Album Review: Wade Bowen’s ‘Solid Ground’

Wade Bowen has become a mainstay in the Texas country scene so it was only a matter of time until he released an album that pays tribute to the Lone Star State. Solid Ground, the singer’s latest project and first release with Thirty Tigers, blends the many flavors of Texas music into a cohesive and captivating album.

The Texas native penned 10 of the album’s 11 tracks and each song oozes with heartfelt storytelling and unique musicianship. There are distinct Red Dirt influences as well as mariachi and Tejano flavors and, of course, country and rock mixed in. All united by Bowen’s silky vocals, special features from Lucie Silvas as well as fellow Texans Miranda Lambert and Jack Ingram further enhance an already strong release.

While upbeat numbers like the nostalgic “Acuña” and the haunting “Day of the Dead” enthrall with horns, harmonica, and accordion accompaniment giving an obvious Latin flavor to the album, it’s the pain-filled ballads that leave a lasting mark. Songs like “Couldn’t Make You Love Me” and “Broken Glass” have Bowen serving as narrator as his heart yearns for someone who is unimpressed by him while on the latter he’s the one causing the heartbreak. “Here I sit, alone in coldness from words that I said that ain’t ever comin’ back,” he laments on “Broken Glass.”

Wade Bowen; Cover art courtesy Sunshine Sachs

Album highlights include the stunning ode to Austin, Texas, “So Long 6th Street,” which features Lambert and Ingram on backing vocals, and the striking “Anchor.” Telling the story of a long-term relationship, Bowen sings of a man who wonders if he’s still his lady’s anchor or simply a rock she has to drag around.

“You kiss me like I’m an old habit / My name’s familiar on your lips / It’s not like you’ve got to have it / It’s more like you got used to it / I’m not a man in desperation / I’m just a man who can’t forget / What passion feels like when it’s raging / What love feels like without an end,” he sings on “Anchor.” Clocking in at just over five minutes, the desperation is felt in every whispered line.

An album the revisits Bowen’s favorite Texas haunts and influences, it is perhaps “7:30″ that best captures the difficulty of returning to past relationships or locations that shaped oneself. “Everything is different, everything is changed / I must have been a fool to think that things would stay the same / The only thing that’s certain is this whole world keeps turnin’/ And you realize that you’ve been left behind,” he sings. Co-written by Bowen, Angaleena Presley and Waylon Payne, a soaring three-minute-long musical interlude helps heighten the song’s lyrics.

A versatile album that blends many sonic flavors and influences seamlessly, Bowen’s Solid Ground continues to enhance the singer’s lengthy catalog all while paying tribute to his deep Texas roots.