After two decades of writing, producing, and distributing his own albums as an independent artist, Chris LeDoux signed with Liberty Records and in 1991 released Western Underground, his first major-label release. The sound is sharper and brighter than on any of LeDoux’s previous albums, courtesy of Jimmy Bowen (George Strait’s longtime producer) and a host of top-notch session musicians. While LeDoux sounds excellent on streamlined Nashville tunes like “Cadillac Cowboy,” ”County Fair," and “Shot Full of Love,” Western Underground was a success because Bowen refused to compromise LeDoux’s integrity; instead he encouraged LeDoux to continue making the grassroots cowboy songs that had made him a legend on the rodeo circuit. “Riding for a Fall" and “Thank the Cowboy for the Ride” form a pair of tough-yet-tender portraits of rodeo survivors—an archetype that LeDoux knew better than anyone. While “The Last Drive In” has an understated folky quality that had been part of LeDoux’s music since the start, the centerpiece is “This Cowboy’s Hat,” an epic yarn close to the oral storytelling tradition.