Sherpa / Square Peg Present
Randy Rogers Band
Wade Bowen, Josh Abbott Band, Stoney LaRue
1402 Clinton St.
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 8:00 PM
This event is 18 and over
Randy Rogers Band
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.
"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.
In the fall of 2010, thirteen years to the day after launching his career at Stubb's Barbecue in Lubbock, Texas, Wade Bowen started recording this self-titled album, his first for a major country label. Those years had seen Bowen rise from collegiate greenhorn to the top of the Texas music and Red Dirt circuit. His colleagues and friends the Randy Rogers Band, Pat Green, Jack Ingram, Eli Young Band, Cross Canadian Ragweed and others had already made the major label leap, helping to take a vibrant regional sound to the rest of America. Now it's Wade Bowen's turn to bring some Red Dirt and independent spirit to country music at large.
This isn't a debut, more like a fresh start on a bigger stage. Working with Justin Niebank, a master mixing engineer and Vince Gill's producer of recent years, Bowen cut new versions of four of his most popular songs along with seven new tunes that reflect his evolving vision as a songwriter. 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 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 11 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 Niebank's sculpted guitar-scapes. The sound is one hundred percent country, rife with pedal steel and vivid emotion, but it's also music could easily find a home with fans of Bowen's non-country 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 falls 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. There, in Lubbock, he discovered the iceberg below the surface, 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 life-long love of writing into songs, and when college ended he made two major decisions. He took on the role of solo artist under his own name, 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 new record deal can be traced to his music publisher, Sea Gayle Music. It's where Brad Paisley, Radney Foster, Jerrod Niemann, Chris Stapleton and other 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. 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 "Saturday Night," which tracks the internal monologue of a lonesome hombre sitting on his stool, nursing his drink and thinking about "that sad goodbye." As the album's first single, its chiming descending guitar riff will be the first thing many audiences will 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.
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."
Bowen was extremely pleased that the offer of a deal from Sony's BNA Records included an invitation to re-work his best material. "It was a huge opportunity to make these four songs a little better," he says. "We've played them lives for a long time, and we learned from that. We changed some tempos and tried to animate them a little bit. We created more dynamics and more signature hooks. That's stuff Justin has taught me as a producer."
Among these, "God Bless This Town" is probably the closest Bowen has so far to a greatest hit. A Texas No. 1 in 2006 and a popular music video with tons of CMT and GAC play, it's got stories layered in its stories and its characters feel familiar and alive. The narrator is torn between cynicism and attachment, and the song is all the more affecting because of it. The new version has a clean, coiled energy that ought to propel it into the hearts of a new wave of fans. Also re-worked is the smoldering "Trouble" and a breezy song written by Paul Thorn called "Mood Ring" that uses a dime-store novelty as a device to get the narrator to reveal his conflicted feelings.
Now one last note, because Bowen knows it's going to be interesting to roll out a "Nashville" album to his fans. A contingent of them have preemptively made it known that they live in mortal fear of Bowen being eaten by the Music Row machine. Yes, Wade did record this project in Nashville, with Nashville session players. But study those previous albums, and you'll see that's exactly where and how he's made them all. Bowen's been making regular writing trips for years as well, working with an expanding circle of masters and taking advantage of the town's expertise and experience. Wade will tell anyone who has a low opinion of Music City that for him, it's the home of Guy Clark and Todd Snider and Rodney Crowell, of the greatest guitarists on Earth, the finest studios and producers.
And of course Nashville was the origin of those radio dreams instilled when Wade was growing up in Texas and hearing country legends on his FM radio. The calling he felt was toward authentic music that reaches people, and that's not unique to Austin, Lubbock, Waco or Nashville for that matter. It lives in the heart and the work of the artist, and those who've believed in Wade Bowen all along will find in this album and the many albums and tours to follow, plenty more reasons to keep the faith.
Josh Abbott Band
When Josh Abbott Band recorded “Ghosts” for its fourth album, Front Row Seat, Abbott
expected to redo the vocals. The final chorus had some technical imperfections, and he figured he could
improve on the performance once his heart settled down. Producer Dwight Baker, one-half of the Austinbased
duo The Wind and The Wave, wouldn’t let Abbott retouch it.
“I was actually crying my eyes out during that last chorus, and that’s why there’s a couple of
notes in the beginning of that section that don’t really explode like normal,” Abbott says. “Dwight was
like, ‘We’re keeping that. That’s real.’”
Real is the operative word for Front Row Seat, a 16-track song cycle that represents the most
ambitious and emotionally challenging project yet for JAB, a highly melodic six-piece ensemble that’s
managed to keep a foot in both the Texas music scene and the national country world. The band won four
times during the inaugural Texas Regional Radio Awards behind an upbeat brand of country that still
leans on classic instrumentation – particularly banjo and fiddle – to effect a raucous, roof-raising attitude.
The band has lobbed three singles onto the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart – including “Oh,
Tonight,” the first charted track to feature Grammy-winning Kacey Musgraves – and nabbed a Top 10
album with the 2012 release Small Town Family Dreams and reached No. 12 with the 2014 EP Tuesday
But Front Row Seat steps beyond the band’s honky-tonk inclinations for a more personal journey
as the album traverses the emotional course of Abbott’s first marriage and subsequent divorce. It was not
his original intention to depict his private life in a public way, but as he wrote the songs for Front Row
Seat, beginning before the split actually occurred, he naturally mined his emotional life for a set of songs
that were profoundly honest and revealing. It was only as they began recording the material at Baker’s
Matchbox Studios outside of Austin, that they realized they had the germ of a tangible plot.
“We started looking at the music we’d done and had a whole bunch of other songs that we really
loved and we were like, ‘Man, we could put this together and make a really neat story out of it,” fiddler
Preston Wait recalls. “Especially with the song ‘Front Row Seat,’ we basically just made it kind of like
you’re watching a movie and it’s your front row seat to this life.”
Owing to that silver-screen character, JAB employed screenwriting technique by assembling the
project with the five elements of plot structure: the exposition, or beginning; an inciting incident; the
climax; a falling action (in this case, a breakup); and the resolution.
The story begins with “While I’m Young,” in which a college-aged Abbott lives a typically
carefree existence, spending much of his discretionary income in bars and living for the moment, an ideal
that’s captured authoritatively in the anthemic “Live It While You Got It.” As the album progresses, he
meets a woman who commands his attention for more than one evening, finding himself by track 7,
“Crazy Things,” mulling what it is that would make a woman who’s dang-near perfect fall for someone so
By the time the album concludes, his once-ideal relationship has turned sour, and the two are no
longer one. The fracture becomes apparent through the resignation of “Born To Break Your Heart,” and
he discovers in “Ghosts” that all the memories that once lived with such passion and revelry continue to
haunt his memory, taunting him with whispers of a past he can never reclaim. As Front Row Seat closes
with “Anonymity,” Abbott sings a spare dirge with acoustic guitar and fiddle, fantasizing that he could
return to the start of the relationship and live it out right.
“When you’re moving on from somebody, even once you’ve accepted it, you just feel alone,”
Abbott observes. “That’s the reason the acoustic track ends the album.”
Even though Front Row Seat represents an ode to a failed relationship, it also marks what Abbott
expects to be the beginning of a new phase for JAB. One of Texas’ best party bands, the group evolved
heavily in the process of making the album. The players fully committed to a darker sound and gave even
more prominence to Wait’s fiddle and Austin Davis’ banjo, highlighting the trad-country elements in the
lineup while still infusing the influence of multiple genres in its sonic drama.
“When you get to the end of this album, you see a band that grew up before your eyes – like
literally front to back, a band that sonically changed,” Abbott says. “You never want to make the same
album multiple times, and you never want to sound the same your entire career. You know, you look at
The Beatles and you look at all these other great bands, they tweaked their sound over time, and I think
you’re gonna start to see us do that a little bit more.”
While JAB is truly a group, the name is centered on Abbott – the lead singer, primary songwriter
and band namesake – with good reason. He is a determined force of nature, and his ability to lead – to, in
essence, turn something small into something much bigger – has been a hallmark of the band since its
That start came in the mid-2000s when Abbott and frat brother Davis showed up for a few
informal gigs at the Blue Light Live in Lubbock, Texas.
“We played two open-mic nights, and we had two songs, no band. Just him and me,” Davis
recalls. “I walk in the back, and Josh is talking to the owner and the manager about doing a live record
there. And I’m thinking, ‘We don’t even have a band.’ His thing was, ‘We’ll get to that later.’ He’s
always thought that way. I’ve played in other bands but never saw anybody else with that kind of
Wait and drummer Edward Villanueva showed up a year and a half later, and in short time, JAB’s
first single – “Taste,” self-released on Pretty Damn Tough Records – found a home on Texas radio
stations. Bass player James Hertless and lead guitarist Caleb Keeter came on board circa 2010, and the
lineup has stabilized for the past five years.
“Any movie you see about a band, it’s like five or six kids that are best friends,” Wait says.
“Growing up, that’s kind of what you think it’s gonna be like. I found that in this group.”
The friendship is built on constant touring. Texas alone keeps the band steadily employed, but
Abbott and crew have built a wider concert base that includes such iconic venues as Nashville’s Exit/In,
Chicago’s Joe’s Bar, Washington D.C.’s 9:30 Club, Denver’s Grizzly Rose and Los Angeles’
Troubadour. The audience has grown in part because of the singability and relatability of the Abbott
Band’s material, which has always held something of an everyman appeal.
As personal as Front Row Seat is, the album has a ring of familiarity. Nearly everyone has
messed up a relationship or had their heart broken. It’s practically a rite of passage, and Abbott’s
willingness to tear down the walls and bare his heart lifts the project to a new level of connection with the
band’s growing audience.
“I know there’s going to be a natural reflection on me and how the album mirrors my life,”
Abbott concedes. “But I’d like to think that this is really a story that is so common that everyone relates to
it and that it’s not just about me. Hopefully people can listen to it and feel like it’s about them.”
It’s about the band, too. Villanueva used a bigger drum kit in recording Front Row Seat, laying a
little more power underneath. And Wait and Davis take a more prominent role in the sound, heightening
the country and bluegrass sides of the group without harming its modern texture.
“When we come up with parts, it’s difficult because it’s not standard bluegrass, like Flatt &
Scruggs,” says Davis. “You’ve got to do something different. It pushes you to try and make something
There’s certainly plenty new in Front Row Seat for Josh Abbott Band. The ethereal lyrics in
“Autumn” and “Anonymity” are a starting place as Abbott’s songwriting challenges country’s tendency
toward literal interpretations and storylines. The band also works for the first time with Carly Pearce, who
provides a powerhouse female presence on “Wasn’t That Drunk.” Assembling the project as a concept
album with a distinct storyline is another new approach for JAB. The tormented lead single, “Amnesia” –
with its snarling guitar solo and artsy, unsettling intro – is yet another new technique.
Those wrinkles in JAB’s development demonstrate the band’s willingness to explore new turf,
tapping musical character that might have gone unexpressed in its earlier projects. But people don’t build
character during the easy times. It comes when they’re tested by the hurts and pitfalls that accompany any
successfully lived life. Abbott, as the leader of the band, is emerging from one of his toughest tests to
date. He and the band used an ultra-honest approach to the hard times to take the next step as it moves
into its future.
“The whole band embraced this project and really committed to not only make it sound incredible
but sound different and better,” Abbott says. “It’s more mature than anything we’ve done in the past.”
More mature because it’s so honest. And so real.
Stoney LaRue didn't plan to take six years between studio albums, but there was an awful lot of life and music going on. For one of the icons of the Red Dirt Music movement, it was always about the moment that drove him to his next destination.
"I had a fiddle player and people kept telling me, 'You need to get a band'," recalls the performer/songwriter. "Live at Billy Bob's was like jumping straight into the fire: two weeks after putting the band together, we recorded the album, hit the road and did 250 dates a year. We never looked back."
Not looking back has been an earmark of LaRue's roots hybrid, a sweeping musical narrative that embraces a man's yearning, vulnerability, venality and desire. Though not meant to be a "state of the drifter" album, Velvet weighs the cost of being a man who lives by his own code against the reality it creates for others in his wake.
"I'm a big fan of looking up at night to what's out there– and there are a lot of questions that come along with that," LaRue confesses. "I'd like to think I understand myself – and the world I live in. I'm a father. I'm a husband. I'm a friend. I'm an asshole sometimes – even though I don't wanna be. I'm a seeker. I'm a player. Maybe, too, I'm trying to figure out how to share something with people that will draw them deeper into who they are, the way music does for me.
"Music can heal. It can inspire. I know that much. I don't know if this record will do those things, but I sure hope it might."
After six years and all that living, Velvet marks a new kind of cohesion for the man who's built a career on live performances. Working with award-winning producer Frank Liddell (Miranda Lambert, Chris Knight, Lee Ann Womack) and Mike McCarthy (Spoon, Patty Griffin); Velvet was recorded over three years in Nashville, and finds LaRue melting down the playbook and expectations for everyone involved.
"I met Frank through Enzo, my manager, and we spent some time together – and Frank said, 'I'd like to make a record on you,' and that was three years ago. I didn't really know what that meant, but I liked him, and liked what he said about music..."
Liddell enlisted Glenn Worf on bass, Randy Scruggs on acoustic, Glen Duncan on fiddle, Chad Cromwell and Fred Eltringham on drums, Oran Thornton on guitar and Jim Hoke on accordion, steel and flute. Recognizing the power of cohesion for LaRue's voice, Liddell recorded the sessions with everyone on the floor, letting the musicians bleed into each other's tracks. "It was Frank's genius idea to put us ALL in a room together and FEEL the songs be born."
"Chad Cromwell, who plays drums for Neil Young, said he'd not done anything like this since the '70s. All these session players, who do this for a living, really made me feel like this was something special for them," LaRue explains.In an attempt to draw out the sentiments beneath the surface, Liddell introduced LaRue to several "outsider" songwriters, including Mando Saenz. Saenz was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico and has lived in North Carolina, California, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee. He understands the reality of being a man always en route to somewhere else, the quest that is life. "There's a real non-pretension to how he writes... He's a poet, and when we start talking about life, it's amazing what comes out.
"I think I had blinders on in a lot of ways, and was surprised what was there when the blinders came off. The more I was seeing about what could go into the songs, the more layers kept being revealed."
Certainly, there is a mystical, cedar'n'sunlight-on-the-dust nature to Velvet. In "The Travelin' Kind," LaRue ponders the reality of those who stay in one place versus those who're born to drift, "The apple don't fall too far from the tree, but the apple never swam in the deep blue sea/ Maybe you're just not a lot like me..."
"When we were writing, I wanted to be honest. I think the delivery behind these songs is important. There's a vulnerability to what you do, and a potential for so much more. Maybe your life is turned upside down, but as a man you can crawl out of it, and as a father, you can take care of your family, try to help find the bigger plan."
Life isn't just about contemplation, though. There's also an edge of lust and danger. As the fiddle-stitched "Sirens" whirls through a brisk core sample of desire and life on the run, LaRue suggests that restless doesn't always mean comfortable. Nor is it the ultimate end game.
"Velvet's silky melody and gentle rhythms show the singer self-aware, recognizing that he's got too many miles behind him to deserve the person he's singing to, and yet... he wants her to touch his soul, to lighten his life, to make him somehow more.
"I've always tried to watch people," he says. "People's eyes are the windows to their soul, and when you look – even from the stage – you can tell how they're doing, what they're getting from us. It makes me want to stay connected and deliver at the same time. When people hear the songs, you can see it on their face. You can see it, too, still rippling when they're done listening to a song or leaving a show. It amazes me, really, how a little positive can undo a lot of negativity. It may not be the cure for cancer but my way of trying to help change the world, my palette has been my music"
Velvet paints a picture of what it means to be free but aware, willing but uncertain – and always, always drawn to the light. "I believe in a lot of things: Trust. Friendship. Smiling. The beauty of it all. And hope. Hope is one of the bigger ones...Somewhere out there, it'll all come together," Stoney LaRue is sure of it – and it echoes on all 10 tracks.
1. Minor must present a valid government issued form of identification. Examples include drivers license, passport, military ID, and birth certificate. (non-photo ID is acceptable for minors only). All patron's not accompanied by a parent or legal guardian must present valid government issued photo identification for entry.
2. The minor's legal guardian must attend & accompany the minor at all times.
3. The parent or legal guardian must present valid government issued photo identification for entry.
4. The parent or legal guardian must present proof of guardianship.
Please call 615-891-1781 with any questions
Absolutely no refunds - no exceptions. Lineups and times are subject to change.
Gov't issued ID required. No re-entry.
Click here for answers to frequently asked questions about our venue.