Album Review - The Brooklyn Cowboys: Dodging Bullets
by George Peden
The Brooklyn Cowboys are a six-piece pedigree band of note-perfect musicians. Over a journey of three albums, they have brought some needed "oomph" back to modern country music. With a style remembering the better days of country rock, these guys sizzle. And they do it with honest-to-goodness, fair dinkum twang and tradition.
The BCs are a recognizable lineup of elite musicians. The band includes bassist Jeff "Stick" Davis, who plays with the Amazing Rhythm Aces. Songwriter and guitarist Walter Egan, who, decades back, had Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons sing together for the first time in his kitchen, is a co-founder of the band. The other co-founder, drummer Fredro Perry, is also a major songwriter – he, like Egan, has four songs on the album. Buddy Cage, better known as Jerry Garcia's replacement in New Riders of the Purple Sage, plays steel guitar. Versatile Brian Waldschlager, who wrote three songs here, plays lead. Michael Webb, known for his links with Allison Moorer, B.J. Thomas, as well as his session work, compliments the sound on keyboards.
The BCs’ sound is further rounded with Lona Heins on vocals for several tracks, Kenny Sears on twin fiddles, Hoot Hester on fiddle, Van Manakas on guitar and Dobro, Jim Hoke on clarinet, and on upright bass, Dave Roe. Former "Cowboy" Joy Lynn White (this non-touring member of the band is now continuing her active, independent career) offers her vocals on several guest album cuts. All members share their arsenal of solid riffs, meaningful lyrics, impeccable playing, and focused talent on this latest release, Dodging Bullets (Leap Records). And they do it, as expected, brilliantly.
With 14 generous tracks, the album proves the value of road-honed experience and musical integrity. Here, the BCs share unforgettable melodies with an obvious enjoyment hammered out by years of being individually successful, while plying their trade with a respect for their collective music.
Speaking of the band, Fredro Perry has said, "The Brooklyn Cowboys’ moniker certainly fits our music, because it suggests a unique amalgam that’s distinctively American down to its roots, since Brooklyn, in colonial times, was (and, naturally, still is) America’s heartland land."
Created in '96 to play classic rock and roll and country, the band has enjoyed the interest of critics since the release of their applauded '99 debut, Doin’ Time on Planet Earth. Country Weekly labeled them: "This hard-drivin’ band blends elements of the best 60's country rock with alternative twang. The result is powerfully melodic tunes with cutting lyrics and a hard-rockin’ beat."
The opening track, "I Was Wrong", proves the opinion. A brew of hard-rocking riffs shoulders the blow of heartache and departure. "Trick Ponies" draws wattage with its energetic tale of chasing possibilities, while the title cut, with Lona Heins on shared vocals, is a harmony-rich tune owing its style to bygone country musical pairings.
"Hey Juanica" is a piano-thumped, guitar-charged, fiddle-rich frolic, and is the first radio release from the album. With its top down and stab the pedal open road feel, the musical travelogue is one of superlative playing that has the band not braking for hitchhikers. "Trouble With A Capital 'T'" keeps the bounce as it shuffles with revelations of dangerous liaisons, while Joy Lynn White – who, incidentally, claims Marty Stuart as the #1 member of her fan club – shares advice and a homespun remedy for marital survival. Find "Someone You Can Live With".
Other standout tracks include "The Gift". With its country/jazz blending and humorous poke at the turbulence of life, it’s a joyous mix. So, too, is "My Heart’s In Denial (The 12 Step 2 Step)", a beat-slapped made-for-Saturday night rollicker, while the farewell cut, "What You Call Love", has an "Oh-Boy" feel that surely mines inspiration from the Holly era. Fabulous.
These guys are hot with refined talent, catchy tunes, and polished instrumentation on an album offering no saddle sores and happy trails. It’s time to rearrange that furniture, kick back your carpet, warn the neighbors and turn the volume high – these cowboys are firing and the mentioned moves are best for dodging bullets.