Nothing Shines Like Neon might be Randy Rogers Band's seventh studio album, but it's also a record loaded with renewal. It's the Texas mainstay's first album with a new label, Thirty Tigers, and their first time working with renowned producer Buddy Cannon. There's also a strengthened country approach, driven by songs like the elegantly introspective slow-burner "Look Out Yonder," which features Alison Krauss (listen to the song below). The LP also features appearances from Jerry Jeff Walker and Jamey Johnson.
"Having those endorsements personally means a lot," Rogers tells Rolling Stone Country about the song, which also includes vocals from Dan Tyminski, Krauss's partner in Union Station. "Who cares what it does with the career — for me, hearing Alison sing with my voice is like a dream come true. It's gorgeous, she's gorgeous. Just gives me goosebumps thinking about it."
It's also an emotional song for the band, layered with meaning beyond the evocative words. Written by Earl Bud Lee ("Friends in Low Places"), Rogers sees "Look Out Yonder" as a tribute to songwriter Kent Finlay, his mentor who passed away right as the recording process started for the LP. The title itself, Nothing Shines Like Neon, is taken from one of Finlay's lyrics, and the sonic palette — touching on more traditional country elements — was another way to pay tribute to the man who had a profound impact on Rogers' life.
Cannon recruited Krauss for "Look Out Yonder," leaving Rogers dumbfounded that the angel-voiced bluegrass singer appears on his record. "Buddy had joked with me, 'Yeah, we'll get Alison to sing on it,'" Rogers says. "But I didn't think it would ever happen. I didn't believe it until I heard it, and then it gave me so much confidence."
Beyond "Look Out Yonder," Nothing Shines Like Neon contains plenty of those danceable tracks that the band is known for, like the raucous duet with Walker "Taking It As It Comes" or the moody groove of "Rain and the Radio," but nothing quite like the heavy crunch of "Fuzzy," from their 2013 Jay Joyce-produced LP Trouble. There's way more room for fiddle and traditional licks than layered pop-country flourishes, perhaps inspired by Rogers' side project with Texas pal Wade Bowen, Hold My Beer, Vol. 1.
Rogers is cautiously optimistic about how a band like his fits in among the current country landscape, in the wake of success stories like Chris Stapleton's. But after 15 years releasing records, endless tours and a balance of career highs and lows, he's not waiting for the industry to change around him. "We can't really wait around on having a hit," he says. "We have to make our own luck."