Album Review – Randy Rogers Band’s “Homecoming”

If you’re looking for the band that veritably defines what Texas country music is today at its zenith of appeal and popularity, it is the Randy Rogers Band, period. Koe Wetzel may get a few more folks through the gates, and a few more bras thrown on stage these days, but that’s not really country. Other big acts have most certainly come out of Texas, but they end up becoming something else, and more synonymous with Nashville or country music at large as opposed to a distinctive sound of the Lone Star State. The Randy Rogers Band has always kept it Texas. They are the official Texas house band.

And if you’re looking for a record that veritably defines the Randy Rogers Band, Homecoming might not be a bad choice, even if it’s being released here 20 years into their tenure. On this album, they do what the Randy Rogers Band does best, which is deliver songs that are immediately appealing, emotionally involved, and don’t ask too much from the audience. To usher in their third decade as a band, they’ve leaned into their original approach even more, evoking their own style and music as an influence in an effort that is emblematic of their earlier songs and albums that have gone on to become synonymous with the Texas sound.

If we’re being honest, the Randy Rogers Band never ventures too deep. Songs from this album like “Nothing But Love Songs” about the radio playing sappy tunes while you’re trying to nurse a broken heart, or “Leaving Side of Town” about cheating on your lover, or “Small Town Girl Goodbye,” they all work along long-established themes and tropes of country, even if the words themselves are original. This fosters the feeling of nostalgia, but it only occasionally delves beneath the surface where deeper and more fulfilling moments can be found.

There is an element of safety and predictability to the music of the Randy Rogers Band, and to Homecoming specifically. But in this case, maybe “safety” and “predictability” shouldn’t necessarily be taken as pejorative. The approach of this record was to work in modes of the past, almost like a retrospective, just rendered in new material, with another Texas music institution in Radney Foster administrating the effort as producer—a role he also played throughout the aughts for the Randy Rogers Band when they were building the foundation they stand proudly upon today.

The music is that of the Randy Rogers Band and nothing more. It’s most all mid tempo, with the Texas fiddle ever-present in the songs, and some guitar solos interspersed between fairly standard verse/chorus structures. No outside players were called upon, even though some of these songs scream for a steel guitar solo or something else. But they wanted stick closely to the sound they’ve established, and what you see live, which is a pragmatic hybrid of country, rock, and just enough adult-oriented pop to make the appeal wide.

The asset of this particular album is that every single one of the eleven tracks holds a strong attraction, and immediately so. After 20 years, they known what they do, and they know how to do it very well. Bringing in co-writers like Drew Kennedy for “Picture Frames” results in a more meaningful moment. The only song not co-written by Randy Rogers is “Fast Car” by Randy Montana, Wendell Mobley, Lee Miller, and may get some Americana fans rolling their eye at the premise, but is nonetheless one of those songs that feels like a classic in the Randy Rogers/Texas music universe.

Parker McCollum, John Bauman, Jack Ingram, Radney Foster, and some other mainstays from Texas and beyond also contribute songwriting credits to Homecoming, but this album remains all Randy Rogers Band, which means some beyond Texas country fandom may not exactly understand the appeal, call it similar to mainstream country just with slightly more roots, or say there’s just not enough substance to steal their attention.

But down in Texas and within the diaspora of Texas country fans living beyond the state’s borders, the Randy Rogers Band is the compass point for what Texas country is, and Homecoming is as splendid of an example of it as any other, with striking appeal in every track, never letting you down, and exemplifying everything that Texas country is supposed to be.

1 1/2 Guns Up (7.3/10)

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