m just saying I don’t see information like that an automatically think it’s a genuine deal done out of the kindness of someones heart. The Nazi’s could have taken propaganda lessons from Hollywood and the music industry.

         0 likes

      • Well of course, but looking at this case I would bet that Kevin Fowler actually does care. A self professed avid outdoorsman imploring Texas viewers not to litter. It’s hard to be pessimistic all the time.

           5 likes

  • I just sampled “The Girls I Go With” — kinda cute, and yeah, a very ’90s feel to it. :)

       5 likes

    • Wow, someone actually listened to the samples provided and gave their opinion on them, as opposed to saying why this album sucks because of a song they hate that’s not even on it? It’s not that I didn’t anticipate this being a lot of people’s reaction, and that’s why I wrote this review the way I did. But it still somewhat alarms me to see so many people ignore the music that is right here, right now, that they might enjoy.

         6 likes

      • Hey now. Normally I read all your words and listen to the sample tracks. But the album art in this case was just too much for me.

           1 likes

  • I kind of have the same problem with Kevin Fowler that I have with a lot of Red Dirt music: the music is mediocre and the performers are legends in their own minds.

       4 likes

    • There’s nothing mediocre about guys like Wade Bowen or Randy Rogers.

         8 likes

  • I may be in the minority here, but I love Kevin Fowler. Seen him live, own several albums (will be adding this one to the collection), and I love that what you see live is exactly what’s on the CD. Sure some of his stuff is way-the-hell-over-the-top cheesy (“Beer Season” anyone?), but some of it (“Long Line of Losers”, “If These Old Walls Could Talk”, “Best Mistake I Ever Made”, “Hard Man To Love”) is as deep and heartfelt as it gets.

    I get that a lot of people see him as a mediocre singer (at times, I agree, he tries sometimes to go outside his capabilities, but that’s how one improves themselves), and some see him as just that guy that does party and drinking songs, but hell, if that’s where your talents lie, why not go all-out? You can’t deny that’s what he does. For those that take him too seriously and get all wound up about that, you’re actually missing the point.

    I’d go so far to say that he is, and has been for years, what “bro-country” is trying so damned desperately to be, the soundtrack for a damned good time. The difference is, Kevin is still country when doing it.

    On a side note, I can’t believe all the hate for “Pound Sign”. Really? That’s the song that 100% describes how I feel 3-4 days out of the week…

       9 likes

    • I would add, the difference is that’s just who Kevin Fowler is, that’s what he enjoys doing. He’s been that guy for the last decade. Whereas the bro-country guys are just doing it to be cool and get famous it seems.

         4 likes

  • Well I guess I’ll have to give this a listen then. I was a bit worried when I saw the album cover pop up in my Spotify recommendations.

    Kevin Fowler has always been one of my favorites. Just quality ’90s-esque honky-tonk party songs. First song of his I ever heard was “Pound Sign”, I laughed my ass off and me an my buddies requested it daily from the radio station.

       1 likes

  • Based off of the single “How Country are Ya” I wouldn’t even have thought about listening to the rest of the album. That song is pop country BS. I use to be a Kevin Fowler fan, even though his songwriting was simple it was good country, but lately his music has gotten horrible. And the Red Dirt scene still has some really good bands, however, the “Texas Scene” as a whole has gotten just as bad as pop country, as far as stereotype reinforcement and loss of musical integrity.

       3 likes

  • To be honest not sure bout ol Fowler. Some of his stuff sounds good then Some leaves me scratching my head. If he is what u like then by all means have at it. Me personally jus not that crazy about him as far as the red dirt / texas artists go. Personally I could care less, cause guess what, Jason Isbell is playing here in tuscaloosa this Friday night and all will be right with the world haha. What’s everybody think about Randy Rogers Band live album coming out next month?

       0 likes

  • Randy Rogers could sing Yankee Doodle Dandy and I’d still probably buy it

       4 likes

  • I really like “Panhandle Poorboy”, especially how it vividly lays out a picture of the place being depicted.

    One of the great aspects of country music, at least traditionally, is how even artists known for making silly songs can find remarkable depth when discussing their roots and their families. A refreshing recent example of this is “Best Seat in the House” by LoCash Cowboys, a duo known for their gimmicky songs.

    The ability to write so deeply about the seemingly mundane aspects of life has always served as the key point of distinction between country and pop. I worry that such high-quality songwriting may be permanently lost amidst the bro-country deluge.

       2 likes

    • Agreed — it seems like the kind of stuff country radio *should* be playing. An honest and affectionate where-I-come-from ode, without the usual countrier-than-thou boasting we get from faux-outlaws and the like.

         3 likes

  • Kudos to Trigger for holding fast to his Charter…Always try to bring the positive to the forefront no matter what the negatives may or may be.

       1 likes

  • Looks like Kevin forgot to put a good dip in.

       1 likes

  • The only album I have of him is Loose Loud and Crazy. Traditional country with party feel. Ain’t bad in my opinion. When out with friends, I would rather crank that up than Luke Bryan.

       1 likes

  • Have to respectfully disagree with the assessment of the album. So much good music in Texas to view this as “good.” At the end of the day, it’s just frat brah music.

       0 likes

  • Kevin Fowler is a bit of a polarizing figure, but the good outweighs the bad by a good stretch, far as I’m concerned. He’ll never be mistaken for Robert Earl Keen, but so what? Fowler makes some damn fine toe-tapping, sing along songs. Is that a sin?

       0 likes

  • I HATE this over-produced commercial crap. He is not even on the same planet as the genuine Texas music men-Guy Clark, Willie, Lyle, Joe Ely, Robert Earl Keen, Chris Knight-just to name a few. This just sucks. I listened to most of it with clenched teeth and squinty eyes. Texas music is still the best music, and it’s still around. If you want to hear it, go to the REAL men. They’re still writing and playing it, and it’s not plastic-it’s well worn leather.

       0 likes

  • I am curious to know what trigger’s opinion is on Cody Johnson. His last two albums A Different Day and Cowboy Like Me are pretty good in my opinion.

       1 likes

    • Cody Johnson is definitely on my radar. I hope to feature him at some point. There are so many artists that deserve mention, and only one of me.

         1 likes

  • Mississippi Lee March 16, 2014 at 8:16 pm
    Always been a fan except for the poppier stuff he tried. He just is what he is. Not too serious, but he is really country. So many of the artists aren’t. I would even say few are. Many are wannabes.
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  • Although it may be frowned upon by “purists” around here, I do like stupid, summertime, drinking a beer next to the pool country music. But I’m not a fan of the current stuff out there. I don’t have to have an emotionally deep experience every time I listen to music. I haven’t given Kevin Fowler’s recent string of albums much time, but I will throw on an old mix of some of his early stuff and just let it go and fun. “Lord loves the Drinkin’ Man”, “Beer, Bait and Ammo”, “Loose, Loud and Crazy”, etc.. It also has “I’ll Try Anything Twice”, which as far as his ballads go, is one of my favorites.

       0 likes

  • This is where I don’t understand you trigger. You make fun of people like Justin Moore for making songs like “beer time” but you praise Kevin fowler for making a song called “make a living drinking”? Talk about laundry list! More contradiction here man!

       0 likes

    • Who cares what the name of a song is? You still have to listen to it. Actually, the experience I had with Justin Moore’s last album was very similar to this one. I went in expecting it to be terrible, and ended up surprised.

      http://www.savingcountrymusic.com/album-review-justin-moores-off-the-beaten-path

      “though it would be easy and romantic to declare Justin Moore’s 2013 offering as bad enough to depose 2011′s Outlaws Like Me at the shameful peak of crap mountain and use this album as a vehicle to vent any and all unresolved anger held over from my personal life in the form of the most venomous of rants, the real truth of the matter is that Off The Beaten Path is not nearly as bad as one would initially assume.

      It’s still more bad than good without a doubt, with a strong contingent of country checklist songs eroding any redemptive moments on the album and then some. But I was surprised how unpredictable this album was, how some songs took a really progressive approach instead of just relying on rock guitar riffs, and how many slow, meaningful songs made the final cut.

      The only reason the song “Old Back In The New School” could be considered bad is because it’s coming from Justin Moore, rendering it hypocritical. But on it’s own, it’s not too shabby. Neither is the slow and sincere duet with Miranda Lambert “Old Habits.” In fact, it’s downright good, and wouldn’t be a bad contender for the “Vocal Event” categories of the big country award shows. If it weren’t for lines like “We work hard, play hard, take our paychecks straight to the Wal-Mart. Girls will out drink you, boys will out Hank you…” the song “This Kind Of Town” could really be something sensational in the way the song is crafted.”

         0 likes

  • I refuse to listen to bro country. And I’m more of a rock guy than country so I’m not as familiar with some of the names as you guys.

    Here’s my question. Has Fowler done an interview where he reconciled his ‘hair metal’ days to what he’s doing now? Unless someone explains to me why I’m way off base, I have a hard time imagining a guy being sincere and genuine singing and writing country music when two decades ago, he has long hard and was thrashing to metal. Help me understand that….

    It also brings to mind a guy from Austin that was in a fantastic band in the early to mid 90s – Tyrone Vaughan. His band was really good and it wasn’t country. His pedigree is, of course, from his dad, Jimmie and his uncle Stevie. I lost track of him for a while and, lo and behold, what happened? Well, now he’s doing country.

    I wonder why these guys end up doing country?

    I heard a podcast with the Great Sturgill Simpson and he made a comment that struck me. He said when the hair metal fad evaporated in the early 90s, all those producers left LA and went to Nashville. Those guys are now the entrenched producers in Nashville. So what you have now coming out of Nashville is Poison with a fiddle. Interesting take by ol Sturgill.

       0 likes

  • One last thing. Tyrone ‘used to be’ Tyrone Vaughan Fullerton. Wonder why he dropped one name?

       0 likes

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