Chase Rice is arguably one of the most evolving country artists over the past few years. This week, he returns with his new album I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go to Hell.
The Album changed the game for Chase Rice in 2020. The project showed an utterly different side of the star who had earned a reputation for being one of the bad boys in country, as a more emotional and powerfully vulnerable side that struck deep. Now, Rice has taken this new voice a step further into uncharted territory for the star, with the release of his new album – I Hate Cowboys & All Dogs Go To Hell – out this Friday. It’s a record that is outstanding from start to finish, and feels more personal at every turn, even to the extent that a few of the songs are solo writes, and he co-wrote all the rest – although there is still plenty of room left aside to throw back a cold one to.
On the record, Rice dives into newer, more personal themes – from the recent loss of his father to personal growth and mental health – and he approaches them with care, yet this is not to say that the mood of the record is despondent. There is still all of Rice’s trademark party songs, but even here, there’s a lot more attention paid to the production of the album, with blistering guitar solos and outros that make the project feel ever more rounded.
The record kicks off with opening track, ‘Walk That Easy,’ a gorgeous restrained track about the impossibility of walking away from love. ‘Kids grow up and dogs get old / Paint turns to rust and trucks get sold / But love don’t walk that easy.’ It’s a thrumming, guitar-driven and breezy track that is a seamless addition to Rice’s catalogue – doubtless it will prove an easy hit in its live rendition.
Indeed, there is a lot to enjoy here that will be great additions to his live set – with big, bombastic rock-edged tracks. Later track ‘Bad Day to Be A Cold Beer’ proves just that, here Rice shows his growth as an artist, in comparison to the days of ‘Ready Set Roll,’ even the pithy lyrics here are more clever and thought through – nothing throwaway. The track feels like a joyful celebration that is intoxicating in its draw but feels like a fully-fledged artist, in command with his sound, complete with a fully rounded production, with an easy sing-back refrain. Not to be outdone, ‘Sorry Momma’ is a straight-up honky tonk track about his apologies to his momma for the way he has lived his life. ‘Wasn’t supposed to drink / Wasn’t supposed to shut down bars and break good hearts / Wasn’t supposed to sing these songs I sing… So, I’m sorry momma for the hell you raised.‘ It’s a track born to be sung along too in a honkytonk bar – and the production and instrumentation does just that, with backing murmurings, a bar piano and a raucous chorus. It’s as intoxicating as the beers he sings about. It’s a track born to be shouted back to Rice in a stadium setting. Finally, of the bigger tracks ‘Way Down Yonder’ supplies the jauntiest, rock-fuelled edge – complete with a touch of bluegrass and funky edge that is perfection. ‘Way down yonder, where the outlaws wander / You can feel that thunder in your bones / Rippin’ high pride runners under moonlight cover / There’s some backglass gunners on the road.’ Still, as with some of his quieter tracks, there’s an earthiness to the track that gives you the feeling that this would be the perfect song to be sung round a campfire – an idea followed through on later track ‘Goodnight Nancy.’
Of course, alongside the drinking songs there’s a lot of heartbreak, but the heartbreak feels more mature and the themes more flushed out than in his previous projects. So, the second track ‘All Dogs Go to Hell’ is a clever track, following the line of Dolly Parton’s ‘The Grass is Blue,’ where Rice shows how impossible it is to lie that he doesn’t miss an old flame. It’s an important marker of the transitions in his music that his references in the track look back to the greats of country music and his own blue-collar roots. ‘Johnny Cash ain’t cool, and George Strait ain’t king / Boots ain’t made for cowboys and Chevy don’t make trucks / Fall ain’t made for football.. Sippin’ a cold beer don’t help and I don’t miss you baby / And all dogs go to hell.’ Even his little laugh to himself in the last third of the track, feels like we’re finally peeking behind a curtain to the true Chase Rice and it is immensely charming. The second part of the album title comes on, ‘I Hate Cowboys,’ on which Rice narrates losing a great love to a cowboy. ‘Man, they think that they’re John Wayne walking through the door… They ask her to dance while you’re at the bar / Starts talking bout them Texas stars / Next thing you know you’v’e got a broken heart.‘ It’s a beautifully mellow and restrained song to round out this behemoth of a record, and is another witty yet emotionally sound take on heartbreak.
This is not to say though that Rice is always the subject of heartbreak – he still has a few hearts left to break. So, on ‘If I Were Rock & Roll,’ Rice sings about how if he were a different man, he wouldn’t have left a lover. ‘If I were rock & roll / I’d be a middle finger in your face… If I weren’t a fool, I’d still be with you.’ It’s a swirling, thrumming track, with a memorable chorus that shows he’s still capable of being a casanova, but now with plenty of regrets in his back pocket.
Rice’s development as an artist and man is clear throughout – he continually seems to return to the idea of finding himself in his own journey. Even on the summery road trip track ‘Key West and Colorado’ he sings about running away to find yourself and find love at the same time, finding himself in his roots. ‘Somewhere between Key West and Colorado / I found God in a gold Silverado / Had to get a little lost to get a little found / Learned you can’t find love if you can’t slow down.’ His personal journey comes to its climax in the incredibly restrained emotional and lyrical song ‘I Walk Alone.’ This plucky little track shows how less can be more. It’s a beautiful acoustic, swirling track about Rice’s own personal journey. It’s brave in its very simplicity and extraordinary to see what Rice does vocally with that simplicity to the refrain of ‘I walk alone.’ Of course, most obviously, these life lessons are laid out on ‘Life Part of Livin.’ In this solo write, Rice details all his life lessons, from the grief of losing a parent (‘I’ve learnt that losing Dad can make you pretty tough’) to not being afraid to show emotion (‘When the tears build up, just let ’em fly’), and above it all that love is where you find the ‘life part of livin.’ It’s another track that takes all the country tropes and stereotypes yet under Rice’s masterful songwriting, is turned into something elegant and universal.
Two tracks though stand out in demonstrating his progress as an artist. ‘Bench Seat’ is the lynchpin of the record – a powerful statement of intent for Rice as an artist. ‘First light arrives, the best view in Tennessee / And then I’ll say I saved your life / Oh, but I know that’s a lie between / You, me and a bench seat / You saved mine.’ It’s raw emotion a its finest, an intimate story about the power of pets to change our lives – based on the story of a man saved in his battles with addiction and his own mental health, by adopting a dog. It’s safe to say, if you ever need a cry – give the music video a watch. It’s a showcase in masterful country songwriting that imbibes all of the tropes, but is unique and poignant. Finally, ‘Oklahoma’ is another easy highlight on the record. ‘Ain’t coming’ home, probably should have told ya / But I just can’t leave Oklahoma.’ The double whammy of the Read Southall Band feature and the experimentations with production, with bluegrass layered notes, a searing guitar solo and even some acapella moments, lift this track to something truly extraordinary – not to be passed by (given its length at 8 minutes, we hope country radio doesn’t sideline this one and it gets the attention it deserves).
Without doubt, I Hate Cowboys and All Dogs Go to Hell is Chase Rice’s magnus opus and his statement of exactly where he wants his artistry to land. It’s both intimate and vulnerable, but brash and bombastic – built for the live circuit. It’s clear that Rice handled all the changes of his life, including his loss with an immense amount of care and love – down to the selection of the album cover – and that effort is clear in the finished project. The album demonstrates his immense power as a songwriter and lays a line in the sand between his previous bad boy image and this new project. No skips here – we’re sold.