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Chase Rice – ‘I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go to Hell’ review

Ok. It took me until September last year to award an album the full five stars. I don’t like to give them out willy-nilly in the belief that the more you give, the cheaper the accolade becomes. Chase Rice’s new album, ‘I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go To Hell’ is getting the first five stars of 2023. In February! I know. I didn’t expect it either.

The elephant in the room is that Rice will be up against it in some quarters with this album. The party boy and Bro-Country artist that co-wrote Florida Georgia Line’s iconic, sub-genre defining anthem, ‘Cruise’ turning in an album of gravitas and personal heft? Rubbish, I hear you say, but that is exactly what he has done. Gone is the man who once wanted to ‘Ignite the Night’, and in his place is someone who is more likely to be sat around a campfire with one hand on a beer and the other on his dog.

The mission statement for ‘I Hate Cowboys…’ and the meaning at the heart of this growth and evolution can be found in the opening lines of ‘Life Part of Livin’ when Rice sings, ‘Here I am, just a kid, going on 35……I played my part, played it wrong and played some hearts.’ The last couple of years have clearly seen Rice taking a long, hard look at himself. The loss of his father will have played into the change, (the choice of his dad’s image as the album cover only serves to emphasise that) but there are other factors at play here as well. The pandemic. Isolation. Room to think and breath and watching close friends and family settling down and starting families has had a huge impact on Rice, who was recently the butt of a joke from Bobby Bones involving sorority parties that he took on the chin in a dignified manner. It’s this reputation that he is leaving behind on ‘I Hate Cowboys…’

From the opening chords of ‘Walk That Easy’ you can tell there is something different and special at play on this album. There is a mellower, restrained feel to the music. Intense too, with Rice’s vocals richer, deeper and more ‘present’ than ever before. There’s a quiet confidence to tracks like ‘Walk that Easy’ and ‘If I Were Rock n Roll’ that we haven’t heard often from Rice before. ‘Jack Daniels and Jesus’ had it and tracks like ‘This Cowboy’s Hat’ showed both ambition and a willingness to push the boundaries but EVERY SINGLE SONG on ‘I Hate Cowboys….’ has something weighty to say, even the ones about beer! ‘Walk That Easy’ is a perfect album opener, concert opener and driving song, it’ll be around in Rice’s life for years to come.

The two songs that have been merged together to form the title of the album are a good place to start. ‘I Hate Cowboys’ sees Rice bemoaning the loss of his love to a stetson wearing cowboy. It’s lyrically clever and the ‘8 seconds ain’t that long,’ line makes me chuckle every time I hear it. A melodic, restrained song, that demands attention. Similarly, ‘All Dogs Go to Hell’ is both intense and clever in the way that Rice’s lyrical statements are all turned upside down on their head and mean the opposite of what he is actually saying. ‘Boots ain’t made for cowboys,’ he sings, ‘I don’t miss ya baby and all dogs go to hell.’ Plaintive guitars and emotionally astute lyrics serve to let the listener see a vivd portrait of a man in a mess, despite what he’s trying to say, in both songs.

It is on the wonderful ‘Bench Seat’ however, that the beauty of this album comes to full realisation. One of three solo writes on the album, ‘Bench Seat’ is truly something for Rice to be proud of. It opens with some very raw, live sounding piano and acoustic guitar which immediately creates a sense of intimacy. Rice weaves a heartfelt tale about friendship, mental health and the companionship of dogs. For the full story behind the song, check out our interview with Chase Rice that will be dropping on Friday 10th February, as we go deep into the inspirations behind the song. Beautiful, sparse and melodic, ‘Bench Seat’ is the poster child for good, heartfelt, commercial Country music in 2023.

The other biggest ‘wow’ moment, on an album that isn’t short of them, comes with the mid-album double whammy of ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘I Walk Alone’. The former, at nearly 8 minutes long, is an absolute tour-de-force. Featuring the Read Southhall Band, ‘Oklahoma’ weaves a darker, infectious story of a man refusing to leave the state, trapped by love! Some western influences are let loose here, including some whistling at one point! Southall and his players excel on a 3 minute frenzied guitar outro that I could sit and listen to all day. This song should go on to form the apex point of all of Rice’s future live shows, it’s simply stunning.

Similarly, ‘I Walk Alone’, the song that follows this 8 minute behemoth, is no less impactful, despite only being 2 minutes 45 seconds long! Just Rice, an acoustic guitar and some plaintive electric licks drive this intense, almost melancholic song about personal growth. It’s one of the most introspective and audacious songs Rice has ever recorded and when he cuts loose, vocally, in the last 45 seconds I hope your arms are full of the same goosebumps that mine were the first few times I heard it.

Not everything on ‘I Hate Cowboys…’ is introspective, so let’s also not miscast this album as being depressing or mawkishly full of navel-gazing hubris. Rice deals with personal growth and change in a positive and uplifting way but there are also some fun songs to be enjoyed: just in a more mature way than he has managed before.

‘Way Down Yonder’ is driven by a funky beat and a niggly, insistent repeating guitar line. There’s some Johnny Cash vibes at play here as it builds to a restrained but infectious chorus that leads you off into the back of beyond where you can’t see the woods for the trees. ‘Bad Day to be a Cold Beer’, meanwhile, begins with some classic driving guitars but in true Chase Rice 2023 style, this isn’t some vacuous party song. There’s a joy and a frivolity to it but there’s also a maturity that means it fits in with the rest of the album perfectly. Consequently, by the time the rousing chorus (inspired by a throwaway comment from PGA golf champion Justin Thomas) arrives, you are well and truly all in.

The highlight of the rowdy songs is easily, ‘Sorry Momma’. On an album where there aren’t a lot of obvious singles or radio songs, and that’s a dig at Country radio programmers, not Chase Rice, ‘Sorry Momma’ might well be the song I would choose to push that way. It’s a Bluesy, honky tonk-infused number with some terrific gang vocals and bar room piano. Funny yet heartfelt, ‘Sorry Momma’ sees Rice apologising to his mother for all the stress he’s caused her over the years. There’s also another dynamic outro, similar to ‘Oklahoma’, that makes you wonder if every single Country song couldn’t be improved by the kind of one minute guitar frenzy that is in evidence here on so much of this album!

‘I Hate Cowboys and All Dogs Go to Hell’ is an absolute triumph. Personal. Meaningful. Heartfelt. This is an album where you can almost touch, see and sense the effort, love and care that has gone into its creation. It’s a songwriter’s album and a lyricist’s album but it also does all sorts of wonderful things with melodies that are both clever and yet infectious at the same time. I can guarantee that you’ll have a favourite song on it with every different listen. This is exactly the type of album Chase Rice needed to make at this point in his career. It’s going to make his live shows really interesting to plan, going forward, though! I would play this album from beginning to end if I were him and then throw in ‘Cruise’ and some of the older hits as an encore because it would be a crime to not play every single song from ‘I Hate Cowboys……’: it’s that fine an album.

Chase Rice
Credit: Broken Bow Records

Tracklst: 1. Walk that Easy 2. All Dogs Go to Hell 3. Way Down Yonder 4. Key West & Colorado 5. Bench Seat 6. Life Part of Livin 7. Bad Day to be a Cold Beer 8. Oklahoma 9. I Walk Alone 9. Sorry Momma 10. If I Were Rock n Roll 11. Goodnight Nancy 12. I Hate Cowboys 13. For a Day Record Label: BBR Music Group Release Date: 10th February Buy ‘I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs go to Hell’ now

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Ok. It took me until September last year to award an album the full five stars. I don't like to give them out willy-nilly in the belief that the more you give, the cheaper the accolade becomes. Chase Rice's new album, 'I Hate Cowboys...Chase Rice - 'I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go to Hell' review