Album Review - The Brooklyn Cowboys: Dodging Bullets
by Gary Whitehouse
The Brooklyn Cowboys aren't really what you'd call a supergroup. That term implies well-known musicians from established groups getting together in a sort of uber-band; Crosby, Stills and Nash and Golden Smog are two of the better known examples. The Cowboys instead are mostly a bunch of established sidemen who've gotten together to pool their considerable talents at making country-rock music. Among them, the Cowboys must have nearly a century of country-rock experience.
They're driven by drummer and singer Fredro Perry, who is apparently the only actual Brooklynite, and who wrote or co-wrote six of the 14 tracks on Dodging Bullets, the band's sophomore outing. Singer-songwriter and guitarist Walter Egan has five solo albums to his credit, and songs that have been recorded by the likes of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Brian Waldschlager was voted best male vocalist in his native Knoxville. Buddy Cage played steel guitar in New Riders of the Purple Sage, and has played on records by artists as diverse as Bob Dylan and Anne Murray. Michael Webb is an in-demand session pianist, playing and touring with the likes of Stacey Earle, Vassar Clements and Allison Moorer. And Grammy nominee vocalist Lona Heins has toured and sung with Pam Tillis, Garth Brooks and Kenny Rogers.
These guys have chops galore, and they're not shy about putting them to work on everything from flat-out rockers to honky-tonk weepers.
When the opening track, "I Was Wrong," kicks off, you don't know if you're listening to the Stones, Nirvana or Lynyrd Skynyrd as a hail of distorted sixteenth-notes assault your ears like Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway's machine guns in "Bonnie and Clyde." When Walter Egan's twangy vocals kick in, you realize it's a combination of all three: Sixties blues-rock, Seventies southern rock and Nineties grunge.
Brian Waldschlager, the youngest pup in the group, comes on like a refugee from Deliverance in the first acoustic verse of "Trick Ponies," until the electric guitars and drums fall into place on the chorus of this homage to/parody of modern Nashville.
Julie Miller sound-alike Lona Heins joins Egan in a duet on the title track, a gentle ballad about finding wisdom with age, and Egan pays tribute to Gram Parsons with the Tex-Mex hoedown "Hey Juanica."
Joy Lynn White joins in on "This City is Different (Without You In It)," a ballad worthy of a Buddy Holly or a Marty Robbins; and on "Someone You Can Live With," a classic country ballad about long-time love. And speaking of classic country, Egan's clever "My Heart's In Denial (The 12-Step 2-Step)" calls to mind that old chestnut, "Heartaches by the Numbers."
The album maybe goes on a bit too long, to the point that some of the numbers start sounding the same. But overall, Dodging Bullets is a rootsy and rocking effort by a talented bunch of journeyman musicians.