Wade Bowen Displays His Best in Self-Titled LP
Some will tell you that when you get to the very top of Texas country it becomes difficult to tell the difference between it and Nashville. It’s true that with your foremost Texas acts like Eli Young Band, Randy Rogers Band, Josh Abbot Band, and Wade Bowen, there’s an element of pragmatism to their sound. Texas country has traditionalism plenty covered with artists like Aaron Watson and Jason Eady, but some of the bands will mix a fair bit of rock and roll flair into their music, and worry more about captivating an audience than capturing strict interpretations of country music’s traditions.
This however is not necessarily a knock on them. This in itself is a tradition of Texas country that can be traced back to Willie and Waylon. Some country artists who happen to be born in Texas leave for Nashville as soon as they can and never look back, and those are the ones who quickly become synonymous with Nashville instead of the Lone Star State. Others can’t stay gone from Texas no matter how hard they try. The suits in Nashville have just enough sense to understand that something truly special is going on in Texas and that they want to be a part of it, just like a lot of Texas acts know that to bust through the corrugated tin roof of Texas country, at some point you have to make the dreaded trek to Music Row.
I-40 is well-grooved with the rubber of Texas country acts coming and going. You’ll have a band try their hand at the Nashville thing, like the Josh Abbot Band, and meanwhile another is calling it quits and heading back home, like Wade Bowen. They meet up at a Chinese buffet in Little Rock and swap stories about pencil pushers who beat themselves up trying to tame the wanton talent of Texas with only marginal success. Texas country artists are nice enough to give anything a shot with an open mind, but stubborn enough to refuse to be pigeonholed. It’s the perfect formula to drive Music Row completely mad. But they’ll keep trying, because Texas artists are the ones with the authenticity they yearn for.
Wade Bowen tried his hand with the big boys, specifically BNA Records with his 2012 release The Given. It brought him a Top 10 country album, which is a career achievement he can be happy with. But now he’s back releasing albums independently. Almost as a playful parting shot of his experience with the big time, Bowen released a track called “Songs About Trucks” written by Brandy Clark and Shane McAnally ahead of this new album. Antagonistic and timely, it took Bowen’s star and made it shine even brighter. It was assumed (at least in some corners) the song was the lead single from this new album, but Bowen was wise to keep it off and leave it out there as its own animal. The acrimonious nature of “Songs About Trucks,” though justified and poignant, doesn’t really fit the mood and spirit of this project.
Ahead of this self-titled release, the buzz was immense. There was a sense this wasn’t going to be simply another Wade Bowen album—that his experiences of the last few years helped Wade see himself for who he really is, instead of who everyone else wants him to be.
Two songs in, and this album already delivers on any promises and expectations preceding it. “When I Woke Up Today” written by Bowen and Rodney Clawson is the type of song nobody has the balls to record anymore; songs that are both deep and sunny. And Bowen has something that trend chasers can never top, which is an established sound that immediately upon hearing it fills the listener with a warmth of familiarity. You pop this record in, and you’re immediately swept over by a change of perspective like the opening song portrays.
This is followed by “Sun Shines on a Dreamer” and a very similar mood-enhancing effect. Not just the lyrics, but the drums and bass on this song really emphasize the natural tension and resolution of the tune. Excellent arrangement and good writing makes this song one of the top standouts of the project. This album is marked by some really big songs—songs that tend go on to define a career. Yet another is the waltz-timed and mood heavy “West Texas Rain.” Count it amongst Wade’s greatest, written by Bowen with Travis Meadows.
Where you get into the material that some may say strays too near a commercial mindset, you come to a song like the up-tempo and rocking “When It’s Reckless” with its screaming guitar solos and rambunctious attitude. A couple of songs—“My California” and “Hungover”—take a smooth, almost R&B approach in the production, even though the heart of the story could still be considered a country song. The more country offerings are the solid “My Leona,” the aforementioned “West Texas Rain,” and one of the funnest moments of the album, “Honky Tonk Road,” which sees Randy Rogers, Cody Canada, and Sean McConnell each sing a verse. Other special guests on the album include Will Hoge on “When It’s Reckless” (which he co-wrote with Bowen), Sarah Buxton on “California,” and Vince Gill on “West Texas Rain.”
Releasing a self-titled album seven albums deep into your career is making a statement. “This is me,” Wade Bowen is saying, and with a cadre of great songs turned in on this album, “me” in regards to Wade Bowen is something worth listening to.
1 3/4 of 2 Guns Up.
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November 3, 2014 @ 9:39 am
It’s not even noon on Monday, two reviews have been posted this morning. people are still commenting on the anything goes review and complaining about a lack of positive material. keep up the good work.
November 3, 2014 @ 9:55 am
It’s a really solid album all the way through and we pretty much have the same thoughts on it. I’m glad Wade is back to making music he wants and you can tell he enjoyed making this one. It’s pretty easy to understand why Nashville wanted him, but unfortunately for them he’s just too damn good for Nashville.
November 3, 2014 @ 11:21 am
Amen , Josh ! …too real and personal and a fresh vocal sound that Twangtown isn’t the least bit interested in these days.
November 3, 2014 @ 10:02 am
Stoney and Wade with two great album reviews in the last week…glad to hear these guys getting some love. Now if only Randy Rogers Band can get their act together…
November 3, 2014 @ 10:10 am
I actually thought the two new songs on the latest Randy Rogers Band live album were pretty good, “She’s Gonna Run” and “Satellite” were both very solid.
Likewise, I thought the last original album they did “Trouble” was much better than their last couple albums. I think they are rounding back into form somewhat, even at their “worst” they never stunk as bad as Casey Donahew or Josh Abbott.
November 3, 2014 @ 5:45 pm
Several years ago RRB was my favorite band. Rollercoaster, Just A Matter If Time, and the self titled album were all great, in my opinion. I thought that several songs on the last few albums were well written, but the production of the songs wasn’t their style. I did like She’s Gonna Run though. Randy’s a great songwriter, and they are great live, I just wish they would shake off some of the Nashville sound.
November 4, 2014 @ 5:30 pm
I think they seem to be little by little. I thought “Trouble” seemed to be walking the line with a few songs sounding very mainstream Country, but a number were pretty traditional and while it’s always hard to judge for sure, the two new songs were pretty solid as well. I think part of the problem they have, something Randy has been open about, is they are almost too big to just a Red Dirt act, but not big enough to be considered a mainstream act. That seems to force them to play both sides somewhat which hurts their overall product a little.
November 3, 2014 @ 11:04 am
A fantastic album. There’s a lot of great here, and you hit on the head, “West Texas Rain” might be one of his best ever. I really enjoyed “Watch Her Drive” and “Long Enough to be a Memory” as well. This album is certainly his best since “Lost Hotel”
November 3, 2014 @ 11:08 am
I love this album. I can’t get enough of it. I couldn’t find one bad moment on it. There were maybe a couple of songs I might not put on repeat, but there is not one track I would skip.
November 3, 2014 @ 11:32 am
Very Radney Foster-ish , to my ear , in terms of being able to connect to listeners so effectively with a seemingly personal observation . Almost like a one on one emotional experience that has been left uncluttered arrangement- wise BUT complimented by exactly what it needed musically . ( Key word here is ‘complimented ‘ , Twangtown , not ‘buried’, ‘ambushed’, “derailed’ or ‘pigeon-holed ” by some radio-friendly but song-destroying production )
November 3, 2014 @ 7:00 pm
Actually, the key word would be “complement”.
November 3, 2014 @ 7:13 pm
Not trying to be a dick because I agree with your point. As it was your key word I am just noting it should be complemented not complimented as they mean two different things.
November 4, 2014 @ 11:31 am
I sit corrected……
November 3, 2014 @ 12:25 pm
Wanna know something funny? I actually plan to include Songs About Trucks as a bonus track in this album. Already had this album pre-ordered and paid for via Amazon, but I’m letting it sit in my hard drive until next week because I wanna play it alongside Garth’s “Man Against the Machine”.
A little fun-fact for y’all, Vince Gill makes an appearance with Wade on “West Texas Rain”
November 3, 2014 @ 12:29 pm
My apologies Trigger, I missed the part where you included him in there, sometimes I read a little too quick.
November 3, 2014 @ 3:19 pm
I am very pleased to see Bowen get this album review.
I know this is saving country music, and that is the focus. However, there has always been something different about Wade Bowen. Bowen does not have the same traditional, honky-tonk sound like a Sturgill Simpson or a Dale Watson. However, good music is good music. His sound itself may not diverge a whole lot from some of that of Nashville, but his content is what draws me in, there is a lot of great quality to Wade Bowen’s music whether it is country or not.
I appreciate good songwriting and good music, as I know you do as well. I liked it when you made the distinction that just because a song is country doesn’t mean its a good song (I think you were talking about Aaron Lewis). Wade Bowen, is the flip side of that same coin, he may not have the most country sound but he makes great, timeless, music. There is a real substance to his lyrics that hits home with me and tells a story.
November 3, 2014 @ 4:40 pm
Was trying to think of something to say but joe, u basically took the words right out of my mouth. Everything u said, I concur. I think this is wades best work and his substance is what drew me in years ago. Not the fact that there was a fiddle or steel guitar. It’s just damn fine music. Between him and Randy Rogers I usually am captivated by everything they put out. Like u said, guess it’s jus easily relatable. Really can’t wait for wade and Randy’s acoustic live album next year!! Thanks for the review as well Trigg!!
November 3, 2014 @ 3:43 pm
Listening right now. On “West Texas Rain” ”“ Wow! I’ve always enjoyed Wade’s output and this album is up there with his best work.
November 3, 2014 @ 3:56 pm
Haven’t listened to this one much to have a fair say but Wade has lot of good songs, nice to see a review of him. I will have to listen some more, and as for the Stoney Larue one, it is excellent, nice to the see OK and TX guys getting some coverage on here! Heck I will listen to anything from Wade Bowen to Sturgill Simpson to Jackson Taylor to J.P. Harris and The Tough Choices.
November 3, 2014 @ 4:07 pm
Nice! 🙂 “When I Woke Up Today” and “Sun Shines on a Dreamer” especially sound like the kind of stuff country radio should be playing more of.
November 3, 2014 @ 7:13 pm
I saw Wade and Randy Rogers play at the Ryman a month or so back. West Texas Rain was my favorite new song in Wade’s set, but the coolest part was when Randy Rogers and Seam McConnel came out to sing on Honky Tonk Road. The coolest part of the whole show though Randy Rogers encore, which started off with Brady Black coming out and twin fiddling “Faded Love” with the piano player/other fiddler, saying “Who’d have thought you could actually hear a fiddle in Nashville, Tennessee?” and then finished with Radney Foster coming out and paying on the last couple of songs.
November 3, 2014 @ 8:14 pm
While Wade won’t ever top “If We Ever Make it Home” as far as albums are concerned, this self titled release is a completely different beast. It’s a tremendous combination of every single style of music that Bowen loves. He claims to love John Mayer, particularly Mayer’s album “Continuum,” and you can hear that all over Hunger. Another Mayer moment is in the arrangement of Sun Shines On a Dreamer, which sounds like it would have fit right in on Mayer’s brilliant album, “Born and Raised.”
Wade Bowen is simply the best that Texas offers in regard to its most popular artists.
November 3, 2014 @ 8:19 pm
This album is killer. I was listening to it for the first time on my way to work and it is one of several albums I’ve found lately (Sturgill, Jason Boland and Ryan Bingham come to mind) where I can’t skip a song and every track has its own unique flavor. More respect to him for going the independent route and putting out an album that’s satisfying from top to bottom.
November 4, 2014 @ 5:32 pm
Also of note is that Adam Hood’s new album came out today and is very good as well, not sure Trigger will have time to review it, but it’s a really solid album even if I wish he has included his take on “Same Kind of Different” that Lee Ann Womack cut. Between Adam Hood, Wade Bowen and Stoney Larue’s new albums, it’s been a nice few weeks to be a Texas Country fan.
November 13, 2014 @ 9:13 pm
Great Wade Bowen album. Sweet Leona really captured me as well as Long Enough to be a Memory.