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{Review} Wade Bowen Lets Go

SelfTitledWhen I wrote this cover story feature piece for Lone Star Music magazine five years ago, Wade Bowen was in a period of self-induced creative transition. Switching his band up, expanding songwriting partners, bringing in new producers, booking agents and management.  That gamble certainly paid off.  Now as 2014 is coming to a close, Bowen is yet again pushing himself forward.  However, this time it’s by going backward somewhat.

What I mean by that is Bowen’s latest record is free of the pressure of having to make it.  He’s made it.  On his own, gambled terms.  With this new record, Bowen is free to gamble in a new way: by listening to his heart completely. Following the muse of your soul isn’t always easy when you have a band, crew and family of dozens relying on you.  Free from the confines of fitting into any preconceived boxes or external pressures, Bowen delivers his finest collection of songs.

Bowen’s always had a wide creative palatte fostered by a varied. personal music fandom.  Yet, the stuff he laid down in the studio always maintained a heavy, serious overtone that belied the more lighthearted facets of his personality.  This new incarnation features a healthier balance of “Walking Along the Fenceline” alongside “Drinka the vodka!”

All of these career adjustments and freedoms allowed Bowen to make a well-rounded record that accentuates all his best qualities, but with a newfound experimental side. The country aesthetic is woven into each song via Bowen’s voice, but the instrumentation and production is a sonic soundscape of varied textures, vibes, styles and sounds.  Originals mix with co-writes (Will Hoge, Sean McConnell, Randy Rogers).

One of the coolest tracks is a cover of “Honky Tonk Road” that features Rogers, McConnell and Cody Canada joining Bowen.  This tune first gained notoriety after it was covered by Walt Wilkins and his Mystiquero bretheren.  Bowen and company take the song in a new, yet equally powerful direction. Lead single, “When I Woke Up Today” is an upbeat, radio-friendly tale that does a fantastic job of embodying the theme of the entire collection.  The free-wheeling attitude of this collection doesn’t negate the emotional power of songs such as “West Texas Rain” and “Hungover” (two of the strongest songs Bowen has ever recorded).

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The most striking thing about the self-titled Wade Bowen album is that it feels as if listeners are finally getting a peek at the real Wade Bowen.  He’s given us pieces for 15 years, but on this effort he’s pulling no punches, showcasing all the skeletons, and welcoming judgement on a scale that most vulnerable artists and songwriters don’t welcome.  Bowen has let go of any ties that bind him and laid it all out there for the world to see.  Happy, reflective, amusing and somber.  All the aspects of his personality are on display.  It’s so rewarding, as a fan, to hear this much honesty in a record.  It comes out Tuesday October 28th and I think it’s the best thing he’s ever done.  It’s easily in my top 3 favorites of 2014 and I hope you’ll dig into it as much as I have.

 

{Review} Loco Gringo’s Lament Turns 20

by: Damon Rodgers

rwhIt seems 20th anniversaries of albums are everywhere now.   Off the top of my head, I know that Shelby Lynne, Wilco, and Todd Snider are all celebrating twenty years of something.   Of course, some of that is because of the resurgence of vinyl, which makes it a win/win for both the artist and the consumer.  I was curious about one of the albums I consider to be in the top ten of best albums ever written, and lo and behold, it was put out in 1994 – making this year the 20th anniversary.

Ray Wylie Hubbard is a great songwriter.  Undisputed.  Most known for songs like “Snake Farm”, “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother”, and “Screw You, We’re From Texas”.  He is also known for his live shows that combine wit, rock ‘n roll, blues, country and humor, often self-deprecating.

However, with the release of LOCO GRINGO’S LAMENT in 1994, he became much more than that.  He became one of the smartest men and one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard.  Each song holds up on its own, but as an album, each song bleeds into the next, culminating with the last three songs that show more than any other, the songwriting genius Ray Wylie really is.

Listen to it.  I dare you.  Listen to it and try not to feel, try not to think, try not to empathize.

Twelve songs – all linked thematically by despair, tragedy, hope, redemption and love.

“Dust of the Chase” sets the tone for the entire record.  Simple, straight-forward, haunting.  Illustrates the dichotomy of man.  The album’s internal struggle of good vs evil and believing vs non-believing is personified by the gambler himself.  The song is full if great verses, including “Patience is a virtue that I don’t possess” and “And when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I take along Samuel Colt”

“Love Never Dies” is a ballad and “Little Angel Comes A-Walkin’” is a blues number that picks up the tempo of the album a little bit.  “After the Fall” is the classic redemption song.  I don’t ever want to say autobiographical, however, his voice as the narrator oozes credibility.  This song is not a story about hope, it is telling you that there is hope and he forces you to believe it.  There is the same feeling throughout the album and especially on “I’ve seen that Old Highway”, “Bless the Hearts of the Lonely”, and “Didn’t Have a Prayer”.

“Wanna Rock and Roll” is probably the most famous song on the album.  Covered by Cross Canadian Ragweed and featured on several albums, it is the rocker of the album.  (However, the best version of this song is on his live album when he incorporates Johnny Cash and Lead Belly songs into “Wanna Rock n Roll.”)

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{Brad's Corner} October 2014: Dinosaur Cycle

{Brad�s Corner}

There’s just something about the Texas Music scene that defies logic.  It may be the staid and repetitive nature of the music the last few years or the extremely overcrowded market. Right or wrong, there is a pecking order based on who started first and not necessarily talent in many cases. Guys that have been doing it since the late 90’s, even if unoriginally and without reaching their full potential, are handed virtual lockdowns on venues and top notch musicians.  In essence, the scene is like a big high school; with several acts who should’ve graduated long ago still hanging out like Wooderson in the movie Dazed and Confused.  Texas music is like a big bubble that forces you to breathe improperly until you emancipate yourself from it.

I’ve said it before and it bears repeating. Our scene is a lot like the hair metal movement of the 80’s. It sprung out of a hardcore LA club and rock scene. It was vibrant and competitive. It was a spirited and friendly competitive environment in which the bands attempted to snag a record deal, the hottest girl in the club that night, or the best blow and/or smack from some top rate dealer. Sometimes all three in one night.

The market was flooded with wannabes, burnouts, has-beens, never-weres, talents, no talents etc. All trying to jump to the next rung.

Sound familiar?… Keep Reading

We’re All Gonna Miss Glen Campbell

As Glen Campbell enters the final stages of his fight with Alzheimer’s, his family has released his final recording.  A moving, poignant, emotional tune called “I’m Not Gonna Miss You”.  It’s a powerful piece of art on the same level as Johnny Cash’s “Hurt”.  When paired with Campbell’s fine 2009 cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” you get a sad, yet fitting self-made tribute to an artist that we will all miss.

 

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Damn Good Dozen

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The Twelve Project is one of the coolest things to cross our path in quite some time.  Located in Galveston it’s one of those things that uses good music for a good cause.  Very unique.  Just read its own description:

Armed with a camera and a roll of film, 12 musicians are capturing their view of life behind the mic. In addition to performing in a TWELVE concert series running through December, each will choose one photo for public display and Artwalk auction.

We didn’t get this blurb posted in time for you to actually bid on the artwork this go around but with the backing of folks like Hayes Carll, Ian Moore, Walt Wilkins, Drew Kennedy, Jamie Wilson and more we’re pretty sure this isn’t the last the TWELVE project will be deserving your attention.  There are still two fantastic concert events upcoming.

November 20 with Walt Wilkins and Matt Harlan

December 12 with Ian Moore and Drew Kennedy

 

To find out much more information about this worthwhile and cool project (and how you can get tickets to the gigs) check this link:
http://www.twelvepeople.org/events/Keep Reading