There’s no denying that spending extra time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic has led many folks to see things in a new, unexpected light. That’s certainly the case for Wade Bowen, one of the biggest stars of the Texas country circuit. The Waco native is deriving unexpected pleasure from staying at home. He’s anxious to get back on the bus and hit the road with his bandmates so they can all do the job their livelihoods depend upon, but for now, it’s about the current silver lining.
“It’s been nice knowing when I wake up every day I don’t have to leave,” he says over a conference call line, joined by his longtime buddy, collaborator and fellow country artist Randy Rogers. “Cooking and cleaning is something I’ve even looked forward to, because I’m usually so zombied out when I come home after being on the road for a while. I’m trying to enjoy it all because it’s going to be crazy trying to make up any lost ground when we do get back on the road.”
Whenever Bowen and Rogers get their groups back into the clubs and theaters they pack around the country, they’ll have something new to show off. Audiences will finally get to hear the songs from the pair’s new joint effort album, Hold My Beer, Vol. 2, in a live setting for the first time. Set to be released Friday, May 8, the official follow-up to their 2015 Hold My Beer, Vol. 1, was recorded over a year ago, but Bowen says, “the music business aspect of things” kept the record from being released until now.
It’s possible that such lengthy, thoughtful planning of how the record would be rolled out helped play a hand in it being able to still be released now, as so many other artists are pushing back their own album releases. But according to Rogers, it seems as though he and Bowen would’ve found a way to make it happen, regardless of certain logistical obstacles.
“We kept the release date when it is for two reasons,” Rogers says. “First, everyone needs a laugh right now. We all really need to be able to look at the bright side of things and hopefully this album will give everyone a giggle and help them drink some beers, which is really the main things we’re trying to accomplish. And second, and I just thought about this for the first time today, is that this album has given me some hope, and I hope it can give others some hope. Hope that records are still going to get made, and eventually, that means hopefully, we’re going to be out playing some shows and singing some songs again soon. As entertainers, a part of our job is to give people that kind of hope, I think.”
Given the stellar quality of not only the previous joint offerings between the two, but each of their individual catalogs, fans of Bowen and Rogers are sure to find not just hope, but great joy in how delightful Vol. 2 is. One will be hard pressed to find a better country record released this year seemingly made for turning a back porch, living room or home office into a boozy, sweaty, neon-lit dancehall.
Just as was the case with Vol. 1, the new record dives hat first into hardcore classic country terrain more decidedly even than the most fiddle-riffic Randy Rogers Band or the more rock-edged Bowen solo albums. But a couple of unique, first-time twists make Vol. 2 an intriguing set of songs, regardless of how comfortable and time-honored the honky-tonk vibes are to longtime fans.
For the first time ever, both Bowen and Rogers participated in a set of four-person songwriting sessions. Nearly half of the album’s dozen tracks resulted from the two days spent with Nashville studs Jon Randall and Jim Beavers, who are not only friends with Bowen and Rogers, but have racked up an admirable number of hits and awards for their own writing. The behind-the-scenes facts aren’t what makes that group of tunes worth hearing though. The pedal steel- and piano-enriched “Habits” is the sort of ideal singalong song that addresses the kind of bad behavior that so much of the best country music is built upon, while sounding far too fun for its own good.
Speaking of bad behavior between buddies, “Hold My Beer” takes the cake. Believe or not, the duo hadn’t yet recorded a song by this title, even though the phrase “Hold My Beer” has been synonymous with Bowen and Rogers for years, thanks not only to their duo recordings, but the annual “Hold My Beer and Watch This” tour they undertake every summer. In a rollicking bit of fan service, the pair sing about “good friends and bad decisions” over the course of rowdy Austin barfights and drunken Sunset Strip flirtations.
But if any song on the record will perk the ears more than any other, it’s got to be the “Ode to Ben Dorcy (Lovey’s Song).” It begins with a romping, yet ghostlike, recording of the late icon Waylon Jennings singing the song he wrote about Dorcy, who died in 2017 and was long known as “the world’s oldest roadie,” thanks to his history with not only Jennings, but other legends including Willie Nelson.
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Bowen and Rogers both grew to love Dorcy due to his constant presence backstage at big country shows, and were thrilled to get the green light from Waylon’s son Shooter Jennings to include the unearthed demo in their version. Roger says after they recorded the song, he walked out of the session thinking, “Holy shit, did we just do that?”
Indeed, this record is sure to go down as one of the finest country releases of 2020, and isn’t merely a cure for the quarantine blues — not that such a distinction wouldn’t have its own timely value. The process of bringing this record to the masses, especially during such a confusing, worrisome and uncertain time, has provided something powerfully valuable for Bowen and Rogers.
“All this has taught us that our passion for music is not only stronger than ever, but it’s what we turn to when things get bad,” Bowen says. “We can tell that so many others crave music the way we do with all the craziness going on.”
“If people take the time to listen to this thing,” Rogers says. “I think they’ll have a smile on their face when they’re done.”