Rodeo professionals and country songwriters have always enjoyed a close kinship, even if riding a bull or roping a calf, and crafting the perfect country song may not seem like similar skill sets, or two sides of the same coin. From rodeo cowboys turned country singers like Cody Johnson, James Hand, and Chris LeDoux, to guys who’ve spent their careers chronicling the rodeo life like George Strait and Aaron Watson, not much fits together as well as the rodeo and country songs.
Two-time AQHA World Champion Roper Paul Bogart knows this all too well. To sing it, you first have to live it, and Paul Bogart has. Those forged on the rodeo circuit have country music coursing through their veins more than most, and won’t be caught straying too far from the roots of the music like those civilian songwriters on Music Row. Rodeo country is synonymous with music that is buttoned up and squared away, emboldened with steel guitar and fiddle, and unafraid to be country.
Paul Bogart is so traditional, even when he covers the classic Bill Withers song “Ain’t No Sunshine,” or U2’s iconic “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” like he does on his now third full-length record, they still come out as traditional country songs. The familiarity with these songs and the authentic country voice Paul Bogart brings to them might be what draws some people in. But they will stay for his originally-penned material that often speaks to the appreciation of love, life, and family.
Whether it’s a funny and frenetic account of trying to make it to the hospital as your wife is giving birth in the back seat found in “The Ballad of Exit 199,” or a much more sentimental moment paying tribute to mom in “Mothers & Sons,” Paul Bogart makes use of real life experience to put heart and genuineness into his songs.
Where so much music these days is based in grievance, on Won’t Have Far To Go, Paul Bogart sings about appreciation and simple pleasures, like in the title track that looks at all the beauty in the world, and openly wonders how much better Heaven could be, or in “Never Grow Out Of It” about holding onto the magic of things, whether it’s a truck, a town, or a significant other. This album is the antidote to envy.
Along with Paul Bogart penning many of the songs, you also have producer Trent Willmon contributing words, with guest producer appearances by Zach Farnum. Other songwriting collaborators include Jim and Brett Beavers, Buddy Owens, and fiddle player Jenee Fleenor. Paul Bogart also reprises the old Chris LeDoux cowboy song written by Judith and Ed Bruce, “You Just Can’t See Him From The Road.” But it’s the Bogart co-writes, including the enjoyable Western swing number “When It Swings” that comprises the soul of this record.
For some, Won’t Have Far To Go may be a little too fuddy duddy for their taste. “I’m Just Sayin'” also makes use of the country music beach trope, which can feel tired. There’s not a lot of stretching of boundaries or innovation to be found on this record, beyond the two obvious country cover songs of classic pop standards. This is traditional country served straight. But for those that prefer their music this way, it will fit their sensibilities quite nicely.
And besides, one of the most bold and unique things you can do in country music today is to actually play country music. Leave it to a rodeo guy like Paul Bogart to keep those traditions alive.
1 1/2 Guns Up (7.5/10)
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