The Randy Rogers Band

The Randy Rogers Band

Randy Rogers Band: Trouble

When a band spends the bulk of its year on the road, its members are bound to have their share of trouble and strife. But only the truly talented are able to take those trying experiences and turn them into enduring art. The Randy Rogers Band is one of those few, and they’ve transformed coal into diamonds yet again on their latest album for MCA Nashville, Trouble.

Teaming up for the first time with producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Cage the Elephant, The Wallflowers), the Texas five-piece—vocalist/guitarist Randy Rogers, guitarist Geoffrey Hill, bassist Jon Richardson, fiddle player Brady Black, and drummer Les Lawless—dove headfirst into songs of loss, love and, above all, truth.

“No matter what, trouble always finds us. And that title honestly sums up the last two and a half years of making this record,” says Rogers. “At times it cuts deep and you can hear the pain, but it’s honest, it’s real. On the flip, we like to have a good time and you can hear that too. ”

During that time, the band and its extended family suffered an assortment of calamities, including the untimely death of Richardson’s brother. Instead of letting those events derail them, the band pulled together tighter than ever and allowed their personal experiences, pain and loss to seep into their work while hunkering down in the studio with Joyce.

“Getting Jay onboard pumped us up, made us work harder, and made me more creative. I think it reenergized our band,” Rogers says. “It was a blessing. The timing couldn’t have been better.”

A blessing for both the group and for their passionate fan base, w ho will no doubt connect with the 11 tracks of Trouble, the band’s eighth album. The band has always enjoyed critical acclaim, thanks to their signature blend of outlaw edge coupled with guy-next-door charm. This album takes that duality to the next level.

The first single “One More Sad Song” is a heart wrenching autobiographical tale of the end of a relationship. The sorrow in the lyric is tangible and echoed by a soaring, haunting chorus. “Fuzzy,” with its dirty, swampy groove, is the hazy recollection of a night that many have heard of and only a few have had. And “Speak of the Devil” is about one man’s efforts to forget his ex whose name and memory haunts the darkest corners of his mind. “I came in here to drink to drown you out and watch you sink…to do anything but think. Speak of the devil.”

“This album is a little more out of the box for us. We pushed the envelope intentionally, to try to grow and experiment with our sound in the studio. Knowing the depth of Jay’s talent and his genius, we were all willing to take a chance to expand our range. We felt comfortable in our skin with him and were able to try sounds that are a bit out of the ordinary,” Rogers says. “Glad we took those chances.”

On “Fuzzy,” for instance, the band uses wrenches and cooking equipment to add texture and layers to the sound. The payoff, a unique album with roots that run deep.

“We’ve grown as a band with this record. But I still don’t think we could make an album without the soul and passion that that embodies Texas music and it’s heritage,” said Rogers. “I am definitely proud that we are from Texas. We got our start here and cut our teeth here. To me, it’s the whole reason I have a gig.” Rogers continued, “Without growing up dreaming to be George Strait or Willie Nelson, there wouldn’t be a Randy Rogers Band.”

As such, there’s a certain cachet attached to the group—an authenticity that can’t be manufactured, and one that is often coveted by other artists.

“We work hard touring, building up our fan base and putting on a good show night after night, over 200 nights a year. I feel like people have grown to respect us for that.” Rogers is nonetheless honored by the group’s three consecutive ACM Award nominations for Vocal Group of the Year. “It’s validating. The ACM nominations, and even the regional awards we’ve won in Austin, mean a lot to the band. I can’t tell you how proud we are every time we hear that we’ve been nominated.”

And they’re equally proud of the fact that their hero Willie Nelson graces “Trouble Knows My Name,” a true-to-life song about the perils of the road that recalls the Red Headed Stranger’s own “Me and Paul.”

“We went out to Willie’s studio to record his vocal and guitar tracks. That is a day I’ll never forget. Having him on our record and being able to be in the studio while Willie Nelson was recording, priceless.”

“In the verse that Willie sings, there really was a guy hanging halfway out of our bus after a show in New Orleans,” Randy says. “We scared him off, and he came back and threw a bucket full of concrete through the window trying to get back in.”

“If I Had Another Heart” is a track that honors one of the band’s influences, Radney Foster, who produced three of the group’s previous albums. “We’ve always been huge fans of Radney and we always try to include him in our records. He was one of my first mentors and I’ve learned so much from him. ‘If I Had Another Heart’ is an incredible song, it really fits what we do as a band on the stage. We were excited he let us cut it, we hope we made him proud.”

Which is exactly where the band excels: on the concert stage. Under those bright lights they actually develop new songs, reinterpret old favorites and, most importantly, forge a connection with their audience before heading back to the studio and employing what they’ve learned. Such was the case with Trouble.

“We like to view albums as snapshots. It’s a photo of where the five of us are and where we came from. We made this record as a team and we’re really proud of it.

It showcases who we are as a band and we got to include some of our heroes—and you just can’t beat that,” says Randy.

As Wade Bowen looks ahead to the full-length release of his major-label debut and his emerging transition from regional success to national prominence, there was one vital dynamic affecting the timing: his fans. Across five independent albums and a decade-plus of touring, Bowen not only amassed a string of regional hits and awards, but also the kind of fan base whose passionate anticipation motivated the timing behind the May 2012 release of The Given, a 10-song collection and his first new music since 2008’s If We Ever Make It Home.

Indeed, in the fourteen years since Bowen launched his career at Stubb’s Barbecue in Lubbock, Texas, he’s risen from collegiate greenhorn to the top of the Texas music and Red Dirt circuit. His colleagues and friends Pat Green, Jack Ingram, Eli Young Band and others had made the major-label leap, helping to take a vibrant regional sound to the rest of America. Now Bowen is poised to bring that Red Dirt and independent spirit to country music at large.

Make no mistake, this collection is a document of artistic evolution. Longtime fans (and there are quite a few of them) will hear the Bowen they’ve known and the next steps on his journey. They’ll get better acquainted with the ballad singer who doesn’t often get a chance to show that side of himself in honky tonks. Newcomers will hear a head-turning country artist with range, road-tested hits and one of the best male voices in the business.

That voice truly jumps out of these tracks. Wade’s baritone is dense and concentrated, with traces of whisky and smoke and an autumnal warmth. Bowen takes command of his songs, cutting over the top of producer Justin Niebank’s sculpted guitar-scapes. The sound is one hundred percent country, rife with pedal steel and vivid emotion, but it’s also music that could easily find a home with fans of Bowen’s rock idols – folks like Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne. Take a few passes through this project and you’ll hearing a singer’s singer and a focused songwriter who’s adding layers to his music all the time.

“All this work and the care we’ve taken with this album just fall in the category of trying to get better,” says Bowen. “When it comes to my intent as a musician, I’ve not changed anything since day one. I’ve only tried to mature and tried to get better, and I think this record is representative of that.” On a live circuit where the overwhelming mandate is to stir up a party, Bowen has aimed to leave folks with a memory. As a writer, even one from a state with some tall literary traditions, he’s not trying to earn a PhD in poetry; he’s trying to communicate. “My style,” he says, “is more to try to evoke an emotion. I’m more about trying to leave a mark on people.”

Growing up in Waco, Bowen’s exposure to the music of Texas was limited to whatever made it on FM country radio. George Strait was king. Guy Clark was a name he’d not have recognized before getting to college. But at school, in Lubbock, he discovered the full spectrum of Texas artistry, starting with Robert Earl Keen. “He was a big changing point in my life,” says Wade. “I realized by listening to him that there was way more out there than I ever knew. So I started getting into Guy Clark and other great Texas music. But I was obsessed with Robert Earl. When we started the band we were sort of a Robert Earl cover band.”

That band was called West 84, and they found that with their large posse of friends who’d always show up for a good time, it was easy to land gigs. Bowen meanwhile began to channel a lifelong love of writing into songs, and when college ended he made two major decisions. He took on the role of solo artist, and he moved to Austin. By then, about 2001, fellow Waco native Pat Green had busted out to national prominence and the Texas music phenomenon was the buzz of Nashville. It was part of Wade Bowen’s inspiration to charge ahead.

Try Not To Listen is the album Wade regards as his true debut, the project that kicked off a life and living made of 200-plus nights a year on the road and patient grassroots fan development. Then with Lost Hotel in 2006, things really began to click. The opening track “God Bless This Town” reached No. 1 on the bellwether Texas Music Chart, and over the next six years, he released six more chart-toppers and three additional top fives. He achieved another landmark when he was invited to add his name to the roster of great artists who’ve made a Live At Billy Bob’s CD/DVD combo at the iconic club in Fort Worth. With a decade that good, it was inevitable that Music Row would become interested.

The origins of Bowen’s Nashville record deal can be traced to his music publisher, Sea Gayle Music. It’s where Brad Paisley, Radney Foster, Jerrod Niemann and others do their songwriting, and in 2010, it was the first indie company to be named ASCAP Country Publisher of the Year since 1982. Sea Gayle has a track record of investing in artists and helping them reach their potential, and that’s how they’ve worked with Bowen, ultimately backing this album and introducing its independently made sound to Sony Music Nashville. Step one in that process was to find a producer who could preserve Wade’s vision yet find the sweet spot that would help his music have its best chance at country radio. “Of all the producers we talked to, Justin Niebank was the only one who said, ‘I need to come down and see you live,’” says Bowen. “Well, after 13 years of doing this I’d hope someone would want to see what we do, why we have fans. He totally got it and based the whole sound of this record around that.”

That live immediacy certainly throbs on disc-opener “Saturday Night,” which tracks the internal monologue of a lonesome hombre sitting on his stool, nursing his drink and thinking about “that sad goodbye.” Its chiming descending guitar riff will be the first thing many audiences hear from Wade, his calling card. Also likely to grab listeners early is “Patch Of Bad Weather,” a brisk, rocking take-down of a treacherous lover. It paints dramatic pictures of a stormy Texas landscape and it kicks like a gun. A further highlight is a cover of Guy Clark’s “To Live Is To Fly,” in a duet with the man himself.

Bowen has also taken advantage of his recent songwriting sessions and the comfortable studio environment fostered by Niebank to develop his love of ballad singing and the emotional side of country music. “All That’s Left” brings strings into the mix, and it works. Bowen sounds at home. In “Say Anything,” a guy can’t think of a thing to say to a girl he’s just met except gush on about the one he let get away, so he shuts up and listens. Its chorus will surely make some leading male country singers wish they’d been given a shot at the song. “I love those songs like that. Sad ballads,” says Bowen with an apologetic shrug. “That’s where my passion is. ‘Say Anything’ is one of my favorite tracks on the record.”

So think of The Given as a gift to the fans and a teaser for even better things to come. Wade knows full well how much his fans have given him over the years, and he’s more than happy to plan a long career ahead giving everything he can back.

“This record, like everything in my life, is not necessarily what I planned or even asked for,” says Wade. “But this is, thankfully, what has been given to me. I’m a very lucky and blessed man. And I have The Given to thank for that.”

adv tix $16.00 / day of show tix $18.00


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