Those knuckleheads out in Nashville might not even recognize the name, but down in Texas, the New Braunfels-based Bri Bagwell is nothing short of a Texas country superstar, minting #1’s on Texas country’s radio network, winning multiple Texas Radio awards, and doing it all in a region that’s just as tough for women as any in country music, if not tougher.
Not just a songwriter and a singer, Bri Bagwell is an entertainer, bringing an energy on stage that matches all the boys of Texas country with their braying, two lead guitar attack. Full of personality, with gams to challenge Carrie Underwood’s dominance of the field, Bri Bagwell is no demure songwriter hoping for you to pay attention to her little bedroom songs. She’s here to take names and chew bubble gum, and prove that women deserve a slot on the main stages of country too.
Her new album Corazón y Cabeza not only causes you to go searching for how to render special characters on your keyboard, it also delves into Bri Bagwell’s diverse influences as an artist. Though she may be synonymous with Texas, Bagwell was raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico, right over the border from El Paso, and just over the border of old Mexico too. It’s a world where Selena is just as much of a musical authority as George Strait.
Don’t worry though country fans, this isn’t a full-fledged foray into Tejano. Except for a couple of tracks, Español is not required. And if you can’t translate “Heart & Head” for yourself, no wonder you flunked out of high school Spanish. The opening stanza of the “The Dust” shows off the beauty of the Spanish language and Bri’s fluency with it, followed by the story song “Josefina” that would make Marty Robbins proud, giving this album some spice and culture. Even if it is a little cliché for Texas country artists to do a Mexican track on their records (and it is), for Bri Bagwell, it’s more natural, and fitting.
But it’s the country songs of Corazón y Cabeza that many will gravitate toward. Talk about cliché, songs about the coldness of a cowboy’s love have been done ad nauseum, but Bagwell’s “Cowboy Cold” finds new vigor for this classic country music theme, and marks one of the album’s best tracks. “The Dust” doesn’t just integrate multi-lingual verses, it’s also just an excellent composition, reinforcing the West Texas setting that gives this record its distinct character. And no matter what you think of the rest of it, make sure to stick around for the final song, “Old Together.” A final love letter postmarked to the future, this is country singing and songwriting at its finest.
Bri Bagwell really endears herself to the true country audience on this album, which isn’t exactly the case with some previous records. Though she’s always been more country than anything else, Bagwell is also not afraid to work in some rock and pop elements as well. After all, this is what tends to get live audiences more riled, and allows her to hold her own with the boys at Texas music festivals. The more upbeat “Free Man” and the infectious “Table Manners” show off Bri’s country rock side.
Though she’s found the highest reaches of success in the Texas country, Bri Bagwell’s music doesn’t deserve to be resigned to just one state, no matter how big Texas is. Corazón y Cabeza may be a great example of Texas country music with it’s excellent writing, Hispanic inflections, and some rock and pop sensibilities mixed in as well. But it’s an album worthy of a national and global audience.
1 1/2 Guns Up
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