Album Review: Sawyer Brown - “Desperado Troubadours”

For the first time in 13 years, Sawyer Brown have an all-new album.With 10 new songs, Sawyer Brown returns to the country music scene with “Desperado Troubadours.”

Like a popular rock band from yesterday releasing music for their loyal fans after their “radio days” are seemingly in the past, Sawyer Brown is back with Desperado Troubadours, a collection with 10 new songs, all but two of them co-written or solely written by front man and co-producer Mark Miller, the dynamic showman with a voice that is as strong as its ever been. The other co-producer is country music superstar Blake Shelton who, like he did with Neal McCoy, showcases his love for great country music. The band also returns to Curb Records for the first time in 19 years. The label was their label partners for a majority of the band’s career (and certainly throughout their radio chart years) so it’s nice to see a label partner with an old hat once again.

Desperado Troubadours opens with “Under This Ole Hat.” The Cody Jinks co-written track is the kind of song that is perfect for its placement on an album while also being something that can work for a concert opener. The song kind of tells the history of the band as they’ve grown through the years in country music, first as a backing band, then as a discovered on TV country/pop band and finally, a serious traditionalist-leaning band. 40 years in, this album, Desperado Troubadours, showcases why Sawyer Brown is the subject of a documentary film. “Nashville Cat” is another tempo-filled gem on an album full of them.

The third and fourth tracks on Desperado Troubadours finds Sawyer Brown returning to the well from which some of their most iconic songs of their catalog grew from: Mac McAnally. “I Wouldn’t Change A Thing” is an Eagles-like song with slide guitars and a narrative about being happy with the road your life has taken while “Socrates” ranks up there with “All These Years” and “Cafe On The Corner” as one of the best Mac McAnally songs the band has ever recorded. It has all of that iconic singer/songwriter and longtime Coral Reefer Band member’s storytelling structure. This is a story song about the kind of small town philosopher, an individual thinker. If this song ever were a radio hit, it’s the kind of song that would be an award show “Song of the Year” level kind of song and that makes it the emotional anchor on Desperado Troubadours.

“The One I’ve Got” features great harmonies and a great beat while “God Bless This Road” is a melodic story song about the traveling band as they enjoy the live gigs they perform, the fans the meet and the places they go. “Good Night And Good Morning” is another Mac McAnally song and is playful with its spirited melody and story about a man who comes alive at night while everyone else was asleep. The structure of this song is fun and will make for a great live moment but I can’t help but wonder what a great bluegrass band would do with such a song.

“This Side of The Sky” is reflective as it talks about time marching on and about how it currently is, in the form of a conversation between a son and his dearly departed mother. “Get Me To The Stage On Time” is a the title of the new documentary film about Sawyer Brown (a sort of companion to this album) and the song of the same name works well for this band as does “Desperado Troubadours,” the album closer which is another collaboration by frontman Mark Miller with Thomas McFarland and another troubadour, Cody Jinks.

This 10 track album may end sooner than longtime fans might hope for it to but given that it’s been thirteen years since Sawyer Brown has released an album, they’re certainly glad to have one of country music’s most-interesting working bands back making an ear-pleasing collection of songs with Desperado Troubadours.