Jake FM Presents Josh Abbott Band with Wade Bowen
DOORS OPEN AT 7PM | SHOW STARTS AT 8PM
JOSH ABBOTT BAND
As Josh Abbott Band moved into the final stages of work on Until My Voice Goes Out, lead singer Josh Abbott’s personal life took a couple significant twists that underscored where JAB finds itself professionally. Abbott’s father suffered a stroke while the album was being recorded, and Josh split his time between the studio and the hospital bedside, finishing all the lead vocals shortly before his dad passed away. Two months later, Josh welcomed his first child into the world.
Those developments in the spring of 2017 nutshelled the circle of life, and in a way, that’s how Until My Voice Goes Out operates. As the band observes 10 years since recording its first single, “Taste,” Voice finds the seven-piece Texas ensemble ending one chapter and beginning another. Its last album, the dramatic Front Row Seat, encapsulated the life cycle of a relationship, from its passionate start to its heartbreaking conclusion. It was a summary document of events from the past.
Until My Voice Goes Out is, by contrast, a hopeful look into the future, a roll-up-the-sleeves-and-move-forward embrace of life and its potential.
“This album is about appreciating the moment and your family and your friends, and living life the right way,” Abbott says. “It’s really all about finding clarity and focusing on what’s important.”
Experiencing life at its fullest includes taking risks, and Josh Abbott Band does that successfully in Until My Voice Goes Out, incorporating strings and a horn section for the first time. The approach layered both a glassy classicism and a ragged soul on the well-oiled JAB framework. Arranger Rob Mathes – noted for his work with Tony Bennett, Sting and Bruce Springsteen – worked up a handful of mood-setting string preludes and added to JAB’s range by, for example, weaving classy, dancing violins into “Girl Down In Texas” alongside Austin Davis’ plucky banjo and drummer Edward Villanueva’s firm backbeat. Mathes lathered a thick, Memphis-soul layer atop “Texas Women, Tennessee Whiskey” and threw a buzzing baritone sax under “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” with the Austin-based horn section Groove Line carrying it out in thick precision.
“The guys were really hesitant that this would work,” Abbott concedes, “but I just said, ‘Look, let’s take another bold leap of faith here. Let’s go in the studio and record these songs and kick ass, the way we would make a normal album, but once we’re done making the cake, let’s see if the horns and the strings can put the icing on it.’ The band still recorded an album that sounds like us. You still have the banjo and a lot of fun, upbeat stuff and some really pretty love songs, and that’s core to JAB (Josh Abbott Band). That’s how we got our start.”
The genesis of JAB was almost non-descript. Abbott and Davis, frat brothers at Texas Tech University, performed at a couple of open-mic nights at the Blue Light Live in Lubbock. Those dates gave the two budding musicians “the bug,” and they grew their duo into a full-fledged band. Villanueva and fiddler Preston Wait were the first of the current lineup to join, followed by bass player James Hertless and guitarist Caleb Keeter in 2010, and keyboard player David Fralin in 2015.
Texas’ red-dirt scene provides a wealth of touring opportunities for young bands, and JAB made the most of it, quickly vaulting into the upper realms of the state’s live acts with a raucous, raw sound and a certain unpredictability. Once “Taste” appeared on radio stations across the Lone Star State, audiences came out to hear – and sing along with – that song and a wealth of hooky, accessible titles on Scapegoat and their 2010 breakthrough, She’s Like Texas, both released on the band’s own indie label, the appropriately named Pretty Damn Tough Records.
JAB nabbed Top 10 debuts on the Billboard country albums chart with 2012’s Small Town Family Dream and 2015’s Front Row Seat, and the band lobbed five singles onto the Hot Country Songs chart, including the infectious “Hangin’ Around” and “Amnesia.” In a cool quirk, JAB also provided two significant women their first chart exposure: 2011’s “Oh, Tonight” introduced many listeners to award-winning Kacey Musgraves; and 2016’s “Wasn’t That Drunk” set up Carly Pearce to sign with Nashville’s Big Machine Records.
Across five independent albums and a decade-plus of touring, Wade Bowen has amassed a string of regional hits and awards, and also a fan base who is passionate about music. Indeed, in the fourteen years since Bowen launched his career at Stubb’s Barbecue in Lubbock, Texas, he’s risen from collegiate greenhorn to the top of the Texas music and Red Dirt circuit. His colleagues and friends Pat Green, Jack Ingram, Eli Young Band and others had made the major-label leap, helping to take a vibrant regional sound to the rest of America.
Now Bowen is poised to bring that Red Dirt and independent spirit to country music at large. Wade’s baritone is dense and concentrated, with traces of whisky and smoke and an autumnal warmth. Bowen takes command of his songs, cutting over the top of producer Justin Niebank’s sculpted guitar-scapes on his latest release “The Given.” The sound is one hundred percent country, rife with pedal steel and vivid emotion, but it’s also music that could easily find a home with fans of Bowen’s rock idols – folks like Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne. Take a few passes through this project and you’ll hearing a singer’s singer and a focused songwriter who’s adding layers to his music all the time.
On a live circuit where the overwhelming mandate is to stir up a party, Bowen has aimed to leave folks with a memory. As a writer, even one from a state with some tall literary traditions, he’s not trying to earn a PhD in poetry; he’s trying to communicate. “My style,” he says, “is more to try to evoke an emotion. I’m more about trying to leave a mark on people.”
Growing up in Waco, Bowen’s exposure to the music of Texas was limited to whatever made it on FM country radio. George Strait was king. Guy Clark was a name he’d not have recognized before getting to college. But at school, in Lubbock, he discovered the full spectrum of Texas artistry, starting with Robert Earl Keen. “He was a big changing point in my life,” says Wade. “I realized by listening to him that there was way more out there than I ever knew. So I started getting into Guy Clark and other great Texas music. But I was obsessed with Robert Earl. When we started the band we were sort of a Robert Earl cover band.”
That band was called West 84, and they found that with their large posse of friends who’d always show up for a good time, it was easy to land gigs. Bowen meanwhile began to channel a lifelong love of writing into songs, and when college ended he made two major decisions. He took on the role of solo artist, and he moved to Austin. By then, about 2001, fellow Waco native Pat Green had busted out to national prominence and the Texas music phenomenon was the buzz of Nashville. It was part of Wade Bowen’s inspiration to charge ahead.
Try Not To Listen is the album Wade regards as his true debut, the project that kicked off a life and living made of 200-plus nights a year on the road and patient grassroots fan development. Then with Lost Hotel in 2006, things really began to click. The opening track “God Bless This Town” reached No. 1 on the bellwether Texas Music Chart, and to date, Bowen has had a total of 10 Number 1’s and 15 Top 5 Singles on the Texas Music Chart. He achieved another landmark in 2010, when he was invited to add his name to the roster of great artists who’ve made a Live At Billy Bob’s CD/DVD combo at the iconic club in Fort Worth.