Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen: Watch This

As busy as they both are with solo careers, Texas singer-songwriters Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen always manage to find time to work together. Longtime friends, the tireless twosome hooked up in 2015 to record and release Hold My Beer Vol. I, a red dirt Country collection that owed as much to Lone Star State legends like Guy Clark and Radney Foster as it did to old-school traditionalist like George Jones and Merle Haggard.

Born out of a series of acoustic tours Rogers and Bowen undertake every year, Hold My Beer Vol. I harnessed some of the magic the duo creates on stage (albeit with a full band on the record). Thankfully, Rogers and Bowen have followed up their first duet record with a live release. Titled Watch This, the 18 song set captures the singer-songwriters completely stripped down in front of rabid Texas crowd.

From the opening rasp of Rogers’ “Tonight’s Not The Night,” to Bowen’s set-closing “Saturday Night,” Watch This proves Rogers and Bowen are all about the music. There’s no backing band, no fix it in the mix trickery, it’s nothing but acoustically rendered rawness from the two performers. Bowen’s voice holds up a little better than Rogers’ does in a live setting, but despite his short-comings, Rogers gives everything he has to the audience.

Hearing Rogers and Bowen casually trade songs on stage is an ear-pleasing experience. For those who haven’t had a chance to see the guys live, Watch This is the next best thing. Rogers’ reading of his Randy Rogers Band’s “Kiss Me In The Dark” is a bit rough, but the track loses none of it’s coolness. Bowen’s 2013 single “Songs About Trucks,” from his 2013 self-titled solo album, comes across well acoustically.

Although Rogers is not in the best vocal shape on Watch This, songs like the grooved “Buy Myself A Chance” and the salty “Too Late For Goodbye” are disc highlights. Bowen doesn’t really have a weak moment on the album, soaring on such tracks as the chunky “Trouble” and the jangly “You Had Me At My Best.” He also shines on the sulphurous “Mood Ring” and “West Texas Rain,” a new number from the singer-songwriter.

Live albums are often hit or miss affairs. The ones that have been fixed in the studio sound too polished, while the ones that are mixed straight from the soundboard and released as is are usually too raw. Watch This is as close to being in the audience at a Rogers/Bowen acoustic show as you can get, and it’s more than worth the price of admission.

William Michael Morgan – Vinyl

You. In the back, near the exit sign. Yes you – the guy in the cowboy hat and starched shirt with the scowl and pretty sister. Oh, she’s not your sister? That’s too bad. You’ve been pissing and moaning about no ‘real’ Country music being played on the radio anymore (don’t get me going on what constitutes ‘real’). Well, it’s time to turn that frown upside down, bub, because William Michael Morgan is here to breathe a bit of old-school back into the genre.

Morgan’s eleven song Vinyl won’t please the bitching set who long for the days of Merle Haggard and George Jones, but fans of artists like Randy Travis and Alan Jackson will love it. From the opening rollick of “People Like Me,” to the album-closing romp of “Back Seat Driver,” Vinyl does not disappoint. The former is a telecaster-smoked track that straddles the line between old and new nicely, while the latter is a foot-stomping number that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Blake Shelton album.

Introduced to audiences in March of this year with a self-titled EP and debut single, Morgan proves you don’t have to sell your soul to Rock and Roll to make it in Nashville. Although there’s plenty of good old-school leaning Country music being released these days, very little of it is being played on mainstream radio. Thankfully, Morgan’s voice and top 5 debut single “I Met A Girl,” an easy-going love song that will have listeners hitting repeat, were just too good to ignore.

It’s nice to hear steel guitars and fiddles that aren’t simply token props used to dress up Rock songs disguised as Country songs (Editors note: the author likes his Country Country and his Rock Rock). Morgan utilizes traditional instrumentation throughout Vinyl. The Mississippi native covers all the topical bases on the disc, as well, including good times (“Beer Drinker,” “Somethin’ To Drink About”), heartache (“Lonesomeville”) and love (“Spend It All On You”).

It’s rare for an album to live up to the hype that preceded it, but William Michael Morgan’s Vinyl does just that.

Love Hard Core Country Music? These Two Albums Belong In Your collection.

George Ducas: George Ducas

Released in September 1994, George Ducas’ eponymous debut is perhaps the most criminally overlooked release of the ’90s. The ten track collection is one of those rare albums where every song is a potential single. From the opening strains of the foot-shuffling “Teardrops,” a brilliant take on an aching heart, to the final notes of the guitar grinding “It Ain’t Me,” a Dwight Yoakam-esque number, George Ducas is solid front to back.

Whether he’s bleeding from the heart, on the top 10 hit “Lipstick Promises,” or drowning in a pool of misery, on “Hello Cruel World,” Ducas nails every song like it’s the last one he’ll ever get to sing. Unfortunately for the Texas singer he was on the same label as Garth Brooks, which meant he got lost in the promotional shuffle. George Ducas should be one the top-selling albums of the ‘90s instead of a lost treasure. Thankfully, the disc lives on in the digital world.

Kevin Denney: Kevin Denney

Released in April 2002, Kentucky native Kevin Denney’s self-titled debut featured the top 20 single “That’s Just Jessie,” a song that owed a serious debt to hardcore country artists like George Strait, George Jones and Keith Whitley. It was Whitley, in fact, whom Denney emulated vocally (to great effect) on much of his debut.

With singles like the funny bone tickling “Cadillac Tears,” and the weeping “It’ll Go Away,” both of which failed to break beyond the top 30, along with cuts like the honky tonk leaning “Correct Me If I’m Right” and the nostalgic “Daddy Was A Navy Man,” Kevin Denney was easily one of the best country albums released in 2002.

Whether it was bad timing or a lack of promotion, the album slipped through the cracks. Denney reportedly recorded a sophomore disc, but his label, the now defunct Lyric Street Records in Nashville, never released it. The singer-songwriter has since gone on to have his songs recorded by the likes of Craig Morgan and Easton Corbin. Like the Ducas record, Kevin Denney lives on in the digital world.