Wade Bowen – Solid Ground Album Review: Bowen and company give a lesson in songwriting on his latest release!

On his first record since his major label deal went south and he signed with Thirty Tigers, Wade Bowen has managed to rope in a lot of friends. Such is his esteem in country music, Solid Ground sees Keith Gattis on production duties and cameos from Miranda Lambert, Lucie Silvas, Jack Ingram and more. Whats more, the songwriting credits read like a who’s-who of modern country poets. Andrew Combs, Charlie Worsham and Angaleena Presley make up some of the names behind the songs. Bowen is clearly well respected in the country music world and this album sets out to establish himself without the clout of a big label.

The record opens up with Couldn’t Make You Love Me, a rocking introduction to this record. With it’s chugging electric guitars and harmonica cutting through the song, it’s a mix of rock ‘n’ roll and country. It’s a well written song that could easily be interpreted as a dig at the mainstream labels but, regardless of that, has a fantastic quality of musicianship throughout.

Day of the Dead takes us on a little journey south of the border into Mexico. It’s a brilliant, foot stomping anthem. The song was written by Keith Gattis and is the only tune on the record that Bowen doesn’t have a writing credit on. It’s a fantastically lively song with the bass line bobbing along and some great accordion and Spanish guitar playing that really gives it that Latin flavour. 

Next up is a song that features both Miranda Lambert and Jack Ingram, both of whom were apparently desperate to be on the song when they first heard it. So Long 6th Street is a big ballad and an ode to moving on in life whether it be from a place or a partner. It’s definitely a ‘lighters-in-the-air’ moment for the record. It’s a song packed with emotion and is beautifully complimented by the slide guitar.

Broken Glass slows things down slightly on the next track. Featuring guest vocals from the wonderful Lucie Silvas, it’s a slow and emotional number about watching a partner sleep and reflecting on how you’ve tried to do your best for them but it’s maybe not good enough. In interview’s Bowen has explained that he wrote the song one night after saying something that he regretted to his wife, she stormed off to bed and he wrote the song. Bowen sings “I try so hard to be perfect, she is so perfect, oh but she’s a fragile, fragile thing”.

Next up is a song co-written with and featuring John Randall. It’s another potential tear-jerker. Death, Dyin’ and Deviled Eggs is the story of a funeral and saying goodbye. It’s a soft and reflective song and reminds you to make the most of life whilst you still can. “Yeah such is life, we’re all at the mercy of a butter knife on a plate” shows Bowen opening up on how fragile life is. Some beautiful pedal steel guitar punctuates the song.

7:30 is a seven minute spectacular of a song with a superb extended instrumental ending. It’s a song that is heavily focused on losing somebody that you love and is absolutely beautifully written. The reflective style of lyric, inspired by co-writer Waylon Payne receiving the news of one of his parent’s passing, makes it a real heart breaker. “This ain’t nothing like I’ve ever been told, Hell, the coffee in my cup ain’t even cold” hammers home the moment when you hear the news of a loss and can’t comprehend it and the extended outro is a beautiful time for reflection. This is a real gut-punch of a song.

Next up is Acuna and it helps to pick the tone up slightly from the more downbeat songs that came before it. This being said Acuna is another reflective song as Bowen looks back at his youth and wonders where it all went. It also gives a nod to the disappearing dance hall heritage of Texas “We vanished into thin air, so fast we didn’t know what went wrong, just disappeared like the dance halls, woke up one morning and we were gone”.

The wonderful Andrew Combs lends a hand in co-writing Compass Rose. It’s an upbeat and folksy song where the narrator talks about how he takes his love with him everywhere, even when he has to leave her behind. There’s a great banjo solo that keeps the jaunty and fun feeling to the track.

Anchor finds Bowen back in a vulnerable and reflective mood. It’s a soft and slow song that is easily relatable. Throughout the song he wonders whether he really is good for his partner or whether he’s just a burden, it’s quite similar to Broken Glass in this sense. The line “Am I an anchor or just a rock you’ve got to drag around?” resonates deeply. This deeply personal song is one that Bowen has apparently found hard to perform for his wife due to the fact that he talks about love and marriage being tough.

The penultimate track on the album was co-written by Charlie Worsham and is all out upbeat country fun. Fell in Love on Whiskey kicks off with a foot-stomping beat and some great slide guitar. It’s a real lift to the album and will surely be an absolute live classic. The line “we fell in love on whiskey and fell apart on wine” sums up this honky tonk friendly riot of a song.

The album is finished off with the moody Calling All Demons. It’s a dark song that somewhat harks back to the tone of Day of the Dead. It’s another epic song that clocks in over seven minutes and Bowen uses it to sing about his vices and compare them to demons. There’s a wailing slide guitar and demon choir chanting at the end which really set the tone for this song.

Track Listing

  1. Couldn’t Make You Love Me (Wade Bowen/Keith Gattis/Audley Freed)
  2. Day Of The Dead (Keith Gattis)
  3. So Long 6th Street Feat. Jack Ingram and Miranda Lambert (Wade Bowen/Keith Gattis)
  4. Broken Glass Feat. Lucie Silvas (Wade Bowen)
  5. Death, Dyin’ And Deviled Eggs Feat. Jon Randall (Wade Bowen/John Randall)
  6. 7:30 (Wade Bowen/Angaleena Presley/Waylon Payne)
  7. Acuña Feat. Lucie Silvas (Wade Bowen/Keith Gattis/Audley Freed
  8. Compass Rose (Wade Bowen/Andrew Combs)
  9. Anchor Feat. Lucie Silvas  (Wade Bowen/Jeremy Spillman)
  10. Fell In Love On Whiskey (Wade Bowen/Charlie Worsham)
  11. Calling All Demons (Wade Bowen/Seth James)

Overall

Just looking at the list of guests and co-writers on this album tells you all that you need to know about Wade Bowen’s reputation. Solid Ground is an album that is brimming with meaningful lyrics and superb musicianship. Wade Bowen has clearly put his own life under the microscope to create this songs and the end result is an incredibly rich album. I find it very hard to pick fault with this record, the balance of different tempos and styles is brilliant and the influences clearly transcend many genres. Thanks to Thirty Tigers taking on Bowen, we are still able receive new music from Wade Bowen and thank the lord for that because it’d be a tragedy not to have this kind of music available.

Recommended Tracks

So Long 6th Street, Death, Dyin’ and Deviled Eggs, 7:30, Fell In Love On Whiskey

Six Shooter Rating

9.5 out of 10

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