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.

Time Machine: Radney Foster – Everything I Should Have Said

Far away from the mainstream machinery that creates a lot of fake good ole boys and girls (and outlaws alike); beyond the smoke and mirrors of modern top 40 radio, is where the majority of heart and soul artists live and breathe. Texas son Radney Foster is one such artist, a singer-songwriter who has always resided somewhere on the outskirts of ‘Guitar Town’. A from-the-gut vocal delivery and an ability to craft tales that cut to the deepest part of the listener’s soul set Foster apart from his peers.

Even though he flirted briefly with the mainstream as one half of the duo Foster & Lloyd in the late ’80s, and as a solo performer in the early ’90s, Foster has always been an outsider. The singer’s 1992 Del Rio Texas, 1959 major label solo debut produced four top forty singles, including the top 5 hit “Nobody Wins.” A few short years later, however, and Foster was thrown on the scrap heap of artists who didn’t fit the mold in Nashville and left for dead. But good art always finds a home, and Foster cut an indie path in the Americana world.

Everything I Should Have said, released on May 13, 2014, was Foster’s third full-length release for his own Devil’s River Records label, and his first album of new material in five years (his tenth album over all). The twelve track collection is as raw and real as anything  Foster has recorded in his career. From the sultry “Whose Heart You Wreck,” a smoky blues-injected number with junkyard instrumentation, to the unrestrained honesty of the disc-closing title cut, Everything I Should Have Said is a pure singer-songwriter record.

Foster slices his artistic wrists and bleeds all over the grooves of the album; he squeezes every last ounce of soul from his heart on songs like “California,” “Mine Until Morning” and “Lie About Loving Me.”“Not In My House,” an emotionally driven track that hits back hard at hate, is one of the most powerful numbers Foster has ever penned:

“There’s a guy on the street with a sign that says God hates fags, and that’s so wrong/ And it crushes my soul to see evil burn so strong/ Stones and sticks, politics, the devil holds your coat while you get in your licks/Why do we think so small when God’s so big,” Foster sings, before continuing, “‘Cause you don’t talk to my friends that way/You don’t talk to my brother that way/And you damn sure don’t talk to my daughter that way.”

Although his songs have been record by some of Country and Americana music’s best artists, hit makers like Sara Evans, Gary Allan, Keith Urban and the Randy Rogers Band, it’s Foster’s own readings of his compositions that pack the biggest punch. Expect Everything I Should Have Said to spend a lot of time in your stereo.