Wade Bowen’s ‘Solid Ground’: A Track-By-Track Guide

Thirty Tigers/Cambria Harkey

Wade Bowen‘s Solid Ground finds the Texas troubadour pressing forward into the unknown while maintaining a firm grip on his roots. As his seven studio release, much of Solid Ground plays out like a comfortably worn roadmap and a love letter mixtape to his native Texas. Solid Ground is as much an exhibition into Bowen’s past as it is an ode to Bowen’s musical heroes.

He hits all the major highlights — Waco, Austin, Lubbock, the Hill Country, Far West Texas, Mexican border towns — throughout the 11 tracks. Each pitstop isn’t just an anecdote or Bowen reminiscing though. They’re also opportunities for Bowen to showcase the broad spectrum of sonic influences from the state. It’s Mariachi odes, Guy Clark lessons, badland suites, Robert Earl Keen border ballads, ZZ Top riffs, and a bevy of other Texas staples. With veteran musician Keith Gattis serving as a guide voice and producer, Bowen and company deliver a sprawling Texas soundtrack that’s vibrant, dark and consistently pushing the album ahead.

Still, on the surface, the majority of that can be generalized to describe most of Bowen’s work. The difference is Bowen’s focus, drive and ever-growing capacity as a great songwriter. For long stretches of Solid Ground, Bowen is nostalgic. Singles such as “Acuna” and “So Long Sixth Street” are obvious moments in which he’s looking back on the past. But they aren’t just Bowen reminiscing about salad days and forgotten good times. In the grand scheme, they serve a larger purpose. Solid Ground is Bowen also going off into new territory. He’s often contemplating his own mortality, his sense of faith and how the past guides the future. It’s redeeming and reassuring despite asking difficult questions and raising tough subjects.

The majority of Bowen’s past albums have displayed his prowess as a good songwriter with a knack for melody and memorable choruses. But he’s never been this thought-provoking or gripping. For much of his career, Bowen has a been great checkers player. On Solid Ground though, Bowen has proved to be a mightly chess player as well.

From the jump, he sets a serious tone and mood that rarely wavers. Sure, Solid Ground delivers radio worthy anthems. Even so, songs aren’t cut into nifty three-minute portions. Songs linger. They build and sway with exhales and deep breaths. For the vast majority, Bowen treks into darker territory with moments of intimacy that leave him vulnerable and exposed. It’s humanizing and humbling. It captures Bowen in various states of confidence, uncertainty, satisfied with past and hopeful for the future. Throughout Solid Ground, Bowen’s growth as an artist is on full display.

Below, we guide you through the major influences, stories and thought process behind Wade Bowen’s Solid Ground.

1. “Couldn’t Make You Love Me”

2. “Day of the Dead”

3. “So Long 6th Street

4. “Broken Glass”

5. “Death, Dyin’ and Deviled Eggs”

6. “7:30”

7. “Acuna”

8. “Compass Rose”

9. “Anchor”

10. “Fell in Love on Whiskey”

10. “Calling All Demons”

Now Watch: Vandoliers Perform “Endless Summer” Live at Wide Open Country

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