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{Review} Randy Rogers Band – Just a Matter of Time

Just a Matter of Time is the national release follow-up to the Randy Rogers Band’s smash breakthrough Rollercoaster. Does the new record live up to the hype? You bet it does…and more. Read the review, then pick up your own copy on Sept 12.

The Randy Rogers Band’s first foray into national territory is a tour de force of grit, gall and gusto. Just a Matter of Time is the band’s fifth effort and second with producer Radney Foster. This album finds the band building on the strength of their critically acclaimed previous effort Rollercoaster. Using the same formula and location as they had for Rollercoaster, the results are once again amazing. As with all past efforts, Rogers co-wrote the bulk of the material (10 of the record’s 12 tracks). Keeping with the familiarity theme, Rogers teamed with Foster on four of the songs and they recorded the album in Austin. Bucking the trend of using studio musicians, the band plays all their own instruments. Since the release of Rollercoaster, the Randy Rogers Band has become the biggest thing to hit the Texas/Red Dirt scene since Pat Green landed in Nashville at the turn of the 21st century. Concert crowds have grown, radio airplay has been friendly and a buzz has built around this little band from New Braunfels as “the next big thing”. Just as the Nashville system did in the mid-80’s with Steve Earle, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen signing major label deals, the fat cats in Music City are betting that the Randy Rogers Band will bring their growing fanbase and tons of new fans into the fold.

Just a Matter of Time is definitely a huge step in that direction. When describing the tunes on this album to other people, I’ve been drawn to compare them to vintage Alabama, if Alabama had recorded Gary Stewart’s songs and been produced by Waylon Jennings on a month-long bender of pinball and pills. The raw emotions that have always been the hallmark of Rogers’ songwriting are evident here. The one new element the band introduced with this project was Rogers escaping his own vulnerability and collaborating with new songwriters outside his comfort zone. Including not having written the lead single “Kiss Me In the Dark,” and probably most notably, writing with Stephony Smith who has written #1 hits for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. And before anyone starts flying the Nashville/Sellout banner, take a listen to the three tunes Rogers co-wrote with her. The most fun of the three would have to be “You Could Change My Mind”. It’s a rollicking bumpy number that has one of the RRB’s trademark melodies in the chorus. One listen to this song and it will be stuck in your head the rest of the day. The other two collaborations of Smith and Rogers are more haunting and personal. Just as he did with “Can’t Slow Down” on the Rollercoaster album, Rogers exposes his tired and human soul with the despair not seen since the glory days of the aforementioned Gary Stewart. Think of this tune as an “Empty Glass” for Generation X. Smith also brought the title track out of Rogers. For the first time, Rogers showcases the voice his parents must have loved to hear him use after his daddy’s sermons in church. The range and emotion that Rogers displays here are astounding. “Kiss Me in the Dark” is a surefire hit that should introduce the band to radio programmers who are unfamiliar with the latest darlings of the dancehall circuit. While it is true that Rogers did not write the song, it was written specifically with his voice and band in mind by producer Radney Foster and legendary songwriter George Ducas. Waylon Jennings influence can be heard loud and clear on the opening track, “Better Off Wrong”, the thumping bass of Johnny “Chops” Richardson and the strong vocal performance from Rogers set the tone for the rest of the album. Fans of the live show have heard several of the new songs at shows over the past few months. The first two that the band started incorporating into the setlists were “You Don’t Know Me” and “One More Goodbye”. The former is a throwback song that evokes memories of Jerry Reed at the height of his 70’s crest. It is an affirmative and proactive answer to the ignorant fools who will try and label this band a sellout. Richardson is the sole writer on the tune and you will find it coming in at number ten on the track listing, just as his previous inclusion on Rollercoaster, “Ten Miles Deep”. Richardson’s vintage style and songwriting are a great addition to Rogers’ growing arsenal of music. Longtime fans of the band will remember and appreciate the fact that the RRB’s initial foray into music came on the stage of Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, TX. That legendary landmark is owned by Rogers mentor, Kent Finlay. Finlay’s songwriting specialties have always been love songs, and melancholy takes on life as he sees it; much like if Mike Judge decided to pick up a guitar instead of an animator’s pencil. Just a Matter of Time finds teacher and pupil joining forces once more to produce a solid, rocking cut entitled “You Could’ve Left Me”. The chorus has a buildup and kiss off hook that will have everyone who’s ever had an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend that they had wanted out of their life singing along. Synchronicity is the word that jumps to mind to describe “If Anyone Asks”. It was co-written with Drew Womack and there hasn’t been a better match of music, lyrics and production in quite some time.

Foster’s songwriting handprints are all over the songs he wrote with Randy. Most obviously on the songs “Before I Believe It’s True” and “If I Told You the Truth”. The laidback songsmith from Del Rio has always had a knack for slice of life love and love lost tunes. These two are no different. However, the other track that Foster gains co-writing credit with Rogers on “You Start Over Your Way” may just be the strongest song on this album. It showcases all the best elements of a Randy Rogers Band song. Rogers vocals are gruff, determined, believable and out in front. Master fiddler, Brady Black, contributes some of his signature shredding, while axeman Geoffrey Hill adds some layered shredding and picking of his own. Keeping them all in time and sounding better than ever is the man behind the drum kit, Les Lawless. Lawless creates several infectious beats that would leave Mutt Lange salivating. The band’s workload has increased a great deal even since the release of the last album and the road horses show off new tricks. They are tighter and well versed throughout the entire album.

After the eruption of popularity and bandwagon jumping that accompanied Rollercoaster, many folks felt as if the follow up might suffer a slump. Those folks would be wrong. This is the strongest major label debut by a country artist in at least a decade. Rogers and company have succeeded where other acts that had their first shot didn’t. Somehow, they have managed to play the game yet keep their sound and integrity without any compromise. The band wouldn’t have it any other way, their fans wouldn’t have it any other way. And by the sounds of this album, the label will be glad they didn’t have it any other way. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is a common saying. Yet, with Just a Matter of Time, the Randy Rogers Band has managed to improve on a great thing. There is not a track of filler or one that your finger will find the skip button for. Soak it in, enjoy the ride and get ready to see this band go to even greater heights. After all, it’s all just a matter of time before the rest of the country finds out that there is still a band doing things just like it used to and should be.

-Brad Beheler

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