Black Music Matters Festival

Wade Bowen

Solid Ground – 2018 (Self-released)

Reviewed by Bill Caruthers

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CDs by Wade Bowen

Wade Bowen release his first solo album of country music in almost four years. Not that he has been idol, with two duet albums with Randy Rogers and the gospel effort, "Songs for My Mother" sandwiched in between. Helping write 10 of 11 songs here, most with producer Keith Gattis, "Solid Ground" plays like a lovelorn travelog to Texas, visiting places, events and personal experiences that while diverse in tone and influence, nevertheless are held together by the singer's honest and heartfelt delivery.

Unforgettable lines and indelible pictures abound here, with "You kiss me like I'm an old habit, my name's familiar on your lips..." from "Anchor," vividly painting the picture of a longtime love going stale. The over five-minute run time seems forgivable in favor of a good hurt. Similar sentiments inhabit "Broken Glass," with Bowen the curator of his own misery.

Tejano sounds, particularly Mariachi brass, are employed to haunting effect "Day of the Dead," a tune reminiscent of The Mavericks in their heyday. Several of the numbers here are not only odes to times gone by, but also to the futility of trying to recapture the past. The long cut "7:30" and even the standout, upbeat "Acuna," a tune celebrating college road trips south of border, each illustrate the fact that nothing stays the same. Probably the most radio ready and hook-laden tune here is "So Long Sixth Street," which ably juxtaposes the joy and familiarity of Austin's Music Row with the need to move forward and grow as an artist, assisted by background guest starring of Miranda Lambert and Jack Ingram.

"Solid Ground" is a solid effort, but it is more than that. It is a showplace for an artist at the top of his game simultaneously stretching his wings and still playing homage to how he got here in the first place.