The Hold My Beer Volume 1 release from Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers dropped five years ago. It was a rallying testament to the type of classic country music that they grew up on. Lloyd Maines punched all the right buttons and the songs selected made a statement from the opening single “Standards” to the infectious radio single worthiness of “Ladybug”. Five years later we now have Volume 2.
Bowen and Rogers reconvened the same cast of characters and upped the fun quotient. This is the country music of the late 70s and 80s that evokes the best of Moe Bandy and Joe Stampley or Merle Haggard and George Jones at their booziest. These guys are having fun and the material reflects that. But, just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it’s not serious. That is probably most apparent on the track honoring the late, great Ben “Lovey” Dorsey. Cribbing an old cassette tribute to Lovey from Waylon and adding their own spin on it, the HMB duo create a fitting and spellbinding tribute.
Lead single, “Rodeo Clown” has the sonic qualities of every great Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers Band song. And the lyrics are right as the mail until they make a left turn in the chorus. It’s a rip-roaring novelty song dressed in the clothes of a serious country song and the fact that they pull it off without you questioning it, is honestly what makes this project so great.
“This Ain’t My Town” describes how Austin and Nashville have evolved over the years, and not necessarily in the best of ways. Music City USA and the Live Music Capitol of the World aren’t what they used to be and this song details why. There’s an ease on this record that was there on the first volume, but is even more natural on this effort. The conversational vocal styles are accentuated at the best parts and the musical backing is as vintage and on point as one could hope for. “Speak To Me Jukebox” is classic Lefty Frizzell honky-tonk in the mold of Austin’s The Derailers. And it took two volumes of songs, but Bowen and Rogers finally delivered a title track that kind of functions as some sort of mission statement for this side project. “Mi Amigo” is the best Bob Wills-infused western swing song put out in the last 25 years that didn’t feature guest vocalist Ray Benson as the primary artist. Bowen and Rogers manage to keep their tongues planted firmly in their cheeks when necessary and manage to lean into their dayjob sincerity when it’s required and have managed to deliver a collection that is better from top to bottom than its predecessor.