For the better part of 15 years, Randy Rogers Band has been, for all intents and purposes, been the poster child of the Texas Country movement. His rugged, gritty voice has been the unofficial narrator of Texas’ giant dancehalls, hometown honky-tonks and front porch breakups.
Throughout his career, Rogers has repeatedly hit his stride with first-person narratives about the periods that bookend a relationship—the honeymoon introduction and the extended goodbye. Rogers’ flirtatious advances in the opening sequences of a relationship are spot-on. At times, he hits the nail on the awkward buildup to opening lines and introductions. It’s the hiccups of meeting someone for the first time. At others, he’s cool, calm and collected and approaches with the smooth, refined touch that’s romantic and charming. He toes the line of what’s cliche, relying on familiarity that’s tried and true instead of tired and worn thin.
Perhaps Rogers’ greatest songwriter ability comes when he highlights the beginning of the end. He captures the essence of the lingering heartbreak that comes on the heels of a relationship turned sour better than most. Rogers’ stays in those moments when a rush of conflicting emotions run amok. Often, he leaves you with the all too familiar question of should I stay or should I go?
Of course, Rogers’ catalog isn’t just highlighted by those kinds of songs. There’s plenty of material that displays Rogers’ range as a storyteller. Still, it’s not just Randy Rogers. It’s the Randy Rogers Band. It’s not just a nameless backing band. Brady Black, Geoffrey Hill, Les Lawless, Johnny “Chops” Richardson and Todd Stewart are all just as vital to what makes RRB a diverse and well-fined machine. Their songs have a worn-in comfort. With a new album coming later this year, they remain as one of Texas Country’s most consistent artists.
The Randy Rogers Band catalog is jam packed with hot country songs, personal intimate ballads, honky-tonk callbacks and garage rocking anthems. While there’s certainly a wealth of material, we’ve narrowed down the list to 15 of Randy Rogers Band’s greatest songs.
Written by Keith Gattis, “San Antone” finds a reflective Rogers. Lines like “but you gotta go when you gotta go, like Crockett at the Alamo” are straightforward, but hold a subtle sadness and weight that grows as the song progresses. The nods to San Antonio and the Hill Country are the icing on the cake.
“Like It Used To Be” is found in the middle of Rogers’ debut album. At the time, he was fresh-faced and green. You hear it in his vocals that are obviously younger and less gravelly, but there were already hints of Rogers’ ability to write singalongs that tugged on everyone’s nostalgic heartstrings.
With the release of Rollercoaster, Rogers and company delivered one of the high marks in Texas Country music. Widely considered a standard, the record found the band hitting their stride as a finely tuned outfit. “Tonight’s Not the Night,” written with songwriter Radney Foster, who also produced Rollercoaster, was just one of many that highlighted the breakout album.
“Buy Myself a Chance” showed that Rogers didn’t always have to be serious when looking for love. Written with longtime collaborator Sean McConnell, “Buy Myself a Chance” is a tongue-in-cheek good-timing tune that highlights Rogers’ sense of humor. With a pocket full of quarters, Rogers rehearses his pick-up lines as he eyes a prospective dance partner.
Found on Nothing Shines Like Neon, Rogers’ “Neon Blues” is all about a woman spurned by a heartbreak. It plays out very much like an unofficial sequel to John Anderson’s “Straight Tequila Night” where Rogers playing the honky-tonk narrator sitting across the bar.
“Lonely Too Long” is Rogers and company going straight into pure old-school country territory with a sad song ballad. It opens like many classic country heartbreakers with a breakup letter left for Rogers to read on his own. There’s plenty of familiarity to rely on as it checks all the boxes of a broken heart ballad.
“This Time Around” finds Rogers and company at their most unhinged and raw. The fingerprints of co-writer Cody Canada are all over the garage rocker. Rather than going the typical route of feeling down and out, Rogers’ takes a different path when the breakup comes. Instead of letting her come breakup with him, he’s the one delivering the bad news.
“Somebody Take Me Home” is another Foster co-write found on Rollercoaster. Fiddle player Brady Black’s soars throughout as it goes back and forth between velvety neo-traditional accents and fresh rootsy swings. There’s a rock & roll edge that feels as much like a Ryan Adams’ Heartbreaker-era song as it does a Steve Earle rambler.
“Had To Give That Up Too” is one of Rogers’ lesser known songs, but it remains one of his greatest vocal efforts. Written by Gattis, Savannah Welch, and Jamie Lin Wilson, Rogers’ vocals reflect a man who’s been broken down by troubled relationships—one with alcoholism and one with a past lover. Rogers has never felt more weathered, depressed or as good.
The Rollercoaster opener “Down & Out” is Rogers on the rebound. He’s been down and out for some time, but finally coming back with an upbeat tick. It’s not crystal clear or glossy either. Again, there’s a garage grit that owes as much to rock & roll guitars as it does to traditional country spirit. It’s not crystal clear or glossy.
“Standards” is the highlight of Hold My Beer, Vol. 1, the collaborative efforts between Rogers and Wade Bowen. There’s plenty of twangy fiddles and pedal steel throughout that make it feel like it’d be right at home on any of the classic duet records by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson. It’s not necessarily a snide remark to Nashville’s bro country movement, but Rogers and Bowen also don’t apologize for remaining true to themselves either. At the end of the day, the line “I don’t have hits, I’ve got standards” perfectly sums up Rogers’ (and Bowen’s) catalog of songs. They’ve never topped the Billboard Hot Country charts, but they’ve continually amassed a wealth of well-known numbers.
Found on their 2008 self-titled album, “In My Arms Instead” is one of Rogers and company’s most iconic hits to date. Black’s fiddle is pure ear candy. Without it, the McConnell-Rogers co-write would be fine. But there’s so much texture added with Black’s smooth, easy on the ears additions. Overall, Rogers delivers one of his finer melodies that just begs to be sang along to.
The opening lines of “Sailors sail, cowboys ride. Lovers love when they get the chance,” feel as if they’ve been around forever. It’s slightly poetic and graceful. You just kind of know every word. Written by George Ducas and Foster, “Kiss Me In The Dark” was Rogers’ declaration as a bonafide star meant to be taken seriously.
“They Call It The Hill Country” was originally written by one of Rogers’ longtime mentors, the late Kent Finlay, former owner of San Marcos’ Cheatham Street Warehouse (which Rogers recently purchased.) Even while Rogers has had a string of Texas Country songs chart-toppers, one of his best song interpretations has been the down-home and intimate “They Call It The Hill Country.” It walks the line between being concerned for the future and nostalgic for the past.
It can be cliche to say an artist’s first material is their best. But Rogers’ “Lost & Found” is a perfect example of an artist delivering an unforgettable song in their early years. It’s not as refined as some of Rogers’ later breakup hits. But that’s where it shines brightest. Rogers’ isn’t afraid to sink into pure and raw emotion. He embraces it.