Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen are best known for their Texas music roots, but their first effort as a duo is largely a throwback to an earlier wave of musical outlaws with a healthy dose of traditional country. The opening "In the Next Life" reflects on the two meeting "some 15 years ago" by noting some of the pitfalls ("Broke and damn near homeless/Lost and stumbling around" and "Had nobody at our shows/And nights we didn't get paid") along with the pleasures of their musical journey ("Buddy, what was it like to play the Opry?" and "The time I opened for the King") and is stylistically reminiscent of Waylon and Willie.
Merle Haggard's influence is evident with effective covers of "It's Been a Great Afternoon" and "Reasons To Quit." Elsewhere the amusing "Good Luck With That" channels the spirit of David Allan Coe's "Take This Job and Shove It" with Bowen plotting revenge on an abusive boss ("When I walk in tomorrow morning/And tell him he can go to hell"), while Rogers takes a somewhat politically incorrect stance with his presumably overbearing other half when she inquires how long he and Bowen plan to stay out ("She asked me when I'd be home/I said don't wait up on me/Cause I am the man of the house/And I do as I please").
One of the stronger tracks is "Standards" in which Rogers rejects the song a "record man" suggests would make him a star ("I don't have hits/I've got standards") while proclaiming his concept of success ("Don't get me wrong/I wanna hear my songs on country radio/But it's gotta feel right standing here/Singing them at the show"). Another highlight is the ballad "'Til It Does" in which Bowen tells of a love lost by lack of communication ("I never told her that I loved her, but I do/She never cried here on my shoulder/If she was hurting, I never knew").
Produced by Lloyd Maines, the instrumentation is stellar throughout, particularly with Maines (pedal steel, Dobro, mandolin), Brady Black (fiddle) and Caleb Jones (bass). With their smooth harmonies and strong tunes this is an impressive effort from Rogers and Bowen that creates the hope that the title "Hold My Beer: Vol. 1" suggests a sequel will be forthcoming.