The country music scene is dominated by big-name stars who sell shiny pop music to the masses, but one of the true pleasures of the genre is that there’s plenty of room for blue-collar working musicians like Texas songman Randy Rogers.
Rogers has never charted a top-20 hit, but he’s released six studio albums, the last two on MCA Nashville, and like most non-stars makes his money by touring relentlessly. He’s at the Tractor Tavern tonight with Wade Bowen, whose career biography mirrors Rogers’: six studio albums, no hits but no quit, either.
Just because these two Texans haven’t had chart success doesn’t mean they’re not capable of penning some solid country tunes. Rogers’ “Kiss Me In The Dark,” from his 2006 album, “Just a Matter of Time,” has over 1.2 million listens on Spotify. It also happens to be just as good a song as most anything you’ll hear on mainstream country radio today.
He’s a decent singer, his band is solid and his songs hit all the familiar notes that have made country one of the most popular and enduring genres. The only difference is that Rogers doesn’t look like Eric Church or Blake Shelton.
For Wade Bowen, who was last in town opening for Reckless Kelly, it’s a similar tale except he might be a better singer than Rogers. The New York Times even heaped praise on Bowen, praising the songwriting on his 2012 album “The Given” as “earnest and direct.”
If someone like Bowen, who’s been at the game for about 14 years, can still be earnest and direct six studio albums in, well, that’s got to be worth something.
Country music, just like with any genre, is defined largely by its biggest stars. But the artists who truly embody the spirit of country music aren’t judges on “The Voice.” They are grinders like Rogers and Bowen, pros who keep on doing it year after year not for fame or radio hits but because they’ve got something to say and want to keep saying it as long as they can.
-Owen R. Smith, on Twitter @inanedetails