It’s been five years since Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen released Hold My Beer, Vol. 1. Regrouped, they’ve entered the next chapter in their working union with Hold My Beer, Vol. 2, a continuation of their 2015 debut, it’s the second phase in the duo’s tales of beer-drinking, honky tonk, and old-school country.
Back home in Texas, Randy Rogers is locked in with two dogs, a 3-year-old, and a 6-year-old, but life is just fine. “It’s like a zoo, and you’re stuck on the inside of the fence,” laughs Rogers, who welcomes the unexpected break home with family. “I started playing on the road when I was 18 and gone every weekend, so this is literally the most time I have been home in almost 22 years. I caught myself in February thinking, ‘oh my God, I am exhausted,’ and then this hit, so be careful what you wish for.”
For Vol. 2 Rogers and Bowen returned to producer Lloyd Maines, who worked with the duo on Vol. 1. Hold My Beer, Vol. 2 is the perfect blend of old-school, ode to country music on crooner “Rhinestoned,” written by Lori McKenna, Ryan Beaver, and Ashley Ray, through the harmonious twangs of “This Ain’t My Town” or the more humorous “Rodeo Clown,” and a collaboration with Virginia country band Asleep at the Wheel for the more punchy “Mi Amigo,” before closing on the more electrified title track.
The album is also a tribute to the duo’s 20-plus-year friendship and offers up a lightheartedness—a departure from their more heartache-riden solo work—and the fine art of breaking open a cold one with buddies.
“Second chapter is a good way to put it,” Bowen tells American Songwriter. “We’ve definitely continued the atmosphere that we created with Vol. 1 as far as buddies, and beer drinking, honky tonk music, and a throwback kind of country music. The biggest difference with this one versus the first is that Vol. 1 just kind of came out of nowhere. We didn’t plan that one. We just got in the studio and started recording, and it fell out of the sky.”
On Vol. 2, the duo took a different turn. They took their time and wrote more, still capturing, and continuing, the levity of Vol. 1. “It’s fun, and still has the humor, and the record makes you feel good overall,” says Bowen. “The song quality is still there. We’ve just tried to, as with every project, to be better than the last.”
An homage to the pioneers of country, Vol. 1 saw an homage to Merle Haggard’s “It’s Been a Great Afternoon” and a cover of his 1983 duet with Willie Nelson, “Reasons to Quit,” Vol. 2 continues its appreciation of the country legend in “Let Merle Be Merle.” The duo even got their hands on unreleased demo vocals of Waylon Jennings singing on “Ode to Ben Dorcy (Lovey’s Song).”
“Ben [Dorcy] would come on the bus and tell us stories and say things like ‘Waylon wrote this’” says Rogers. “He would tell you these stories about hanging out with Johnny Cash and [Waylon] Jennings, and John Wayne, and you would think ‘is this old man crazy?’ Then all of a sudden, here’s a song that Waylon wrote for him.
A tribute to their good friend Dorcy, a longtime roadie, who worked for Elvis Presley, Cash, Nelson, and other artists, and also served as a personal assistant to Wayne in the 1950s, “Ode” captures that old country swagger that would make Jennings proud.
When Rogers and Bowen had the idea to cut the song, they called up their mutual friend Shooter Jennings, and the wheels began to turn. “Shooter said his dad would love this and to go for it, but we were going to just use Wayland’s voice and ask for forgiveness,” laughs Rogers. “We got lucky. Shooter sang on it with us, and it’s epic. It’s never been done before. It’s hard to describe because in the studio, we just had these chills. Here’s Waylon’s voice. It was eerie.”
For Vol. 2, Rogers and Bowen headed down to Nashville to write with friends Jim Beavers and John Randall. After writing five songs in just two days, they knew they were on to something and pulled in other writers within their circuit.
“It’s the beauty of having talented friends and being able to surround yourself with people like that,” says Bowen. “It gives the record strength and gives it personality, and make it really different and unique.”
Overall, Rogers says Vol. 2 is drenched in more humor more than anything else. “Every song kind of has a little giggle moment,” he says. “That’s something neither of us do on our own records. They tend to be super serious. Between Wade and I, we break up with 40 different people and get our hearts broken on our solo stuff. This shows the other sides of our personalities. It’s lighter, and I think we all need that right now.”
Returning to the studio with Maines was the other missing piece of Vol. 2. “No one else could capture what we were after like Lloyd can,” says Rogers. “He gets it. He’s a connoisseur of music. I don’t want to say old country music, but the country music that you want to capture. He’ll tell a story about some session player that played with Hank Snow or something. He just has that knowledge and also the ability to capture those moments.”
Starting out as a session player for many years, Maines, who’s is also father of Dixie Chicks’ Natalie, has been producing for nearly three decades. “He’s always been a part of making statements and making people’s careers and you wouldn’t know it when you work with him,” says Bowen. “He’s as easygoing and laid back as it comes. He sits back and just hears everything—every little detail, every little drum, every bass note, and every guitar lick. I loved working with him on Vol. 1, and I look forward to making many more records with him.”
Perhaps a Hold My Beer, Vol. 3 is in the cards. For the time being, Rogers and Bowen just want to get back on the road and tour through Vol. 2. Conflicting schedules with their own solo projects prevented the duo from working on a second album sooner, but they’re hoping they can play live again soon. They’ve already written dozens of songs, some that didn’t make Vol. 2, so another Hold My Beer chapter is quite feasible.
“I think the possibilities are endless,” says Bowen. “We’re always working on this, and it’s always in the back of our minds. Right now, I’m gearing up to record another record, but during that process I’ll be writing something for this. I like that we named it Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, because it makes us keep going.”
Bowen adds, “I miss my band, and I miss being on the road. We’re not stuck in this job. We love it. We love what we do, and 20-something years later, we’re still doing it. I’m just ready to get out there and hang out and have a few drinks and enjoy music again.”