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Three years after Trouble, the Randy Rogers Band return with Nothing Shines Like Neon, a swift, straight-ahead record that showcases their simple strengths even when they invite such heavy-hitters as Alison Krauss, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Jamey Johnson into the studio for duets. Compared to Trouble, which contained one too many coats of varnish, Nothing Shines Like Neon is simple and direct, never bothering to disguise how this is a Texas band through and through, one that savors brokenhearted poetry as much as hardwood barroom boogie.

Producer Buddy Cannon, a veteran of Kenny Chesney and Willie Nelson records, wisely doesn’t add gloss to the group’s Red Dirt country and, consequently, Nothing Shines Like Neon feels like a necessary correction to the well-intentioned but awkward commercial considerations of their last few records. Most of the album lingers in slower, hazier territory, the deliberate pace suggesting the band’s maturation and confidence; they’re not attempting to impress, they’re merely happy to be back in central Texas, playing to their strengths. Initially, that mellowed, burnished vibe is what appeals – so much so that it’s easy to return to the record for its feel, then repeated spins let the songs unfold and, tune for tune, this winds up being one of the group’s best records. Without a doubt one of my favourite albums, not only, of the year, but also the decade!