One of the long forgotten gems of country music history is the duets album. Sure, Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis do some great work, and Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller have put out some fantastic duets albums as well. But, we have been missing the “buddy album”. Waylon and Willie used to do it, as did Willie and Merle Haggard. Now, we have that buddy album with Hold My Beer Volume 1 from Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers. These two Texans turned their popular acoustic tour into a full length compilation. This isn’t just friends having a good time, however. Hold My Beer Volume 1 is as strong of an album as any in 2015. If you like straight-up traditional country, this is for you.
This album comes at a time where country music is at a crossroads. While some mainstream acts are bringing back the traditional sounds, others are straying farther from the genre than ever. Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen take that on with their song “Standards”, the big rallying cry of the album. The song lightheartedly takes down bro-country while propping up their sound as standards (as in a musical standard). Of course, most of the people who need to hear this song won’t have the chance, but to those of us who get it and understand the dilemma, this is gold. The good times don’t end there. “It’s Been A Great Afternoon” is a cover of the Merle Haggard track that deals with hangovers in a fun way. “In The Next Life” is a great retrospective journey through Randy and Wade’s careers. “I Had My Hopes Up High” is a cover of the Joe Ely song that follows a hitchhiker on an interesting journey. The stories and good times come one after another on Hold My Beer. “Lady Bug” is one of the silliest songs on the album, yet one of the best written and most nuanced. It takes on the struggling farmer and their reliance on faith and luck to make their living. It is certainly a highlight of the album.
The guys also make some good ole honky-tonk weepers about love gone wrong and broken dreams. “’Til It Does” is as great of a sad country song as you’ll hear. Wade and Randy deliver it with conviction and provide possibly their best vocal performance of the album. “Hanging Out In Bars” is a little more fun, but still deals with the brokenhearted theme. “El Dorado” is probably the best written song on the album. It tells the tale of a cowboy who is finally deciding to hang up his hat and give up on the desperado lifestyle, and the struggles that come with that realization. It is a classic song that will certainly stand the test of time. Simply a perfect country song. The album comes to a close perfectly with a cover of another famous buddy duet, “Reasons To Quit”. Merle and Willie made this a classic, but it fits the theme and feel of Hold My Beer so well that Randy and Wade had to include it.
Like a modern day Pancho and Lefty, Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers have a special bond that comes across through their music. These two guys love country music and love making it for the fans. This album is very clearly a labor of love. Many great albums still have that underlying notion that there was some grand idea or scheme behind the album. Hold My Beer has none of that. These two guys wanted to record some songs to make themselves and their fans smile. Mission accomplished. Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen have created one of the best albums in recent memory. Hold My Beer is a must have for fans of real country music.
Standout Tracks: “Standards”, “El Dorado”, “Reasons To Quit”, “In The Next Life”, “Lady Bug”, “’Til It Does