Country music best friends don’t get much better than Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers. Nearly inseparable in recent years, the pair have toured and even released a duets album together, 2015’s Hold My Beer, Vol. 1. The two Texans are always game to tackle a Lone Star standard, which is just what they do in the latest video from Austin native Bruce Robison’s The Next Waltz series, in which they cover Guy Clark’s classic “Rita Ballou.”
The opening track from Clark’s seminal 1975 LP, Old No.1, “Rita Ballou” was originally a stripped-down slice of Texas swing. Bowen and Rodgers’ duet, recorded at Robison’s Country Bunker recording studio in Lockhart, Texas, outside Austin, gives the song a more filled-out arrangement including pedal steel, piano, and fiddle, courtesy of Robison’s studio group, the Back Porch Band. The extra hands on deck give “Rita Ballou” some extra swagger, but it’s Bowen and Rodgers’ gruff, raspy harmonies that really make the ode to the backslidin’, barrel-ridin’ cowgirl soar.
Paying tribute to Texas legend Clark, who died from lymphoma at the age of 74 in 2016, is in keeping with Robison’s The Next Waltz, which brings musicians to his studio for interviews and one-off recordings for the web-only video series. Lee Ann Womack, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Sam Outlaw have previously made appearances. “That can be a really creative place, like it was back in the Fifties and Sixties where people knew they really had to create a single that would turn peoples’ heads,” Robison, who recently released his own album of new material, The Back Porch Band, told Rolling Stone Country earlier this year in reference to The Next Waltz.
Bowen – who’s recording his own video series called Garage Mahal at his home in New Braunfels, Texas, not far from Robison’s Country Bunker – and Rogers are touring separately at the moment, but will share the stage for a handful of shows the rest of the summer. Their next joint appearance is this Sunday, July 23rd for a Hold My Beer & Watch This performance at Backyard Dance Hall in Beaumont, Texas.