The Texas-born country artist is in a Lone Star State of mind.
Randy Rogers has gotten back to his roots — his Texas roots, to be precise — and the popular country artist is reaping high praise and enthusiastic responses as his handiwork continues to be embraced by fans and critics.
Nothing Shines Like Neon, the eighth studio album by the Randy Rogers Band, was recorded at the storied Cedar Creek studio in Austin, Texas, with producer Buddy Cannon at the helm and stellar collaborators like Jamey Johnson, Allison Krauss, and Jerry Jeff Walker dropping by for duets. There are scads of specific references to Lone Star State culture and locations scattered among the tracks — particularly on “San Antone,” the most recently released single, a heartfelt tribute to the Alamo City — and musical styles that run the gamut from honky-tonk exuberance to melancholy musings.
“I simply set out to make a country record,” Rogers told us. “More than anything, after I had fun with that whole Hold My Beer: Volume One album with Wade Bowen, I felt like it was time for our band to put out a traditional country record.”
That is, a traditional country record with a distinctively Texas twang.
We recently spoke with Rogers — a native of Cleburne, Texas — about Nothing Shines Like Neon. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
Cowboys & Indians: Do you think the good folks of San Antonio might be hankering to make “San Antone” their official song?
Randy Rogers: [Laughs.] Well, nobody has contacted me yet, so we’ll have to wait and see. I would be more than willing to lend my voice to that if they just give me a call.
C&I: At the risk of sounding like someone asking a father to choose his favorite child — do you have a favorite track on Nothing Shines Like Neon?
Rogers: Well, “Look Out Yonder” is dedicated to Kent Finlay, my mentor and dear friend. Kent owned and operated Cheatham Street Warehouse for the better part of 35 years in San Marcos, Texas. He gave me an opportunity to play there on Tuesday nights. That was 15 years ago, and the rest is kind of history. He was the first guy who ever really gave me the opportunity to have the stage. He also wrote a bunch of songs with me throughout the years and just was a really close friend.
Kent passed away the night before we went into the studio, actually. So for me, “Look Out Yonder” is now his song. Of course Alison Krauss singing on it — with her beautiful voice — just means the world to me. That’s one of those songs that kind of makes me have feelings. After doing this for 15 years, music doesn't necessarily always move me. But that song does.
C&I: Were any cuts on the album especially difficult to record?
Rogers: I think “Actin’ Crazy,” the song with Jamey Johnson. At first, for whatever reason, I just didn’t nail it. Just couldn’t nail it. The band played great on it, but I just didn’t have my best day there for that. So Buddy Cannon, our producer, called in Jamey Johnson to come in and sing. And then it was perfect — he was just what the song was missing. Jamey came in, and then I ended up singing harmony with him, he sang harmony with me, and we traded lines — and it turned out to be this great thing. Sometimes you just have to revisit something and make sure you get it right. Thank God for Buddy Cannon for doing that.
C&I: It’s often been noted that country music artists and their fans have a unique bond — that they’re more closely connected than the artists and fans in other musical genres. Would you agree?
Rogers: I just think country music fans, in general, take a little bit more ownership in the artists, and take a little bit more pride in their purchase when they buy a record. That’s not a bad thing at all. It’s actually a really good thing. It gives me a sense of security in my job and raising a family. Playing music for a living, that’s obviously something that you need.
C&I: While you were growing up, did anyone in your family try to convince you to — well, to maybe go into a more reliable line of work?
Rogers: [Laughs] No, I didn’t ever have that. I grew up in a home where I was encouraged to chase my dreams and be an individual. And music was a big part of our family lives. We’d play songs every weekend, and at church and family gatherings. I was always encouraged to follow my musical aspirations. The talent that God gave me — I was always encouraged to do it.