Josh Ward is a testament to mom and pop stick-to-it-tiveness. He and his wife have pulled his career up from the bootstraps for 15 years. Ward used to bounce around to any guitar pull that would have him while working in the oil fields. He was an early, charter member of the Galleywinter family and used to post on our forums, promote his shows and shotgun beers alongside the likes of Woodrow, Stu and HogLeg. Somewhere along the way, he gained enough traction in the Houston honkytonks with the likes of Josh Norman and Jody Booth to tackle music full time. As with anyone that undertakes the musical career endeavour, it ain’t easy. The cliche of the long, hard road is true for a reason.
All those years ago when Rick Smith and Billy Minnick conceived of a live album series to advertise their mammoth honkytonk, I doubt they could have imagined a day when it reached 50 recordings in the year 2019. But, as sure as Robert Gallagher has a monkey ready for a deserving party, the venture has worked. Recording at Billy Bob’s has been a hallmark of success in this scene pretty much since the first one. Pat Green’s landmark debut effort made it a benchmark; then the works of Red Dirt rebels like Ragweed, Boland and Stoney took it next level. Along the way the likes of Randy Rogers Band, Wade Bowen and Bleu Edmondson joined in. Brandon Rhyder, Josh Grider and Jack Ingram too. Just about anyone you can think of. The recordings are known for their cherry-picked and enhanced crowd noise and with each successive one that bar moved up higher.
Working in conjunction, Ward and Billy Bob’s have arrived at this moment together. Ward knows what he does best and so does Billy Bob’s. One creates fantastic honky-tonk dancing, buckle-rubbing music….the other is the perfect place to do that. Both are a testament to knowing what you do and doing it best. Josh Ward’s Live at Billy Bob’s record is as solid a live country record as you’ll come across. He’s got his Texas radio hits, he’s got a killer cover of ETC, he’s got the likes of Justin Cogneato and Steve Cargill managing that rhythm section…and he’s got the voice and attitude of a guy who has worked hard to get on that stage and is enjoying every second.
Billy Bob’s is a standard bearer…as is Josh Ward. They coexist. The likes of Ward fill the stage and barroom every night the doors are open in the Stockyards. This is the soundtrack to a night out in Fort Worth…where the guy on stage isn’t any different than the guy buying beer next to you. All in it together. 50 albums (21 years) and 15 years later.