Family and friends bring Texas country singer-songwriter Wade Bowen back to his Waco hometown Friday night for what’s becoming a tradition of post-Thanksgiving shows and it’s memories of past Christmases with family that shaped Bowen’s latest album.
Last month, Bowen released “Twelve Twenty-Five,” his first Christmas album out of 11 recorded albums. It’s no surprise to see a successful singer and songwriter release a Christmas album, but it was a question of timing for the Texas musician. After a 2018 crisis with potentially career-ending surgery on his vocal chords, Bowen decided the time was now.
“After the year I had, I decided there was no holding back on stuff I wanted to do,” he said in a recent phone interview from his New Braunfels home. “I always wanted to do a Christmas album. Our family listens to a ton of Christmas music, so I decided to throw caution to the wind.”
Bowen enlisted friend and frequent collaborator Sean McConnell as producer and the two worked on replicating the vibe of Bowen’s childhood Christmas memories, when he, his sisters and mother would put on albums of Christmas music and sing along while trimming the family tree.
As a result, there’s a bit of a 1950s-’60s vibe to “Twelve Twenty-Five,” when pop singers regularly released albums of traditional favorites seasoned with a few contemporary numbers.
Vocals are prominent in the mix and rather than record backing tracks independently then combine them, guitars and piano were recorded playing together, with sounds overlapping as they do in live performances.
Bowen went for the variety of those ’50s Christmas albums with standards such as “Silent Night” and “O Holy Night” rubbing shoulders with more recent pop from Mariah Carey (“All I Want For Christmas Is You”) and George Michael (“Last Christmas”). Country’s represented as well, with Dolly Parton’s “Once Upon a Christmas” and Merle Haggard’s “If We Make It Through December.”
Topping off the effort was the harmony of family and friends. Brother-in-law Cody Canada sings along on “If We Make It Through December” with McConnell joining in on “Til the Season Comes Round Again.” Bowen’s sons sing, too, with 11-year-old Brock on “Holly Jolly Christmas” and 14-year-old Bruce on “White Christmas.”
No harmonies from Bowen’s wife Shelby? He tried, but she declined, he said. “I almost had her convinced,” he said.
Bowen’s proud of the final product and says that he and his band will perform some of it on Friday night after opening act Shea Abshier.
With a Christmas album in his back pocket, Bowen already is looking forward to recording new music and touring for 2020. That’s the sound, the one that’s propelled a 20-year career, that fans can expect on Friday at The Backyard.
“It’s our normal show,” he said. “I always enjoy coming back to Waco.”