Okay, I need a break from Nashville. Let’s see what’s up deep in the heart of Texas.
Like Aaron Watson and Cody Johnson, the Randy Rogers Band is a Lone Star State act that has bounced around the fringes of mainstream country music for over a decade. Their major-label moment may have come and gone (the band’s stint with MCA Nasvhille ended with a whopping #37 Billboard airplay peak), the group continued to be active in the independent scene…or at least they were active, as their last album before now was released back in 2016. This year, however, Rogers and company have returned with Hellbent, complete with some honest-to-goodness radio singles. Their latest single is “I’ll Never Get Over You,” and while there’s not a whole lot to write home about here, at least it’s a respite from the mainstream mediocrity I’ve been dealing with for the past few weeks.
The production here is your standard neotraditional mix with a little extra bounce in its step, although it’s not the ideal fit for the subject matter. Instead of an instrumental intro, the song jumps right into the chorus with the guitars, drums, and vocals (there’s a keyboard hiding in the back as well), and then hands the keys to the liveliest fiddle I’ve heard in a while (it’s got a rawer, less-polished feel than the one on Jon Pardi’s “Heartache Medication”). The fiddle is clearly the star here (the electric guitar gets a few words in on the solo, but otherwise stays in the background), and its bright, energetic feel really drives the song forward. Combined with the extra punch of the drums, the arrangement does a great job summoning an old-school dusty bar atmosphere to set the mood for the song. My one issue, however, is that the bright, uptempo feel of the mix really doesn’t match the subject matter of the song: The narrator is lamenting how their behavior led to the loss of their partner, so why does the mix sound so happy and positive? It’s a decent and catchy sound overall, but it feels a bit too lightweight for the issues at hand.
I don’t know what it is about lead singer Randy Rogers’s vocals, but something about them just sounds off to me. He’s got decent technical skills and adequate range and flow, but his voice just seems a bit thinner and weak than I expected, as if he could wobble off-key at any moment. (He reminds me a lot of Collin Raye, but Raye’s voice is stronger and has a much richer tone to it.) Rogers is not without charisma however, and while his tone is more in line with the optimistic production than the pessimistic (and he also admits that he’s the reason he’s in this mess), he still comes across as a sympathetic character, mostly through his self-awareness. The conflict between the song’s tone and writing, however, leaves the listener confused about how to feel, and keeps them from sharing in the sentiment of the song. It’s an okay performance, but the vocals are missing the polish of a typical Nashville sound (which makes some sense given he’s independent now), and I’m not a huge fan.
The lyrics here tell the same story as Riley Green’s “In Love By Now”: The narrator’s behavior has driven their partner away, and now the narrator is left to deal with the void and imagine what the other person is doing now. Where Green offered specifics and admitted that what was done is done, Rogers’s narrator doesn’t seem to have as much to say (and thus gets annoyingly repetitive after the fifth round of the chorus), and wastes a bit more time wallowing in their sorrow and deluding themselves into thinking their partner will return someday. The details here are also a lot more vague and broad than Green’s song (the other person will go wherever they want, make lots of friends, fall in love, etc.), and despite the narrator’s admission that they’re “wasting all of [their] time” and that they should have “done everything right,” you get the feeling that they’re still a little bitter about what went down. In the end, it feels like a cookie-cutter lost-love song, even if the sound invokes 1995 more than 2019.
“I’ll Never Get Over You” is the equivalent of a get-it-over-the-plate fastball: It’s a straightforward throwback story with a throwback sound, and it does its job. It’s strangely-awkward vocals and simplistic writing keep it from being a great advertisement for the Randy Rogers Band, but with Pardi being pretty much the only fiddle-user on the chart these days, it’s certainly distinct and catchy enough to make people pay attention. At the very least, given the current slump in the genre that’s happening on Nashville’s watch, it’s good to get an outside perspective on the music now and then.
Rating: 6/10. It’s worth checking out to see what you think.