Whether it’s tried-and-true traditional country, more modern Texas-style country with a little rock ‘n roll swagger, singer-songwriter stuff, or something in between, Laredo, TX-native Bo DePeña has you covered in this new self-titled record, and in only nine songs.
Who is Bo DePeña? What’s his story, and why should you care about it? Well give a listen to this self-titled album, and it all unfolds right in front of you. Often when an artist or band titles an album after themselves, it’s from the lack of a better option. In this case, it’s because this album is Bo DePeña, at least the life he’s lived over the last few years. You follow Bo from his birth in San Antonio, to his raising in Laredo, then on to Austin, New Orleans, Colorado and even New York City. What would take a boy from south Texas to such far flung destinations? As you can probably guess, a woman is partly to blame.
The beginning song of the album called “This Town” is satisfactory, but eases you into the record a little reluctantly. The voice feels average, and the style somewhat safe. Not bad, but unremarkable. But then when he lights into the fiddle-led shuffle “Long Road To Denver,” you know you’re in the right place, and the buy-in is deep. And if that doesn’t sink the hook, his tear-soaked duet “Who Will Bring You Whiskey” co-written with Hartley Hall will and performed with Brittney Blair Flinn will.
From there DePeña depicts a travelogue to various destinations as he chases down a lover, and discovers things about the world and himself in the process, until he ends up back in Webb County, Texas where he started, for better or worse. In between DePeña presents a couple of songs in “Making My Way Back To You” and “The Weed and The Wine” that could be mistaken for Turnpike Troubadours tracks if it was a different singer, before he slides into fingerpicking and acoustic tones in the superbly-written “Fit,” and the final realization his love was in vain, pining and cursing the name “Maxine.”
The album ends with “Hello Webb County” that once again reminds you of the rambunctiousness of the Troubadours, but no matter the styling Bo DePeña chooses for any respective song, it always feels perfect for the mood, while the writing is par excellence. DePeña’s voice might not be naturally charactered for hard country, but it’s confident and strong, and once you settle in with it, you warm up to his unpretentious delivery.
Playing some 175 shows in 2019 all across the United States, and opening or sharing the stage with acts such as William Clark Green, Chris Knight, Dale Watson, William Michael Morgan, and Colter Wall, Bo DePeña is a name on the rise. With his first record Montana Sky from 2018, and a new single called “Colorado Rose” released since this early 2020 record, he’s amassed a quality catalog that deserves more recognition and consideration, as does the name “Bo DePeña” as one of the quality risers in Texas country.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)
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