Tag Archives: Wade Bowen

Collaborative Review: Wade Bowen–Solid Ground

For our first collaboration of 2018, Brianna and I discussed Wade Bowen’s first original solo album in four years.

Conversation

Megan: So, Solid Ground. Seems like an appropriate title. Very solid album, and very much feels like Wade Bowen settling fully back into the Texas scene after not making a solo record in four years.

Brianna: I think it’s fitting, too. He’s getting back into the swing of things after a long delay in albums.

Megan: Yeah, it’s certainly nice to have some new Wade Bowen music, well overdue. This one has some nice Mexican flavor as well, like Vaquero from Aaron Watson. I enjoy that. Would be nice to see this continue to be a thing in Texas music.

Brianna: I’m definitely in favor of more Mexican flair in my Texas country. I have a lot of love for the sound of the accordion, so the fact that it shows up here makes me very happy.

Megan: The accordion makes an appearance on several songs. We also get some Spanish guitar licks and even some mariachi style stuff on “Day of the Dead.” This song is one of the highlights for me.

Brianna: “Day of the Dead” is awesome. It both calls to Mexican beliefs and talks about lost love. It’s a standout for me both lyrically and musically.

Megan: Yes, and it has some excellent metaphors, like saying the love between him and his ex has “gone home to Jesus.” Actually, it’s interesting that you make that connection with this song, tying the themes of death and lost love together, because both death and lost love pop up in several places on this album. Or maybe not exactly lost love, but not necessarily love going smoothly. “Couldn’t Make You Love Me” and “Broken Glass” are obvious examples, and “So Long 6th street” alludes to this as well.

Brianna: Also my favorite song, “Anchor.” It also has those metaphors in spades, like the rock versus a stone. He wonders if his partner still loves him, and if he’s her anchor, or if he’s just a rock she drags around. I love it because he’s speaking about a mature relationship, where you think things would be perfect, but instead, he’s wondering if everything has become boring to her.

Megan: “Anchor” is one of my favorites too, and it also explains where the title Solid Ground came from. AS for the death side of the equation, it arrives in the heart of the album on two very different songs. There’s “Death, Dyin’, and Deviled Eggs,” which is reflective and almost peaceful. And then “7:30,” which is either a reference to the time of morning or to the fact the song goes on for over seven minutes–or maybe both–but it captures the exact moment the narrator finds out a loved one has died.

Brianna: Both of those songs are great. “Death, “Dyin’, and Deviled Eggs” explores all of the inane things that we do when someone passes away. Like you said, it’s both sad and peaceful, though it could be seen as partly bitter, seeing as things do go according to a sort of routine whenever there’s a death. It’s an interesting song.

Megan: That’s interesting, I never thought of it in the bitter sense.

Brianna: Well, I just think you could take it as him feeling wrong about how quickly and by rote someone is laid to rest, if that makes sense.

Megan: It makes total sense, good point.

Brianna: As for “7:30,” it puts you right there in the moment. It’s a very painful song, and the fact that things are included like coffee that’s not even cold just makes it all the more real. I will say, though, that I did get a bit bored at the extended instrumental side of things in that song.

Megan: Man, it was exactly the opposite for me. The instrumental allowed me to sit and think of people I’d lost and what that felt like. It was a very real and painful moment for me as a listener that first time, and it’s as if the writers and producers sensed that, like Wade knew he needed to get out of the way of the song and in turn allow that song to become uniquely relatable and heartbreaking to everyone who heard it. I will say that I was not overjoyed by “Acuna” head of the release, but in the album context, “Acuna” was exactly what I needed after this, and it took nearly the whole song to get my head clear. This is why album context and song placement are two sorely underrated concepts.

Brianna: You know, I never thought about that part of the song in those terms. I think you might be onto something there. I agree about “Acuna,” that it’s a song I like better now that I’ve heard the album. I like how reflective it is.

Megan: I think it fits in very well with the Texas theme. It’s very much a Texas record without really being obvious. There’s “So Long 6th Street” about Austin, and that song, and the Mexican undertones, and other little atmospheric things. And something you pointed out to me as well, the excellent cover of “Calling All demons.” I’ll let you tell them more about that because I had not a clue, but the point I’ll make is it’s a very Texas artist thing to do to cover another Texas artist. Also to collaborate with other Texas artists, like he does with Jack Ingram and Miranda Lambert, but not in the way of Nashville, where everyone’s name is always on the track. They do it more out of a sense of family. All those little things point to this being his Texas album. It’s sort of like something you said to me earlier, that Wade Bowen’s made a Texas record without actually saying “Texas.” And I’ll add here, without doing anything dumb and cliché like one would normally do on such an album.

Brianna: He’s made a great Texas record. It does make me wish I knew all the places he talks about because I imagine anyone who does will have a great time with this album. In regards to the cover of “Calling All demons,” I think it’s a good one. It’s slower and less bluesy than when Seth James sang the song on the album Adventus by The Departed, but Wade Bowen certainly makes it his own. His version is more thoughtful, like the majority of the songs on this record.

Megan: I’ll have to hear that version, thanks for bringing my attention to it. As for thoughtful, I think that perfectly sums up this record. Good variety of instrumentation and subjects, and some very interesting songwriting. Not quite perfect, a filler moment or two, but nothing downright bad or even quite skip-worthy. All in all, very solid, like its title suggests. Nice slice of Texas country music. Solid 8.5 from me.

Brianna: I would agree. I do think this album needed some more upbeat moments, (so even though I don’t love “Fell in Love on Whiskey,” I think it was needed.) The instrumentation was very cool. The lyrics were reflective and thoughtful overall. I, too, give this a rating of 8.5. This will probably end up as my favorite Wade Bowen album.

Collective Rating: 8.5/10

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Album Review: Sean McConnell’s Self-Titled Album

Rating: 9/10

One of the most enjoyable things about being a reviewer is the ability to introduce people to new and deserving artists. Sean McConnell’s name is not new–he has had an established name in the Texas scene for fifteen years, recording numerous albums as well as writing for better-known artists like Wade Bowen and the Randy Rogers Band. But for casual fans and many serious fans of country music, his new self-titled album will be the first encounter with Sean McConnell. I will immediately say it is not strictly country; some songs are more country than others, but the album leans more toward Americana, or perhaps the rock side of the Texas/red dirt sound. As I’ve said often, it is not the album to buy for fiddle and steel, but there is a lot to love about this album.

The album opens with “Holy Days,” an upbeat, pop rock song about the early days of the band and a girl from the past. McConnell has said much of this album is autobiographical, and this song seems to reflect that, pointing to the days when his band was starting to gain popularity. The driving production fits this song and sets the tone of the album. “Ghost Town” follows–this one is more country rock and sees McConnell visiting his old hometown, only to discover everything has changed, and the people here are all strangers. He sees everything as it once was, but it will never be the same. The lyric “I can’t tell if I wanna build a shrine or just burn it to the ground” captures the conflict in this song perfectly. “Bottom of the Sea,” a re-recording from an earlier EP, is more of the upbeat style found in the opener. the lyrics shouldn’t be overlooked, though–“the hardest part of living is knowing that you’re gonna die, trying to leave a legacy with only so much time. I don’t know about you but I’m getting sick and tired of living on the surface and in between the lines.” The lighthearted production can distract a little from the seriousness of the song at first, but after a couple listens, that starts to add to the song.

Beautiful Rose” is the first song I would call strictly country. The stripped-back production and country instrumentation work well here, as McConnell sings about how life is not always what you expect it to be–“but I’ll take the thorns for this beautiful rose.” It’s a simple, quiet moment on a mostly upbeat album. ‘Hey Mary” is a fun, lighthearted song about trying to make Mary fall in love. McConnell says she can crash at his house, and he will sleep on the floor and let her vent about the guy who made her cry. He says one day he will sing her this song and prove that he knew all along she would fall in love with him eventually. “Best We’ve Ever Been” sees a couple just spending a day together, celebrating their years together and that they are still just as much in love–“Baby, we had no idea, and I would do the same thing if we did.” It’s a simple little song that paints love as just wanting to spend time with each other.

One of the definite highlights of the album is the autobiographical “Queen of St. Mary’s Choir.” sean McConnell sings about his life as “the product of desire between the guitar kid from Hudson and the queen of St. Mary’s choir.” He embraces the characteristics he got from both his paretns, and that he became a musician. Another highlight is “Running underwater”–this one sees McConnell dealing with personal struggles and calling on Jesus to help, if indeed God is out there. The imagery in this song hit me the first time–“Oh, what a dream I had last night. I could not scream, I could not fight. And the more I pushed, and the more I pried, it got harder and harder, like running underwater.” The production and the lyrics blend perfectly here, and it is one you should just listen to. “One Acre of Land” is another very country song and another highlight. McConnell says that he doesn’t have a lot of money but “we could build a dream right where we stand on one acre of land.” It’s another one that speaks for itself with a listen. The album closes with “Babylon,” a song in which a broken relationship is compared to Babylon. This is another one like “Running Underwater,” where the songwriting paints wonderful pictures. “we’re a tattered flag where the mighty fell, we’re a rusty coin in a wishing well, we’re the only lie that you couldn’t sell, Babylon.” Sean McConnell sings this with incredible emotion, and the song builds throughout to match the intensity. It’s an excellent way to close a great album, although ten songs leaves me wishing it were a bit longer.

Overall, this is a great album. The songwriting is excellent in places, and although it isn’t the most country thing out there, it fits within Americana well. It blends styles nicely, and the production on each song works well with the lyrics. Sean McConnell said this album was somewhat personal and autobiographical, and it reflects that authenticity. This is definitely an album worth checking out!

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Country Exclusive’s Essential Songs of 2015

I thought long and hard about this, and since Country Exclusive did not come into existence until halfway through the year, and therefore did not do as many reviews as other sites, I am not going to name a 2015 Song of the Year. There are surely songs that I did not review which would make this list if I had reviewed them; in fact, a few on this list were not covered here. As for the album list, I will have nominees and an Album of the Year, as I did cover most of the essential albums of 2015. But here is a list of songs from 2015 that I feel everyone should definitely check out! If you have overlooked any of them, please correct this now. They are listed alphabetically, and not by any sort of rank.

Essential Songs of 2015

1. “After the Storm Blows Through” by Maddie & Tae
2. “Ashes” by Lindi Ortega
3. “Be my Baby” by Whitney Rose and Raul Malo
4. “The Bird Hunters” by Turnpike Troubadours
5. “Bienville” by Jason Boland & the Stragglers
6. “The Blade” by Ashley Monroe
7. “Bound to Roam” by The Black Lillies
8. “Bramble Rose” by Don Henley, featuring Mick Jagger and Miranda Lambert
9. “Burning House” by Cam
10. “Cost of Living” by Don Henley, featuring Merle Haggard
11. “David” by Cody Jinks
12. “Dixie” by Ashley Monroe
13. “El Dorado” by Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen
14. “Fall out of Love” by Turnpike Troubadours
15. “Ghost Town” by Sam Outlaw
16. “Good ‘ol Boys’ Club” by Kacey Musgraves
17. “Half Moon” by Lindi Ortega
18. “Has Anybody Ever Told You” by Ashley Monroe
19. “Heartland Bypass” by Jason Boland & the Stragglers
20. “House on a Hill” by Kasey Chambers
21. “If the Devil Don’t Want Me” by Ashley Monroe
22. “Just Some Things” by Jamie Lin Wilson, featuring Wade Bowen
23. “Knives of New Orleans” by Eric Church
24. “Long Drive Home” by Turnpike Troubadours
25. “Need for Wanting” by Courtney Patton
26. “Oh Grace” by Kasey Chambers
27. “Pageant Material” by Kacey Musgraves
28. “Record Year” by Eric Church
29. “Roots and Wings” by Miranda Lambert
30. “Shut up and Fish” by Maddie & Tae
31. “So This is Life” by Courtney Patton
32. “Somebody to Love” by Kacey Musgraves
33. “Something More than Free” by Jason Isbell
34. “Speed Trap Town” by Jason Isbell
35. “Standards” by Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen
36. “Suffer in Peace” by Tyler Farr
37. “Traveller” by Chris Stapleton
38. “Too Late to Save Me” by Kasey Chambers
39. “War of Art” by Courtney Patton
40. “When I stop Dreaming” by Don Henley, featuring Dolly Parton

There are many more, but I had to stop the list at some point!

Texas Music From Oklahoma: A Look at the Texas Music Chart (October 19th)

Texas Music Chart

1. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen–“Lady Bug” (up 2)
2. Bart Crow–“Life Comes at You Fast”
3. Curtis Grimes–“Smile That Smile” (up 1)
4. Casey Donahew Band–“Loser” (up 1)
5. Mike Ryan–“Girls I Date” (up 2)
6. Kevin Fowler & Deryl Dodd–“Damn This Ol’ Honky Tonk Dream” (down 5)
7. The Statesboro Revue–“Undone” (down 1)
8. TJ Broscoff–“Phone Calls” (up 1)
9. Josh Grider–“You Dream I’ll Drive” (up 2)
10. Stoney LaRue–“Easy She Comes” (up 3)
11. Roger Creager & Cody Johnson–“If You Had to Choose” (up 4)
12. Jon Wolfe–“Don’t It Feel Good” (up 7)
13. Mario Flores–“Beer Time” (up 3)
14. Uncle Lucius–“Don’t Own the Right”
15. Saints Eleven–“I Don’t” (up 3)
16. Reckless Kelly–“Real Cool Hand” (down 8)
17. Turnpike Troubadours–“Down Here” (down 7)
18. Zane Williams–“She Is” (up 2)
19. JB and the Moonshine Band–“Shotgun, Rifle, and a .45” (down 2)
20. Chance Anderson Band–“245 Miles” (up 1)
21. Jason James–“I’ve Been Drinkin’ More” (up 1)
22. William Clark Green–“Ringling Road” (up 5)
23. Josh Ward–“Whiskey & Whitley” (up 16)
24. Jason Boland & The Stragglers–“Holy Relic Sale” (up 6)
25. Dalton Domino–“Jesus & Handbags”
26. Luke Robinson–“Roses on the Radio” (up 3)
27. Green River Ordinance–“Red Fire Night” (up 13)
28. Miles Williams–“Teasin’ Me” (down 16) [biggest loser]
29. Casey Berry–“Blood of the Lamb” (up 2)
30. Cameran Nelson–“Nothing’s Got Nothin'” (up 18) [biggest gainer]
31. Bri Bagwell–“My Boots” (up 2)
32. Ray Johnston Band–“Small Town Square”
33. American Aquarium–“Losing Side of Twenty-Five” (up 3)
34. The Damn Quails–“Just a Little While”
35. Cody Jinks–“Loud and Heavy” (up 2)
36. Micky & the Motorcars–“Tonight we Ride” (down 1)
37. Pat Green–“While I Was Away” (down 11)
38. Cody Joe Hodges–“One More Drink” (up 4)
39. Paul Thorn–“Everybody Needs Somebody” (down 1)
40. Josh Abbott Band–“Amnesia” (up 3)
41. Jason Cassidy–“Rest of Forever” (up 4)
42. Aaron Watson–“Getaway Truck” (entering top 50)
43. Blue Water Highway Band–“Medicine Man” (up 4)
44. Kaleb McIntire–“Ozark Mountain Stomp” (down 16)
45. Breelan Angel–“She Made Your Bed” (up 1)
46. Tori Martin–“Woman Up” (down 5)
47. Prophets and Outlaws–“Country Music Gold” (entering top 50)
48. Parker McCollum–“High Above the Water” (up 1)
49. Folk Family Revival–“I Drew a Line” (entering top 50)
50. Zach Coffey–“Love Will Lead me Back to You” (re-entering top 50)

  • New #1: “Lady Bug”
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “Life Comes at You Fast”
  • Aaron Watson is back on the charts with “Get Away Truck,” entering at #42

Source: Texas Music Chart

Texas Music From Oklahoma: A Look at the Texas Music Chart (October 12th)

Texas Music Chart

1. Kevin Fowler & Deryl Dodd–“Damn This Ol’ Honky Tonk Dream” (up 4)
2. Bart Crow–“Life Comes at You Fast”
3. Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen–“Lady Bug” (up 3)
4. Curtis Grimes–“Smile That Smile”
5. Casey Donahew Band–“Loser” (up 2)
6. The Statesboro Revue–“Undone” (up 2)
7. Mike Ryan–“Girls I Date” (up 2)
8. Reckless Kelly–“Real Cool Hand” (down 7)
9. TJ Broscoff–“Phone Calls” (up 3)
10. Turnpike Troubadours–“Down Here” (down 7)
11. Josh Grider–“You Dream I’ll Drive” (up 2)
12. Miles Williams–“Teasin’ Me” (down 1)
13. Stoney LaRue–“Easy She Comes” (up 2)
14. Uncle Lucius–“Don’t Own the Right” (up 2)
15. Roger Creager & Cody Johnson–“If You Had to Choose” (up 3)
16. Mario Flores–“Beer Time” (up 3)
17. JB and the Moonshine Band–“Shotgun, Rifle, and a .45”
18. Saints Eleven–“I Don’t” (up 6)
19. Jon Wolfe–“Don’t It Feel Good” (up 1)
20. Zane Williams–“She Is” (up 2)
21. Chance Anderson Band–“245 Miles” (up 6)
22. Jason James–“I’ve Been Drinkin’ More” (up 1)
23. Kyle Park–“What Goes Around Comes Around” (down 9)
24. Cory Morrow–“Old With You” (down 14)
25. Dalton Domino–“Jesus & Handbags” (up 3)
26. Pat Green–“While I Was Away” (down 1)
27. William Clark Green–“Ringling Road” (up 2)
28. Kaleb McIntire–“Ozark Mountain Stomp” (up 3)
29. Luke Robinson–“Roses on the Radio” (up 6)
30. Jason Boland & the Stragglers–“Holy Relic Sale” (up 7)
31. Casey Berry–“Blood of the Lamb” (up 2)
32. Ray Johnston Band–“Small Town Square”
33. Bri Bagwell–“My Boots” (up 8) [biggest gainer]
34. The Damn Quails–“Just a Little While” (up 2)
35. Micky & the Motorcars–“Tonight we Ride” (down 1)
36. American Aquarium–“Losing Side of Twenty-Five” (up 2)
37. Cody Jinks–“Loud and Heavy” (up 3)
38. Paul Thorn–“Everybody Needs Somebody” (up 5)
39. Josh Ward–“Whiskey & Whitley” (entering top 50)
40. Green River Ordinance–“Red Fire Night” (up 7)
41. Tori Martin–“Woman Up” (down 2)
42. Cody Joe Hodges–“One More Drink” (up 2)
43. Josh Abbott Band–“Amnesia” (entering top 50)
44. Cody Johnson–“Proud” (down 2)
45. Jason Cassidi–“Rest of Forever” (entering top 50)
46. Breelan Angel–“She Made Your Bed” (down 1)
47. Blue Water Highway Band–“Medicine Man” (down 1)
48. Cameran Nelson–“Nothing’s Got Nothin'”
49. Parker McCollum–“High Above the Water”
50. Josh Fuller–“On the Radio” (re-entering top 50)

  • new #1: “Damn This Ol’ Honky Tonk Dream”
  • next week’s #1 prediction: “Lady Bug
  • Josh Abbott Band’s “Amnesia” enters at #43 this week

Source: Texas Music Chart