Album Review — Wade Bowen’s ‘Twelve Twenty-Five’

Every year modern artists will release their interpretations of classic Christmas songs, whether via singles or even an entire album. And maybe they’ll even sprinkle in a few originals if you’re lucky. But the problem is most of them don’t stand out in any way. You’ll listen to it once, say “that’s neat” and then go right back to listening to the same old songs you always listen to around the holidays. Occasionally though someone will actually release something worthy of earning a spot in your Christmas songs rotation and this year that’s Wade Bowen’s new Christmas album Twelve Twenty-Five. I had a great feeling about the Texas country artist’s first Christmas album when it was announced, and it went beyond even my own expectations.

Bowen opens with his rendition of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” and he knocks his performance out of the park. It’s infectious, fun and gets the Christmas energy on this album kicked off perfectly. And I’m happy the production doesn’t go over the top like it usually does when other artists cover this song. “O Holy Night” is next and this is admittedly one of my favorite religious Christmas songs. That’s because I feel it truly captures the joy and meaning of Christmas through the Christian lens and Bowen’s performance truly does justice to it, which isn’t surprise considering he released a great gospel album.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is next and I can tell that Bruce Springsteen’s version of the song influences Bowen’s own version. It’s got a more rocking feeling rather than the classical approach many take and even banters in the song like Springsteen. But Bowen pulls it off so much better than Bruce because he doesn’t over sing it (stay tuned for further elaboration on why I hate the Boss’s take on the song), and the guitars and pianos don’t blast the listener. Less can be more. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” showcases why I enjoy Bowen in more stripped-down songs. His voice just fits these piano ballads and the song also properly captures the feeling I look for in the covering of this song: mostly somber, but with bits of optimism and hope.

Bowen’s son Brock joins him on “Holly Jolly Christmas” and I must admit I usually hate children singing. But I actually enjoy this performance because it’s endearing, and Bowen goes full dad in the bridge of the song. It’s hilarious while also avoiding being corny and feeling forced. It feels real and as the listener I can appreciate and enjoy this. When I think of “Please Come Home for Christmas” the first version I think of is The Eagles’ version, as I believe it to be the best. And while I don’t think Bowen’s version tops it, it’s still pretty damn good, as he captures the yearning and wanting needed in his vocal performance.

Bowen is joined by another one of his sons, Bruce, on the Irving Berlin classic “White Christmas.” This performance is much different than the other one, as both take this song more seriously and Bruce sounds pretty good. Their harmonies sound great too. You can tell the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, as he may one day follow his father’s footsteps. It’s a heartfelt and enjoyable performance from the father and son duo.

I have to say I was surprised to see Wade Bowen cover the Mariah Carey classic “What I Want for Christmas is You,” as the song’s high popularity and sterling reputation amongst critics and listeners alike makes it a challenging song for other artists to tackle. Not to mention it requires some serious pipes to pull off. But he does a fantastic job! It’s a different take that I think is worthy of being in anybody’s Christmas playlist. Again, if you’re like me and you get sick of Christmas songs going a little too far with production at times these more minimally produced Christmas songs are a fresh change of pace. If you don’t want to spend time with this whole album, this is one of a few songs that should absolutely be heard.

“Til The Season Comes Round Again” is great to hear covered, as this song is a classic that often gets overlooked. It’s a warm blanket next to the fire type song that Bowen along with the soulful feature of Sean McConnell cover really well. The addition of McConnell harmonizing with Bowen is really the cherry on top to make it a memorable performance. Dolly Parton’s “Once Upon a Christmas” is covered next and I will never complain about a Dolly song showing up. While this is one of the my less favorite takes on the album (it has the unenviable task of living up to Dolly and Kenny Rogers), it’s still solid and I like the Texas influences that are incorporated into the song.

The great Cody Canada joins Bowen for a rendition of Merle Haggard’s brilliant “If We Make It Through December.” I remember growing up I found this song to be kind of depressing and it is, but it’s also important that this unpleasant and for some people, really real look at the other side of Christmas be presented. It shows that Christmas doesn’t always go like it does in the movies and that reality and what you want don’t always align. In other words, why we love country music: it’s real.

Bowen goes to the other end of the spectrum with his cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas.” And for some this might be sacrilegious to say, but I find Bowen’s cover to be better than the original by George Michael. The reason is 1) I hate the excessive synth on the original and 2) Bowen’s more stripped-down version allows the great lyrics to shine. Both these points play into each other, as the synths and overall cheesy feeling of the original really takes away from the quality of the lyrics that tell the complicated story of love lost around the holidays. This was easily an immediate standout on this album. Appropriate, the album closes with “Silent Night.” It’s just a natural closing song for a Christmas album and Bowen delivers a stirring and soulful rendition of this Christmas staple.

Twelve Twenty-Five is a modern Christmas album done right and I applaud Wade Bowen for accomplishing something that surprisingly so many modern artists screw up. Bowen takes classic songs and instead of trying to add some “twist” to make it stand out, instead just delivers them through his own voice with a country flavor while respecting the original takes on them. And don’t dismiss this as just a great country Christmas album. This is a great Christmas album against any genre.

Grade: 9 candy canes out of 10

The Current Pulse of Texas Country Radio [Nov. 14]

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Each week we take a look the Texas Regional Radio Report chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of Texas country radio and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Flatland Cavalry – “One I Want” +3 (Up 1)
  2. Jerrett Zoch and The OSR Band – “Everything I Need” (Down 1)
  3. Whiskey Myers – “Lightning Bugs and Rain” +2 (Up 1)
  4. Jon Wolfe – “Boots on a Dance Floor” -2 (Up 1)
  5. Zane Williams – “Bringin’ Country Back” -1 (Up 2)
  6. Casey Donahew Band – “Kiss Me” -3 (Up 4)
  7. Jesse Raub Jr. – “She Can Forgive” +3 (Down 1)
  8. Curtis Grimes – “From Where I’m Standing” (Up 3)
  9. Roger Creager – “Wanna Wanna Bar” -3 (Down 1)
  10. Jamie Richards – “Second Hand Smoke” +1 (Up 2)
  11. Sam Riggs – “High On A Country Song” -3 (Up 3) [Worst Song]
  12. Josh Ward – “Broken Heart” +3 (Up 1)
  13. William Clark Green – “Old Fashioned” -2 (Up 2)
  14. Reckless Kelly – “How Can You Love Him (You Don’t Even Like Him)” +2 (Down 5)
  15. Kevin Fowler – “Texas Forever” (Up 3)
  16. Micky & The Motorcars – “Sister Lost Soul” +2 (Down 13)
  17. Jake Worthington – “How Do You Honky Tonk” +1 (Up 2)
  18. Troy Cartwright – “Busted” +3 (Down 1)
  19. Pat Waters – “Like A Radio” (Up 1)
  20. Deryl Dodd – “The Ride” +2 (Up 1)
  21. Case Hardin – “Sign of a Fool” +3 (Up 1)
  22. Kaleb McIntire – “Find Another Baby” -2 (Up 1)
  23. Brandon Jenkins – “Shadow of a Broken Heart” (Up 2)
  24. Cody Jinks – “I’m Not The Devil” +4 [Best Song] 
  25. TJ Broscoff – “Should’ve Been Mine” -1 (Up 1)
  26. Luke Robinson – “She Drinks Alone” +1 (Up 1)
  27. Green River Ordinance – “Simple Life” -1 (Down 10)
  28. Mike Ryan – “New Hometown” (Up 1)
  29. Josh Abbott Band – “Live It While You Got It” (New to Top 30)
  30. Dalton Domino – “July” +2 (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Texas Country Radio: +16

The pulse stays the same this week. 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Sean McConnell – “Holy Days” +2
  • Reverend’s Daughter – “Caroline” 0

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Josh Abbott Band – “Live It While You Got It”
    • Josh Abbott Band is certainly one of the bigger fishes in the pond when it comes to the Texas-based country scene. They’ve been making their play for national airplay on the mainstream chart, with their last single “Wasn’t That Drunk” cracking the top 40 before bowing out. Their current single on the mainstream radio is “Amnesia” while here it’s the breezy and blatantly inoffensive “Live It While You Got It.” This is your textbook safe love song that radio from mainstream to Texas will eat right up and also why JAB doesn’t impress me as much as others. They put too many songs like this one out. It’s just sort of there and I’ll forget about it quickly. 5/10
  • Dalton Domino – “July”
    • Dalton Domino is an artist I’ve seen some buzz from for some time, most notably from Panhandle music blog New Slang Lubbock, who does an excellent job covering the Lubbock scene and I recommend checking out if you want to know more about music from that area. Domino’s current single “July” is about a heartbroken man wondering what if on a broken relationship and wishing he had loved her more. It kills him to think she’s with another man now, especially since he’s alone and dealing with his pain. The production for the song is engaging and catchy, especially the organ play that gives it some distinction. It’s a solid song. 7/10

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Casey Donahew Band – “Kiss Me” – Up 4 from #10 to #6
  • Curtis Grimes – “From Where I’m Standing” – Up 3 from #11 to #8
  • Sam Riggs – “High On A Country Song” – Up 3 from #14 to #11

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Sean McConnell – “Holy Days” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Reverend’s Daughter – “Caroline” – Out of the Top 30 (to #31)
  • Micky & The Motorcars – “Sister Lost Soul” – Down 13 from #3 to #16
  • Green River Ordinance – “Simple Life” – Down 10 from #16 to #26
  • Reckless Kelly – “How Can You Love Him (You Don’t Even Like Him) – Down 5 from #9 to #14

Songs I See Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Green River Ordinance – “Simple Life”

On The Hot Seat:

  • None

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Reverend’s Daughter – “Caroline”
  • Turnpike Troubadours – “Come As You Are”
  • Randall King (feat. Cleto Cordero) – “Hard Livin’ Illene”
  • Kimberly Dunn – “Traffic”

 

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s Pulse in the comments below. 

The Current Pulse of Texas Country Radio [Nov. 7]

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Each week we take a look the Texas Regional Radio Report chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of Texas country radio and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Jerrett Zoch and The OSR Band – “Everything I Need” (Up 2)
  2. Flatland Cavalry – “One I Want” +3
  3. Micky & The Motorcars – “Sister Lost Soul” +2 (Down 2)
  4. Whiskey Myers – “Lightning Bugs and Rain” +2 (Up 1)
  5. Jon Wolfe – “Boots on a Dance Floor” -2 (Up 3)
  6. Jesse Raub Jr. – “She Can Forgive” +3 (Up 1)
  7. Zane Williams – “Bringin’ Country Back” -1 (Up 3)
  8. Roger Creager – “Wanna Wanna Bar” -3 (Up 1)
  9. Reckless Kelly – “How Can You Love Him (You Don’t Even Like Him)” +2 (Down 5)
  10. Casey Donahew Band – “Kiss Me” -3 (Up 1)
  11. Curtis Grimes – “From Where I’m Standing” (Up 1)
  12. Jamie Richards – “Second Hand Smoke” +1 (Up 2)
  13. Josh Ward – “Broken Heart” +3 (Up 2)
  14. Sam Riggs – “High On A Country Song” -3 (Down 1) [Worst Song]
  15. William Clark Green – “Old Fashioned” -2 (Up 1)
  16. Green River Ordinance – “Simple Life” -1 (Down 10)
  17. Troy Cartwright – “Busted” +3 (Up 1)
  18. Kevin Fowler – “Texas Forever” (Up 3)
  19. Jake Worthington – “How Do You Honky Tonk” +1 (Down 2)
  20. Pat Waters – “Like A Radio” 0
  21. Deryl Dodd – “The Ride” +2 (Up 1)
  22. Case Hardin – “Sign of a Fool” +3 (Up 1)
  23. Kaleb McIntire – “Find Another Baby” -2 (Up 2)
  24. Cody Jinks – “I’m Not The Devil” +4 (Down 5) [Best Song] 
  25. Brandon Jenkins – “Shadow of a Broken Heart” (Up 1)
  26. TJ Broscoff – “Should’ve Been Mine” -1 (Up 1)
  27. Luke Robinson – “She Drinks Alone” +1 (Up 1)
  28. Sean McConnell – “Holy Days” +2 (Up 1)
  29. Mike Ryan – “New Hometown” (Up 1)
  30. Reverend’s Daughter – “Caroline” (New to Top 30)

The Current Pulse of Texas Country Radio: +16

The pulse improve four spots this week. 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • Kyle Park – “Rednecks with Paychecks” -4

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • Reverend’s Daughter – “Caroline”
    • Reverend’s Daughter is a five-piece Texas outfit that originally formed in 2010 and later evolved into their current iteration. They cite multiple genres as influence and many artists, including Nickelback for some reason. Not sure if they’re serious or just being smartasses (I would hope the latter). Nevertheless their current single “Caroline” immediately catches my ears with some slick harmonica work and features some nice pedal steel throughout. The song itself though is pretty generic and not very memorable to my ears. It sounds like something I’ve heard many times before when pitched by indie artists. So together it makes for a pretty average affair. 5/10

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • Jon Wolfe – “Boots on a Dance Floor” – Up 3 from #8 to #5
  • Zane Williams – “Bringin’ Country Back” – Up 3 from #10 to #7

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • Kyle Park – “Rednecks with Paychecks” – Out of the Top 30 & Done
  • Green River Ordinance – “Simple Life” – Down 10 from #6 to #16
  • Reckless Kelly – “How Can You Love Him (You Don’t Even Like Him) – Down 5 from #4 to #9
  • Cody Jinks – “I’m Not The Devil” – Down 5 from #19 to #24

Songs I See Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Cody Jinks – “I’m Not The Devil”
  • Green River Ordinance – “Simple Life”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Sean McConnell – “Holy Days”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Josh Abbott Band – “Live It While You Got It”
  • Dalton Domino – “July”
  • Kimberly Dunn – “Traffic”
  • Turnpike Troubadours – “Come As You Are”

 

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s Pulse in the comments below. 

The Current Pulse of Texas Country Radio [October 31]

micky-and-the-motorcars

Each week we take a look the Texas Regional Radio Report chart and grade the top 30 songs. The grading format I use each week is every song will receive one of the following scores: +5, +4, +3, +2, +1, 0, -1, -2, -3, -4, -5. These will then be tallied up for an overall score, or pulse of the current top thirty country songs, with the highest possible score being a +150 and the lowest possible score being a -150. How do I determine the score for the song? The review grade it received on the site or myself will determine this. If it hasn’t been reviewed yet, then I will make the call. The grade it has received or I would give it determines its Pulse score. The grading key: 10 [+5], 9 [+4], 8 [+3], 7 [+2], 6 [+1], 5 [0], 4 [-1], 3 [-2], 2 [-3], 1 [-4], 0 [-5].

The goal of this exercise is to evaluate the current state of Texas country radio and determine if it’s improving or getting worse. Let’s take a look at this week’s top thirty…

  1. Micky & The Motorcars – “Sister Lost Soul” +2
  2. Flatland Cavalry – “One I Want” +3
  3. Jerrett Zoch and The OSR Band – “Everything I Need” 0
  4. Reckless Kelly – “How Can You Love Him (You Don’t Even Like Him)” +2
  5. Whiskey Myers – “Lightning Bugs and Rain” +2
  6. Green River Ordinance – “Simple Life” -1
  7. Jesse Raub Jr. – “She Can Forgive” +3
  8. Jon Wolfe – “Boots on a Dance Floor” -2
  9. Roger Creager – “Wanna Wanna Bar” -3
  10. Zane Williams – “Bringin’ Country Back” -1
  11. Casey Donahew Band – “Kiss Me” -3
  12. Curtis Grimes – “From Where I’m Standing” 0
  13. Sam Riggs – “High On A Country Song” -3
  14. Jamie Richards – “Second Hand Smoke” +1
  15. Josh Ward – “Broken Heart” +3
  16. William Clark Green – “Old Fashioned” -2
  17. Jake Worthington – “How Do You Honky Tonk” +1
  18. Troy Cartwright – “Busted” +3
  19. Cody Jinks – “I’m Not The Devil” +4 [Best Song]
  20. Pat Waters – “Like A Radio” 0
  21. Kevin Fowler – “Texas Forever” 0
  22. Deryl Dodd – “The Ride” +2
  23. Case Hardin – “Sign of a Fool” +3
  24. Kyle Park – “Rednecks With Paychecks” -4 [Worst Song]
  25. Kaleb McIntire – “Find Another Baby” -2
  26. Brandon Jenkins – “Shadow of a Broken Heart” 0
  27. TJ Broscoff – “Should’ve Been Mine” -1
  28. Luke Robinson – “She Drinks Alone” +1
  29. Sean McConnell – “Holy Days” +2
  30. Mike Ryan – “New Hometown” 0

The Current Pulse of Texas Country Radio: +12

The pulse debuts this week. 

Songs That Dropped Out of the Top 30 This Week:

  • N/A

Songs That Entered The Top 30 This Week:

  • N/A

Biggest Gainers This Week:

  • N/A

Biggest Losers This Week:

  • N/A

Songs I See Leaving The Top 30 Soon:

  • Kyle Park – “Rednecks With Paychecks”

On The Hot Seat:

  • Sean McConnell – “Holy Days”

Next Four Songs I See Entering Top 30:

  • Dalton Domino – “July”
  • Kimberly Dunn – “Traffic”
  • Reverend’s Daughter – “Caroline”
  • Turnpike Troubadours – “Come As You Are”

 

Notes: What do you think? I told you I would be replacing the Past Pulse with something similar. It made too much sense to finally give the Texas chart the pulse treatment. The Past Pulse was originally created to serve as a comparison to the current mainstream radio chart, but quickly proved to be a hilarious exercise. Of course the Past Pulse was going to blow away the current one. So basically the Past Pulse grew to be a nostalgia trip down memory lane and quickly lost its original purpose. I also tried the Pulse of Americana, but neither iterations of that wasn’t going to work because it wasn’t an even comparison (one chart was for album sales and the other was airplay, but didn’t list specific songs). This is the perfect comparison with the mainstream chart and I think will perfectly serve the original purpose I had with the Past Pulse.

Now for the original chart, this is about where I expected it. As you can see its not all roses and sunshine with Texas radio either. But it’s positive and that’s something that has only happened once on the mainstream chart pulse. There is one big issue I immediately have with it though: where are the women artists?! There’s not a single female artist in the entire top 30. This is an absolute joke. I may give mainstream radio a lot of shit for trotting out the same female artists every year, but at least they play some women on the radio. Of course this is further proof once again that all women in country music are having issues getting a fair shake, whether if it’s in Nashville or in Texas. Hopefully Texas Radio improves on this front soon.

 

As always be sure to weigh in on this week’s Pulse in the comments below. 

Country Perspective’s Best Music Reviewed in July

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This is the monthly recap post of all the great music we reviewed on the blog in case you missed it or just came across our humble, little blog. So check this music out if you haven’t already.

10/10

None

 

9/10

Albums:

Sean McConnell – Self-Titled

Rob Baird – Wrong Side of the River

8/10

Albums:

Mark Chesnutt – Tradition Lives

Songs:

Runaway June – “Lipstick” 

Miranda Lambert – “Vice”