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Americana act Wade Bowen may as yet not gained much of inroad musically this side of the pond, but his reputation Stateside both as a songwriter and recording act is high! Solid Ground includes co-writes with Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert, Seth James, Angaleena Presley, Waylon Payne, Lucie Silvas and Jon Randall plus the man who produced the record, Keith Gattis. 

Bowen’s sound vies between Texas barroom fare, and the rock edge of Springsteen, Tom Petty, John Mellencamp and others. As he wranglers with the trials and tribulations life is apt to throw at you at any given moment. One person more than any other came to my mind, and that is Chris Knight. Such is the bold direct approach taken as he digs deep into the heart and soul of the subject as he reaches into the mind of those looking for something more tangible than most records.  

There is a Borderlands edge to ”Day Of The Dead” (Gattis), and with it fermenting tastily, “Broken Glass” is one of those ballads that hang in the air. Like grapes on the vine waiting to be picked! Bowen’s gritty uncompromising style sees him perform a set of songs announcing where he is from, and of how he wears his heart on his sleeve. Instrumentally, he likes both to force the issue one moment and caress the lyric the next; the latter is heard on “Acuna” and his self-penned (the only one on the record) “Broken Glass” 

Accompanying him you have the likes of Jeff Trotts (guitar, pedal steel), Fred Eltringham (drums), Billie Mercer (bass), Jenn Gunderman, Rami Jeffee and John Henry Trinko (keyboards). Other songs of note include the percussion driven,  “Anchor” as he questions, how does love feel without a net before he drops into the interestingly entitled “Fell In Love On Whiskey”. Boasting hints of redneck country and a back country edge, the harmonica fired track has a rare visual quality, and will no doubt become one of his biggest songs live. With the help of James he delves deep into the soul of darkness for “Calling All Demons”, its eerie, atmospheric styled opening can’t fail to engage the listener. Bowen knows how to milk the sadness of the break upas he rocks the blues away Americana fashion. I imagine fans of the likes of Robert Earl Keen and Knight (and Jack Ingram) will enjoy the tight, hard driven feel of free abandon Bowen conjures as he utilises a feel of the Tex-Mex borderland. 

On the minus front, there are occasions, albeit rare when he does slip towards mainstream country as on “So Long 6th Street”. Something you could not direct in a negative manner to moving ballad “Death, Dyin’ And Devilled Eggs. Co-written with Randall it is something I could imagine performed by the late Dan Seals such is the war, cultured gracefulness of his performance. It has a partner in “7.30”, so relaxed and conversational it ticks the box. I can see Bowen help fill the gaping void in country Americana.  

Maurice Hope      

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May 2018

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