Friday, August 16, 2013

Roger Alan Wade at the Mercury Lounge

The name Roger Alan Wade even sounds country, doesn’t it? In the 1980s, Wade was a budding song crafter for Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and George Jones. Hank Williams, Jr., took Wade’s song, “Country State of Mind,” to #1 on the country charts in 1986. The Nashville music scene changed in the 1990s, however, and, coupled with some detrimental personal vices, left him with a substance abuse problem and without a career. His cousin, Johnny Knoxville of Jackass fame, included some of Wade’s music on his television series and movies, and encouraged Wade to embark on a solo career. Wade’s first album, 2005’s All Likkered Up, was a collection of wild, almost R-rated satirical songs with a sense of humor. Since then, Wade recorded four more albums of serious outlaw-style country music, included his most recent album, 2012’s sobriety-inspired Southbound Train. Wade does voice-over work for WUUQ 97.3 and 99.3 FM in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and with his cousin Knoxville hosts an hour-long weekly show, Big Ass Happy Family Jubilee (named after a Wade song), on Sirius XM's Outlaw Country channel.

Wade is a poet with an acoustic guitar, as he demonstrated at the Mercury Lounge tonight, opening for Mike Farris. Wade’s simple music recalled the era of singer songwriters who wrote of the landscape and the man-scape of the American heartland. “Chickamauga Creek” painted a tender portrait of a Tennessee family. “The Reckless Kind” was similarly a study of human nature. “The First Time I Saw Waylon” and “Johnny Cash Has Died” were not only tributes to his country music heroes, but shined a light on human longing. This was genuine outlaw country music, yet not from the perspective of a successful music celebrity but from a struggling musician who is not sure if the great American promises will be achieved.