Album Review – Bo DePeña’s “It’s About to Get Western”

Exploring the Western side of country music is what the now third record from Texas native and current Colorado resident Bo DePeña is all about. His previous, self-titled record found this young man originally from Laredo looking for himself both sonically and personally in the expanses of country music and North America. On It’s About To Get Western, he’s found where he wants to be, at least for now. And that’s in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, making music inspired by the rugged landscapes and people found there.

DePeña borrows the title track written by Mike Blakely and popularized by Gary P. Nunn to start the set off, and then takes the reigns himself from there. To give this record the Western flavor he was looking for, he didn’t assemble a team of players from various ports of call; he called upon Houston’s two-step and swing experts Western Bling to play the role of backup band, along with the band’s drummer Gus Alvarado as producer to create a cohesive and authentic Western sound to fit behind his songs.

This results is a fruitful marriage of music and words for It’s About to Get Western, whether it’s the love story with a diabolical twist in “The Ballad of Rat Creek,” or “El Camino Lounge” that will get just about any mountain saloon or ranch hand bunkhouse jumping, or poor Bo’s love for a hard-to-tame rodeo queen in “Colorado Rose.” Infusing most everything on the record with the Rocky Mountain experience stirs the imagination and spirit while you listen.

Nonetheless, it might be the songs on the album that have little to do with Western expanses, and more to do with love and leaving where Bo DePeña’s writing excels the most. “Second Cup of Coffee” feels too slyly written, and too classically simple and eloquent to not have been picked off of some dusty old Western Swing record. But lo and behold, it sprung from the pen of DePeña. “Any Old Reason” calls upon Colorado’s mountain folk traditions just as much as country and Western, and is one of those songs that sparkles just as much from what is says as what it doesn’t say.

The album ends with Bo singing the old classic song “Smile” said to be written by Charlie Chaplin, and recorded by Nat King Cole. As much of a wild card as it may seem for a Western album at first, it’s the perfect conclusion to this work. DePeña has a good singing voice, but sometimes struggles a bit to find its sweet spot as he veers back and forth between various styles of classic country. In “Smile” and “If I Let You Go Again,” he finds his voice, which is one born about 70 years too late.

Recently deleting his Facebook and Instagram accounts, Bo DePeña is a guy that would rather be out in the woods fishing and hunting than doing the hustle to get his music to the masses. Looking over his live schedule for the upcoming summer, there’s only one date outside of the Mountain time zone. He sings what he lives and lives what he sings, and hopes the world catches on. But he’s not about to catch the disease of the modern hustle to make that happen.

It’s About To Get Western gets better with each listen, and features really excellent instrumentation and arrangement that’s fit smartly to the songs and vision Bo DePeña had for this work. Like Colter Wall, Corb Lund and others, Bo DePeña’s looking to keep the traditions of Western music alive, not just by singing them, but by living them out, so he can sing them with truth and authenticity.

1 3/4 Guns Up

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Sorry, samples not available on YouTube.

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