Make no mistake about whiskey. It comes with intent. No umbrella needed to deflect what you’re about to pour down your throat. The burn ignites the path of destruction. Heartbreak and regret float southbound for the liver, seeking safe harbor in the darkness. Reflection sheds an unwelcome light, exposing the melancholy of time’s one directional nature. The wrong kind of burn can leave a scar or an addiction, but a flame can ignite passion or revelry. “Yesterday’s Whiskey” can become tomorrow’s tale of “Chasing Down a Good Time,” the muse for a nostalgic look “Back” at “Senior Year,” or an alibi for one more night with “Hot Beer and Cold Women.” The commonality? It all starts with being Fired Up.

     HOUSER, RANDY FIRED UPThere is no uncertainty in the tone of Randy Houser‘s voice. It is as powerful as it is purposeful, and Fired Up is an album of intention. Read the lyrics. Note the songwriters. Listen carefully to the music. There are 17 songs because Randy had a lot to say. You don’t cut an album with that many tracks because you’re feeling the need to fill iTunes with mindless fluff. You don’t enlist the talents of Chris Stapleton and Travis Meadows for a shot of easy listening. Thematically, some may hastily criticize the lyrics as sharing DNA with their bro country cousins. Not so fast. This album artfully dances around the subject matter with lyrical sophistication that Randy’s voice authenticates. While he may allude to those backroad gatherings, he passes them by at 90 mph with a vocal performance and musical presentation that is scathing in its disdain for the mundane. There is more to this record than you’ll catch the first time you listen to it.

     The first single off this album, “We Went,” went to #1 on March 6, just five days before the album dropped. Not a bad way to fire up a release. It’s the second track, and one I was already familiar with, so I opted to listen to this record in reverse order. I’d heard “Whiskeysippi River” at a show last year. It’s hallmark Houser, and a great song to set the tone of the album, albeit floating the wrong direction. It starts with what sounds like a boot stomping chain gang and explodes with the power of the mighty Missi…Whiskeysippi River. Randy may as well take that whiskey bottle and point it downstream with the instruction, “Home, Jack,” because this is a tsunami of illicit intention. “I gotta chase these blues from the Delta, Only one thing gonna work, Ain’t no fruity umbrella drink, Strong enough to drown this hurt.” Follow that Jack and Coke with an Amen because Randy’s just gettin’ Fired Up.

     “One Way” is listed as a bonus track on this album. When one of the songwriters is Chris Stapleton, and it appears he’s singing background vocals on this one, that’s one hell of a bonus. But make no mistake, Randy owns this track. If there’s a signature feature of every Randy Houser song, it’s that he sets the tone from the first few notes, and he does not tread softly. This is a power ballad, and his voice summons a countrified symphony to support the emotion of the lyrics and the exceptional vocals. Yet just when you think you’ve got the vibe of this figured out, they drop a guitar riff in the middle of it to amplify the symphonic retrospective. Listen to it a second time and pay attention to the dynamics of the drumbeat. The power mimics the feel of a broken heart, where every beat can feel like a gunshot. The softness at the beginning and the end echo a barely audible pulse. What a beautiful piece of music. Who knew the bar would be set so high by listening to the bonus tracks first? Welcome to the power of a Randy Houser record.

     The other 15 tracks on this album can be divided into three categories, dependent on the way Randy reacted to being Fired Up and the role whiskey played in the spark. Sometimes whiskey is directly involved, and sometimes it’s a metaphor for the power of that something that hits you in the chest – heartbreak, an adrenalin rush, passionate love, or drowning in yesterday’s regret. The adrenalin rush can be found in “Same Ole Saturday Night” (#15), “Senior Year” (#4), “Chasing Down a Good Time” (#3), and “We Went (#2). The beat in “Same Ole Saturday Night” puts a sass in it from the beginning. The cadence with which Randy lists the finer points of a middle of nowhere Saturday night makes it a flirty, fun, run around town song. “Senior Year,” written by Randy Houser and Rob Hatch, captures perfectly the feel of that school year. While the lyrics are descriptively on point, it’s the music that wraps those memories in thrilling sentiment. The acoustic opening lends a nostalgic feel to this, like we might be in for a slow walk down memory lane. Excitement builds with a grinding, hit the gas feel that the electric guitar adds, the drumbeat punctuating each memory. At 2:56 in, the extended guitar riff took me back to the rock that ruled my senior year. The combination of musical elements and common ground memories in this nailed the feel of senior year. Randy’s vocal turned this yearbook into a soundtrack. “Chasing Down a Good Time” has a top down, freedom of a road trip feeling. It’s a fast-paced, make your own fun anthem. Sounds great while driving. “We Went” you’ve likely heard, so I won’t dwell on it. Fast-talkin’ lyrics and high speed adventure, it’s Bonnie and Clyde hit the backroads with a killer soundtrack. If you haven’t seen the video, it’s worth watching. Beautiful setting. It’s shot using his tour band as actors and players. Nicely done.

     Clearly in the category of being Fired Up by passion, six of the tracks on here put the fire in that whiskey shot and will have you seeing the morning’s light hungover on love. All of these have sex appeal in spades. “Gotta Get You Home” (#13) might just be country’s sexiest new song. Written by Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley, and Kelley Lovelace, not even the fire department could contain the flames in this one. You know where this is going from the first few notes. “….that dress and that kiss, Are driving me crazy so…. I just paid the tab off, Left a full beer, I can’t stay here, Let’s go somewhere all alone.” ‘Nuff said. If they release this to country radio, I expect it will burn its way to #1 quickly. The title track, “Fired Up” (#11), is also radio ready, and could have hit potential. It does straddle the bro country line, but Randy’s voice is perfect for this, and the music is arena ready. Only Randy can make cliched lust sound sophisticated. “Before Midnight” (#8) is another potential #1 that won’t take much airplay to get there. There might be a whole new genre in this song – country grunge meets Motown. The layering of background vocals here is not standard country fare, and the “whoa” chorus goes back a few decades. The dirty sounding guitar riffs in this are unexpectedly delicious and something Justin Butler can have a field day with in concert. If Randy turns his tour band loose on this, the crowd will be adding to that “whoa” chorus. Kudos to the songwriters – Randy Houser, Shane Minor, and Derek George. This is one of the standouts on this album.

     Randy was on a roll in this section of the album, Fired Up with one sexy song after another. In “Song Number 7” (#7), he sings his way past that circle of headlights down a backroad and heads straight for “Paradise by the Dashboard Light.” It’s all about the groove and the guitars in this, with that drumbeat inciting a seduction. “Lucky Me” (#6) has a flirty vibe and a guitar that creates mood music for what he’s hoping is gonna go down here. Songwriters don’t need a pickup line when they can write something like this. “Mine Tonight” (#5) has an unusual opening that suggests there’s something different going on here. This is where good girl meets bad boy and gets tempted by his seductive dark side. Promises. Promises. Such fun!

     The last category that soaks up the remaining five tracks on this album is what you get in a song that’s fueled by a whiskey reflection – three chords and the truth of the matter. This is where “Yesterday’s Whiskey” is gonna linger. “Hot Beer and Cold Women” (#14) was written by Brett Warren, Brad Warren, and Travis Meadows. That alone tells you there’s a lesson coming in this one. The lyrics open with the punishment, lingering between each pronouncement. That’s followed by a confession and the promise of a revival……just give him a minute. Randy’s vocal and the torment of this music is enough to beg for redemption. Brilliant songwriting. “Little Bit Older” (#12) is conciliatory from the opening blues guitar. Pull up a barstool, grab a Budweiser, and listen to the exceptional guitar work throughout this song. Old school country for the modern age.

     On every Houser album, there’s at least one song that seems written for his voice, and would pale in comparison on anyone else’s vocal chords. “Yesterday’s Whiskey” (#10) is that song. Written by Brice Long and Kylie Sackley, it soars on Randy’s vocal sentiment and Derek George’s production. Put headphones on and listen carefully to the instrumentation in this. It lifts up Randy’s vocal beautifully without backing away from it. The drumbeat never backs down from the power of his voice. A light touch would have weakened the emotional punch of the lyrics. What an extraordinary song. “True” (#9) might be the most unusual song on the album from a musical standpoint. There’s a lot going on in this that doesn’t fit neatly into any one style. It’s a power ballad with a country bent, soaring chorus, strong background vocals, and a twinge of 80s hair band guitar riffs. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it works on the album and suits Randy’s voice. Ending at the beginning of this record, “Back” (#1) is about as far downstream from “Whiskeysippi River” as you could get. These are fast-talkin’ lyrics for a country boy from Mississippi in this near retrospective rap with some stand your ground musical moments. Randy digs in vocally and never loses his resolve to own this. While the arrangement is a bit unusual for his style, his versatility is impressive, and the lyrical content suits him.

     Houser fans waited awhile for the release of this album, as it’s been three years since his last. The quality of Fired Up may speak to why it’s been that long. Rarely do you find an album with 17 songs on it, a hefty load, and not a bad one in the mix. There is zero filler on this record. It’s a solid collection of songs that seem written and arranged exclusively for Randy Houser’s voice and his band’s capabilities. They will have no trouble taking these songs from the studio to the arena. Many are concert and radio ready. You can shuffle the songs when you listen, take them in order, or backwards, and the album still plays the same. It’s fun. It’s intense. It’s heartfelt. Randy’s voice is one of the best in country music, perfectly tuned to sing this stuff. What he shows on this record is versatility and consistency, and if there’s a surprise here, it might be his mastery of the sexy song. Maybe “Yesterday’s WhiskeyFired Up a new side of him. Maybe being on tour with Luke Bryan last year rubbed off on him. Whatever the reason, Randy Houser may be country’s sexiest new singer. With the combustible content of this album, there’s a lot to be Fired Up about.

Randy is on tour with Dierks Bentley beginning in May. Visit his website for tour and ticketing information: http://www.randyhouser.com/tour.html

Listen to Fired Up on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/1QyVudk5sVVQyFLfdNFPLP


Purchase Fired Up on iTunes:



  • Back (Jeffrey Steele, Bridgette Tatum)

  • We Went (Justin Wilson, Matt Rogers, John King)

  • Chasing Down a Good Time (Randy Houser, Jeffrey Steele, Anthony Smith)

  • Senior Year (Randy Houser, Rob Hatch)

  • Mine Tonight (Dallas Davidson, Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip)

  • Lucky Me (Randy Houser, Dallas Davidson, Craig Wiseman)

  • Song Number 7 (Justin Wilson, Ben Hayslip, Chris Janson)

  • Before Midnight (Randy Houser, Shane Minor, Derek George)

  • True (Randy Houser, Rob Hatch)

  • Yesterday’s Whiskey (Brice Long, Kylie Sackley)

  • Fired Up (Rob Hatch, Dallas Davidson)

  • Little Bit Older (Neil Thrasher, Michael Dulaney, Tony Martin)

  • Gotta Get You Home (Dallas Davidson, Ashley Gorley, Kelley Lovelace)

  • Hot Beer and Cold Women (Brett Warren, Brad Warren, Travis Meadows)

  • Same Ole Saturday Night (Dallas Davidson, Ben Hayslip, Martin Johnson)

  • One Way (Chris Stapleton, Lee Miller)

  • Whiskeysippi River (Josh Jenkins, Matt Jenkins, Trevor Rosen)


  • Drums – Lonnie Wilson, Kevin Murphy

  • Bass – Michael Rhodes, Lee Hendricks

  • Acoustic Guitar – B. James Lowry, Derek George

  • Banjo – Derek George

  • Electric Guitar – Troy Lancaster, Rob McNelley, Jeff King, Derek George

  • Programming – Derek George, Alicia Hoffman

  • Percussion – Casey Wood

  • Keyboards – Steve Nathan, John Henry Trinko, Jeff Roach, Dave Cohen, Casey Wood

  • Steel Guitar – Scotty Sanders

  • Violin – David Davidson, David Angell

  • Viola – Monisa Angell

  • Cello – Sari Reist

  • Background Vocals – Wes Hightower, Russell Terrell, Derek George, Chris Stapleton

Produced by Derek George.

Randy thanked his tour band in the liner notes. They are:

Justin Butler (lead guitar), Tripper Ryder (bass), Ward Williams (lap steel, utility), John Henry Trinko (keys), Kevin Murphy (drums).


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Bev Miskus

Blogger of all things music related in Nashville and beyond.

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