Zero Mile Presents
Randy Rogers Band
Sat · February 24, 2018
Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm
$17.00 - $20.00
This event is 18 and overhttp://www.georgiatheatre.com/event/1591043/
“You’ve just got to be true to yourself and you can’t fool anybody,” Rogers states matter of factly of the band’s philosophy. “As a whole, our body of work is pretty consistent to our live show and the band that plays on the record is the band that you go see.”
The same line up has been performing together since 2002 and the music has evolved as they’ve soaked up life experience. “As men we’ve all matured and lived a lot of life together,” Rogers says. “We’ve had a few breakups happen to us. We’ve had babies. We’ve had life changes. We’ve been on the road 200 shows a year. I’ve been in this band 15 years so a lot has changed. I still listen to Merle Haggard every night. I mean that hasn’t changed, but a lot has changed for us musically and privately. We all are in a good spot and we all are just as good friends as when we started.”
Camaraderie and creativity have made Rogers and bandmates Geoffrey Hill (guitar), Johnny “Chops” Richardson (bass guitar), Brady Black (fiddle), Les Lawless (drums) and Todd Stewart (utility player) one of the top bands on the competitive Texas music scene. Nothing Shines Like Neon continues the momentum established by the band’s four previous albums—Randy Rogers Band, Burning the Day, Trouble and Homemade Tamales, each of which went to No. 1 on iTunes. Earlier in 2015, Rogers joined friend Wade Bowen to record the critically acclaimed album Hold My Beer Vol. 1.
Produced by Nashville legend Buddy Cannon (Willie/Merle) at Cedar Creek in Austin, RRB’s news album Nothing Shines Like Neon showcases the band’s taut musicianship as well as Rogers’ earnest vocals and insightful songwriting on such instant classics as the groove laden “Rain and the Radio,” the heartbreak anthem “Neon Blues” and the playful “Actin’ Crazy,” a duet with Jamey Johnson. “Jamey and I wrote that song together,” Rogers notes. “I met a movie star a few days before Jamey and I were going to write. I was in LA playing at the House of Blues and he came out to the show. I was thinking about him …and thinking about being a struggling actor living in LA and having to put up with all the bullshit that LA is. I just wrote that song about him.”
The album opens with the fiddle driven shuffle “San Antone”. “That is a Keith Gattis song. He wrote by himself. Being from Texas and living so close to San Antonio, I don’t think that song is going to hurt me at all,” Rogers laughs. “It’s one of those songs when I heard it I was like, ‘Oh hell! Why didn’t I write this song?’”
“Takin’ It As It Comes” features Lone Star legend Jerry Jeff Walker. “I’ve been a big fan of Jerry Jeff’s all my life,” Rogers says. “He came in the studio with us, got in there with the band, jumped around and played guitar and sang. We had a great time.”
“Rain and the Radio” is Rogers’ homage to Ronnie Milsap. “I wrote that with Sean McConnell. He and I have written a lot of songs through the years. I’ve always been a huge Ronnie Milsap fan and to me that song has a little Milsap feel to it, kind of a bluesy country thing, which we haven’t done before. Any artist that I look up to always tries to create something different and pushes the envelope a little bit. I think we do with that song in particular. It’s very country. It’s just very different. As a band, we’re trying to broaden our horizons and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If we were all just stuck doing the same old thing, we would all be bored. We probably wouldn’t still be here. It’s just a matter of spreading your wings a little bit.”
“Look Out Yonder” is a poignant tune Rogers recorded in honor of his mentor, the late Kent Finlay. “Kent gave me my start in the music business. Up until the day that he died, we talked about songs and about music,” Rogers says. “We actually named the record, Nothing Shines Like Neon after a lyric in one of his songs as a tribute to him. Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski are singing on ‘Look Out Yonder’, which was written by Earl Bud Lee, who is most famous for writing ‘Friends In Low Places’. He and I have been friends for 10 years and he has always wanted me to cut that song. I’ve never had a record where it fit and just thinking about losing Kent and Kent going to heaven and joining his mom, ‘Look out yonder coming down the road’ it just fit. I haven’t performed that song yet live, but I know I’m going to have a hard time getting through it. The day we started our record, I got a call that Kent passed away so this record is definitely dedicated to Kent. That song makes me think about all of us musicians and how we are crazy as hell and lead the most unorthodox lives. Most of us return back to our roots, so hopefully this is an album that glorifies Kent’s life and is also a nod to the traditional sounds that we all grew up loving.”
A native of Cleburne, Texas, Rogers grew up addicted to traditional country music. “I wanted to be George Strait when I was in the sixth grade,” he says with a smile. “And I grew up listening to Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, I’ve listened to them more than anybody else, my whole life. I always liked songs. I always wanted to find out who wrote the songs and what the songs were about. I always liked the art and the craft of being a songwriter. My dad’s Beatles records got played a lot and Michael Martin Murphy is another one I listened to a lot as a kid. My dad was a huge fan.”
Like many artists, Rogers got his start performing in church and then expanded to local venues. “I could write a song when I was pretty little, 11, 12 or 13,” he says. “It’s like a kid who could do calculus or something. It was just something that clicked in my brain for me. I went and finished college and got a degree in public relations and then started a band.”
Since then the Randy Rogers Band has steadily built a following that has spilled beyond their native Texas. For the past 10 years they’ve recorded for Universal Music Group, but on Nothing Shines Like Neon, Rogers again takes the reins, releasing the album on his own Tommy Jackson Records, named after a song he wrote for their very first album. “It’s a very obscure Randy Rogers Band song and to this day there is always this one drunk kid at a show that says, ‘Play “Tommy Jackson!” Play “Tommy Jackson!”’ It’s kind of a running joke within our band. It’s like, ‘How in the hell did this kid in Iowa City, Iowa remember that stupid song “Tommy Jackson?”’ It’s about a guy who is on the run from the cops, wanted for murder. It’s a story song and we just felt like it was a unique way to name a record label.”
Nothing Shines Like Neon is a stellar collection in an already impressive body of recorded material that owes a lot to the band’s potent live show. “You come to a show, you know what you’re going to get,” Rogers says. “We’ve worked hard at making ourselves better on stage and we care about our live show. It’s a way to come out and unwind, and we’ve stuck to writing songs that are about real life, about breakups or divorces, falling in love or babies being born, and in the case of this record even death, the ups and downs of life. People can relate. That’s what country music is supposed to be. Our band has been around for a long time because there’s no bullshit to us. We’re not in it to be rich and famous. We’re in it to make a living, provide for our families and do something that we all love. You can’t fool people and we haven’t ever tried. I think that’s the key.”
“Let’s keep the lonely places, lonely as long as we can …”
As career trajectories are measured, Red Shahan has covered a hell of a lot of ground in the three years since the release of his debut, Men and Coyotes — not to mention since his salad days a decade ago, when he began haunting the Lubbock club circuit and made the fateful decision that music would be his life’s path rather than baseball, rodeo, or firefighting. After a few more formative years of honing his chops and confidence as a songwriter, singer, and versatile musician in different projects throughout the region, he relocated to Fort Worth and began focusing in earnest on launching a solo career and recording the album that would serve as his official introduction to the Texas music world at large. Men and Coyotes was originally released in the summer of 2015 with little fanfare, but the red-headed troubadour with the lonesome howl and penchant for somber portraits of busted boom towns and gritty, white-knuckled anthems wasn’t long in hitting his stride and building a loyal audience the old-fashioned way: organically, from the ground up.
That grassroots success would in turn land him both a booking deal with the Beverley Hills-based Paradigm Talent Agency and the honor of being the first artist signed to fellow Texas artist Randy Rogers’ Big Blind Management roster. The next thing Shahan knew, he was playing his first official showcase at the Americana Music Festival in Nashville. After the set, a duly impressed English gentleman with shoulder-length silver hair approached him to enthuse, “You guys were great!” Shahan thanked him, but didn’t learn until after the fact that he’d just met Robert Plant. “It was such a dark-lit room that I didn’t even recognize him,” Shahan confesses today with a self-effacing chuckle. “I guess I dropped the ball on that one!”
Clearly, the gifted young troubadour from Bluff Dale, Texas is already off to a great start — and Shahan’s now poised to reach an even bigger audience with the March 30 release of his sophomore album, Culberson County, on Thirty Tigers. But as the new album’s title track makes pointedly clear, far from being swept away by any of his forward momentum to date, Shahan is still proudly rooted heart, mind, and soul in the West Texas earth from which he sprang. And yes, he’s still got a thing for coyotes, hearing in their wild cries not just the music of wide open spaces, but a defiant note of stubborn resiliency that speaks to his own instincts as a hardscrabble independent artist compelled to write about the all-too-often unsung — and unseen.
“If anybody ever had a ‘spirit animal,’ I would definitely say mine is a coyote,” he insists. “It’s just a very resilient animal — something that thrives off of the bottom rung of what people leave behind.”
But as much as he admires the metaphoric potential of the scrappy underdog, as a storyteller Shahan is far too honest to ever cheapen his narratives with false hopes. In “Culberson County” when he sings, “let’s keep the lonely places / lonely as long as we can,” his wish is tempered with the realist’s fatalism that the wilderness and coyotes can’t hold out forever, because “it won’t be long before they pave it down and just the highways whine.” Likewise, even though he loves his native Lone Star State as much as any other former college rodeo performer who grew up on a cattle ranch, more often than not when Shahan sings about Texas, he’s not rhapsodizing about bluebonnets and carefree nights at the dancehall.
“I really like to try to paint a picture of the real Texas, because there’s a lot of stuff about Texas that people don’t talk about,” he says. Take, for example, the album’s harrowing “Enemy” — a documentary-style report from the frontlines of backwoods meth country. “I mean, I’m with the next guy that wants to throw on a pearl-snap shirt and hoot and holler over a case of Busch Light, but at the same time … how often are those people really happy? Because a lot of them come from some really hard and darker sides of Texas, and those are the things I want to bring light to.” Other tales from that dark side include “6 Feet,” about an incarcerated drug dealer dreading the cartel justice awaiting him on the other side, and “How They Lie,” whose opening verse unspools a world of heartbreak: “Sister’s in the backseat crying to her daddy, ‘When we gonna move back home?’ / He said it’s not our house now, Daddy made a few mistakes and now they’ve taken everything we own / Sign the wrong dotted line in a stack of papers and everything is gone.”
Just for the record, Shahan (who recently became a first-time daddy to a baby girl) has never been cheated by an oil company out of a family farm, let alone buried a bag of stolen drug money in the desert. But he infuses those stories with as much conviction as he does his more personal and “confessional” fare such as “Hurricane” and “Idle Hands,” two songs that address the emotional tug-of-war of a traveling musician weighing the temptations of the road against the comforts of home (and fidelity.) And although much of Culberson County may be as unapologetically, well, grim as Men and Coyotes, there’s a handful of songs here that reveal a lighter touch and even a flash of tongue-in-cheek humor. In the opening “Waterbill,” a broke musician’s lament served over a rollicking bed of Creedence-worthy riffage, Shahan finds himself stranded on the side of the road in Bandera, too drunk to call for help but just sober enough to dread spending the night in mountain lion country, because “I hear they love a redhead delight.” In the rollicking singalong “Someone Someday” (a rare co-write for Shahan, penned with Brent Cobb and Aaron Raitiere), he sings a line about “rubbernecking all the outlaws” that lands as both a laugh-out-loud commentary on the modern Texas/Americana music scene and a playfully self-aware admission of his own aspirations and insecurity. And then there’s the politically charged (albeit by Shahan’s admission, deliberately non-partisan) fist-in-the-air anthem “Revolution,” which really isn’t funny at all — but it does flat out rock.
Like any self-respecting Texas singer-songwriter worthy of the title, Shahan can hold his own playing any of his songs solo acoustic, just like he writes them. But Culberson County is no one man show. Like Men and Coyotes before it, this is very much a full-band affair, with Elijah Ford (an acclaimed solo artist in his own right) returning to the producer’s chair, Matthew “Paw Paw” Smith (formerly with Ryan Bingham) back behind the drum kit and Shahan’s old Lubbock buddy Parker Morrow on bass. Shahan himself played rhythm electric and acoustic, while special recruit Daniel Sproul was called in to handle most of the lead guitar for the sessions.
Guests on the album include fellow Texas songwriters Charlie Shafter and Bonnie Bishop on background and harmony vocals, as well as Shahan’s own mother, Kim Smith, who sings on the song “Memphis.”
It was his mother who taught Shahan his first chords on guitar, telling him, “If you want to learn more, you can take this and go from there.” “I just wanted to have her on the album as a way of saying thank you for always supporting and believing in me,” he says. “She was a little hesitant at first, but she knocked it out of the park.”
The same can be said for everyone else on the record, too, which of course made it especially hard for Shahan to have to wait more than a year after its completion for its belated release date this spring — really the only concession (necessitated by the kind of big-picture scheduling and strategizing that comes into play anytime an artist breaks through to the next level) that he’s had to make to date in his career. He candidly admits that, left entirely to his own “blow-and-go” impulse, he might well have had three records out by now — and hopes that maybe he will come this time next year. But right now, he couldn’t be happier to finally get to share Culberson County with his fans — especially those who already know the handful of songs the band has previewed live well enough to request them by name.
“People will say ‘Are you going to play ‘Revolution’ tonight?’ And I’m like, ‘How do you even know that song’s called ‘Revolution’?” he marvels with a laugh. “But it’s been very cool to see that, and I’m just really excited to get the whole album out now and to get people’s reactions and input to the rest of the songs. We’re all extremely proud of this record. I still feel like we haven’t even scratched the surface of what we’re capable of yet, but … this is a great window into what’s to come.”
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