Wade Bowen sits down on a stool on an empty stage. He picks up his guitar and starts to sing.
By the time the first chorus rolls around, the crowd is in the palm of his hands.
That's the strength of Bowen's vocal delivery and it speaks about the power of his lyrics.
Bowen doesn't just want you to enjoy his songs. He wants you to feel them.
Feeling is exactly what Bowen poured into his latest studio release, "The Given".
This is Bowen's sixth solo album that began when "Try Not to Listen" was debuted in 2002.
It's also his first album released under a major label, BNA Records, now known as Columbia Nashville.
The Waco, Texas native has been touring for more than decade throughout the Texas music scene, amassing a throng of followers at every stop along the way.
Now with his release coming from Nashville, Bowen's music has been made available for a wider country music audience.
Make no mistake, Bowen made this a great country album, chock-full of great vocals and even better stories.
That's what sets Bowen apart from other artists his songwriting and the stories he chooses to tell.
Bowen can get down with a good barroom rocker as much as the next artist. But where he really brings it home is when the lights turn down low, the tempo gets a little slower and Bowen pours his heart out into a sad song.
His pain, his emotions become your pain and your emotions. You feel every note. You identify with every line.
Bowen was once asked during an online chat facilitated by Best in Texas magazine about why he writes so many sad songs.
"Country music is sad. For some reason we have gotten away from that a bit but it's really what drives me," Bowed responded. "I also want there to be a certain amount of passion and intensity with albums seems to set it apart that way. Country music is supposed to be sad."
That, "The Given", has in ample supply.
The opening number, "Saturday Night" has Bowen wondering why everyone else around him is having a great time out on Saturday night while he's sitting reminiscing over a love lost. For them, Saturday night is a time to let loose. For him, it's a reminder of what he's lost.
"A Battle Won," the third track, features the singer lamenting that sometimes, it's just not worth being right in a relationship with the cost that must be paid.
"I can't stand it when I'm wrong. Being right ain't worth the cost. Yeah 'Cause sometimes a battle won is a battle lost."
On "Patch of Bad Weather" Bowen sings of a man finally coming to grips with a love he thought was true, but he was undone by a lying and deceitful lover.
The unquestioned best track on The Given plays off the same themes in "Say Anything."
A man approaches a woman at a bar and wishes for her to say anything, anything at all to get the one he's lost off his mind.
This album features more than sad, emotional numbers however. There is hope.
On "On My Way to Wonderful," the man has finally found the one he's been searching for.
The final track, "Before These Walls Were Blue," tells the story about how a young father thought he knew love before his son came along.
The Given is loaded with great songs that show off the best of Bowen's musical abilities. There are no throwaways.
"Saturday Night" was his first single released which peaked at No. 39 on the country charts. More hits are sure to follow, now that the rest of the country will get to experience what Texas has held to itself for the last 10 years.
The Top Five songs on The Given in my opinion are:
2.All That's Left
3.A Battle Won
4.You Ain't Got Me
5.Before These Walls Were Blue
Check out more of Bowen's music on his web site at www.wadebowen.com. Also, head over to YouTube and catch Bowen's official video for Trouble off his 2008 release "If We Ever Make it Home," as well as the acoustic version of "Say Anything."
You won't regret it.
Hughes may be reached at email@example.com