Randy Rogers Band Still Shining Through Life’s Ups and Downs
Nothing Shines Like Neon is a first in many ways for the Randy Rogers Band. It’s their first independent album in over a decade. It’s the first they’ve released since the frontman’s mentor died. It’s the first they’ve released since Rogers’ infant daughter died last June. But through all of this, the most notable songs are the sexiest.
Not all personal tragedies are covered on the 11 songs that fill 37 minutes of swinging, up and down emotional Texas country music. “Personal” is a great way to describe the project, however. Rogers says he took chances with this eighth studio album. Start with “Rain and the Radio,” a downright steamy bedroom burner.
“For me that’s hard to pull off sometimes,” he says, calling this song one that pushed him most. “I can write you a sad, lonesome, ‘I miss you’ song. But ‘Let’s take our clothes off and get on the bed'? You gotta have a different kind of mindset.”
“She didn’t love it at first, to be honest. Now she says it doesn’t bother her.”
I can write you a sad, lonesome, ‘I miss you’ song. But ‘Let’s take our clothes off and get on the bed’? You gotta have a different kind of mindset.
Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski join Rogers to sing “Look Out Yonder,” a song penned by “Friends in Low Places” writer Earl Bud Lee. Producer Paul Worley brought it to the Texan years ago, but he held it because recording the rootsy, nostalgic lyric never felt quite right. Until Kent Finlay died.
Finlay owned the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, Texas. It’s where George Strait started, and hundreds of other pickers and singers can say the same. Rogers and his band held down the famous Tuesday night time slot for years, and Finlay was a mentor for the singer.
“I aways said there wouldn’t be Randy Rogers Band without Kent Finlay,” he says, his guitarist seated nearby, nodding in agreement.
“Look Out Yonder” isn’t about Finlay, but it recalls his memory. It’s difficult to ignore the emotion as Rogers sings, “He has no use for silver / Cause his heart is pure as gold / Mama, look out yonder coming down the road.”
The Randy Rogers Band doesn’t draw many sonic comparisons to Chris Stapleton, but their career arcs have been similar. Both were signed to Mercury Nashville, and both struggled to find radio airplay despite having massive appeal to a niche audience. Both carry no resentment. In fact, Rogers says Universal Nashville never cramped their style, and watching Stapleton enjoy success gives him and his bandmates hope.
“We feel like we make great music, and no it has not gotten the airplay that we hoped. But it (Stapleton's recent CMA success) does give you some type of ray of light.”
Collaborations with Jerry Jeff Walker and Jamey Johnson also stand out. Johnson joined RRB for “Actin’ Crazy,” a song inspired by Entourage actor Adrian Grenier. "San Antone" recalls Strait, and it's easy to imagine his timeless baritone replacing Rogers on the track.
There is no song on Nothing Shines Like Neon about the death of Rogers’ infant daughter, Rumer Rain. There's no hesitation to talk about the experience, an indication that most have remained respectful with their line of inquiry. Everyone from famous baseball players to musicians to the little old ladies at his mother’s church group reached out in the weeks after Rumer’s June 2015 passing. She was barely a week old. At the time, Randy said “She was beautiful in every way. Her brain however was very sick.”
“I’ve never written a song for any of my girls and I don’t know that I could start now," Rogers says. "It has to be perfect. It has to be timeless. It has to be a part of their lives.”
For him, Wade Bowen's "Before These Walls Are Blue" is that song and he's hesitant to try to match. Fellow Texan Aaron Watson also wrote and recorded a song about the death of a daughter. "Bluebonnets" is on the The Underdog album.
“It could probably help me a lot to write about it, but I haven’t touched it yet.”
In 2016, Randy Rogers Band will tour the country and try to stretch their loyal fanbase beyond Texas and the southwest. A May 27 date at Bayou Country Superfest with Luke Bryan should help them do that. They'll also play several shows with Pat Green and Bowen this winter and spring.
Nothing Shines Like Neon was released on Jan. 15.
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