If you’re a Texas music fan, you’re probably not too terribly concerned about how “country” the top flight artists such as Josh Abbott, Wade Bowen, or the Randy Rogers Band are. Their songs are way better than whatever the mainstream is slopping out these days, and probably more country too, and that’s good enough for you. But if you’re a country fan first—and find favor with mining the Texas scene for music—these same guys may not fit the bill just right, except for the occasional song or two.
Specific to Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen, they seem to save most of their hard country stuff for their side project together, “Hold My Beer and Watch This.” But if you ever wished for Wade Bowen to take his knack for songwriting, and lean just a little bit more into the country sphere, then his latest album Somewhere Between The Secret and the Truth may just be the one to hit the spot for you.
No, Wade Bowen doesn’t slather on the twang thick and heavy. That’s not what his fans want, nor is that what’s true to Wade. But combining songs of heartbreak with a little extra steel guitar on this one, it makes Somewhere Between The Secret and the Truth just as much “country music” as it is “Texas music,” while not forgoing the type of songs that are easy to love, and have earned Wade Bowen a wide and omnivorous audience.
The album starts with a very contemporary-sounding rhythmic guitar part that may make you think you’re getting another one of those Texas country albums that leans a little too much on “pop sensibilities” for your honky tonk heart. But really where this album started was in the writing process, building out from well-written compositions where Wade worked with the renown names like Lori McKenna, Eric Paslay, Drew Kennedy, and Randy Montana to make an album that would appeal to everyone who believes lyricism is one of the most important ingredients to any good song regardless of style.
It’s country tearjerkers like “Burnin’ Both Ends of the Bar,” “If You Don’t Miss Me,” and “It’s Gonna Hurt” that fit right into the sad-songs-make-me-happy world, along with a few honky tonk boot-scootin’ scorchers like “Honky Tonk Roll” and “She’s Driving Me Crazy” that make this record one more hardcore country fans can find favor with.
“A Beautiful World” both co-written and featuring Lori McKenna is a fine song, though maybe a little too syrupy for some ears. But goodness, when Wade drops “A Guitar, A Singer, and A Song” also co-written with Lori McKenna and featuring Vince Gill, it’s really hard not to feel it at your core. If nothing else, this song anchors Somewhere Between The Secret and the Truth as a release worthy of your attention.
You also have songs that don’t necessarily require intent listening, but still don’t make you feel silly. Small town songs are a dime a dozen in country music, but there’s just something about the nuances and delivery of Wade Bowen’s “The Secret To This Town” that make it more meaningful and sentimental than when someone like Jason Aldean does it for the 17th time.
Just like the Randy Rogers Band, the Josh Abbott Band, and other top artists in the Texas music scene, Wade Bowen is never going to be the super-twangy 2nd coming of George Strait that some may want him to be. But Wade Bowen can’t focus on that. He can only focus on being Wade Bowen, which has always been found in the blending of country with more contemporary rock and pop elements. It just happens to be for this particular record, the country influences rose to the surface a bit more, and those country fans who’ve always appreciated him for his songwriting and country cuts are certainly here for it.
1 3/4 Guns Up (7.5/10)
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