Collaborations and duets are pretty common throughout the history of country music. From Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard (who are reuniting for another album again this year) to George Jones and Tammy Wynette to even super collaborations like The Highwaymen, country music has plenty examples of great pairings. In recent years though collaborations have been fewer and farther in-between. The few collaborations that have taken place were only for one song and usually terrible (Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan; Gilbert, Rhett and Moore). So when I heard two great Texas country artists in Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers were teaming up for a full album, I got pretty excited. These two always seem to deliver and putting them together just seems perfect. The name for the album, Hold My Beer, comes from the name they call their tour when they play together. They call it the “Hold My Beer and Watch This” tour, which started out as an acoustic tour in smaller places where it was just them two playing without their respective bands. It’s now obviously become bigger, just like their own careers. So does their first collaboration deliver?
100% yes! Hold My Beer kicks off with “In The Next Life,” where the duo reflects back on their respective careers in their early days, as well as some standout moments. They joke around a little bit throughout, but you can definitely sense their camaraderie and how much they appreciate what their careers have given them. They’re also really great friends, which makes for excellent chemistry that is palpable to the listener. It’s really a great song to start the album because it sums it up so well. The honky-tonk “I Had My Hopes Up High” tells stories of hitching rides from various characters over the years. It’s an amusing song and I like to think the two drew from their own experiences for the characters throughout the song because I could easily picture it. This has a lot of potential for an entertaining music video too and I hope the two make one for it. The steel guitar layered throughout is just icing on the cake.
The duo tackles heartbreak in the ballad “’Til It Does.” It’s a very real song that paints the picture of heartbreak quite well in the listeners’ heads. The song perfectly describes heartbreak as something you don’t really see or feel until it happens. The instrumentation is perfect and couldn’t be more traditional, which is awesome. This is a personal favorite of mine on Hold My Beer. The first song released from Hold My Beer, “Good Luck With That,” is up next. It’s a lighthearted and fun song about situations where you get angry and tell someone off when you probably shouldn’t have done it. The two examples cited are telling off your “certified S.O.B” boss and telling your wife she can’t tell you what to do. As one says to the other in the song, “good luck with that.” This is the kind of song in a perfect world gets played on the radio all summer long.
Bowen and Rogers sing about dealing with hangovers in “It’s Been a Great Afternoon.” After raising hell the night before, they’re feeling it the next morning. But as they say they simply nurse it through the morning and rebound right back up in the afternoon. Notice the difference between this song and most mainstream country songs: consequences. This song actually cites the consequences of drinking your ass off. It’s another fun song that’s great to play while grilling out this summer.
“Standards” is the standout of the album and the song everyone will talk about the most from Hold My Beer. It’s rightly being praised too, as it’s a brilliant country music protest song. Now I know country music protest songs have started to become cliché themselves, especially coming from Texas country artists. What makes this one so great though is the fact that it’s not in your face, but rather has a matter of fact, cool attitude. A country label big wig tries to get Bowen and Rogers to record a song about a dirt road, but they refuse at his every attempt because it’s just not for them. As they say, “I don’t have hits, I’ve got standards,” a statement that means so much. This is a top contender for Country Perspective’s 2015 Song of the Year award.
“El Dorado” is a cowboy ballad that puts you in a Western state of mind. From the instrumentation arrangement to the vocals of Bowen and Rogers to the lyrics, the song does a great job of creating a Western feeling in the listener. I would also like to point out not just on this song, but the whole album I enjoy the harmonies of the two. Their vocals compliment each other well. The next song, “Hangin’ Out in Bars,” is what it says it’s about. The song is about a man who’s been spending all of his time in bars after his lady left him. He’s been trying to drink her memory away, but his friends think it’s going too far and even the man himself thinks he’s going a little crazy. It’s a brilliant drinking song and once again Wade and Bowen show how drinking songs are supposed to be done.
Bowen and Rogers aren’t so serious in “Lady Bug,” a song about having bad luck and praying for good luck to come. This bad luck comes in the form of a drought, the taxman “sniffing around” and the fields not producing many crops. The man in the song wishes for a lady bug to land on him or finding a four-leaf clover, as both are considered signs of good luck. It’s a simple song that’s easy to enjoy. Hold My Beer concludes with “Reasons to Quit.” This song originally appeared on Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard’s famous collaboration album Pancho & Lefty. Bowen and Rogers covering this song on their own collaboration album just feels so right. It’s right in their wheelhouse and fits the overall theme of this album. This is one of the quieter songs on the record, as the duo laments the fact that their reasons to quit their bad habits are getting bigger with each day. This is an appropriate final song on an album with quality music from start to finish.
Hold My Beer is simply put a fantastic album. There are no down moments in this album and it holds the listeners’ attentions the whole way through it. The rich and traditional instrumentation makes you want to listen to every song over and over again. I don’t think you can find too many pairs that would gel better than Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers either. This is a perfect example of why I want to see more collaborations in country music. On this album this two great artists in their own right came together and produced something amazing. I like how the full album name is Hold My Beer, Vol. 1. because that means this is the first of hopefully many more collaboration albums from these two. I definitely recommend buying this album. It’s a must-own for fans of country music.