Articles - Creative Loafing, Atlanta Album Review: The Other Man in Black

Creative Loafing
Album Review
The Brooklyn Cowboys: The Other Man in Black (The Ballad of Dale Earnhardt)

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Album Review - The Brooklyn Cowboys: The Other Man in Black
by Gregory Nicoll

A supergroup from Nashville via New York, the aptly named Brooklyn Cowboys include former members of the Amazing Rhythm Aces and New Riders of the Purple Sage, with Gram Parsons cohort Walter Egan ("Magnet and Steel") as the nominal leader of this experienced pack. The Cowboys' latest effort is a five-song EP, The Other Man in Black: The Ballad of Dale Earnhardt, its centerpiece an ode to the recently deceased NASCAR legend.

Neither a Johnny Cash pastiche nor a ballad, the title track is actually a frantic Jerry Lee Lewis-style rocker propelled by a pumpin' piano. Delivered in call-and-response format, it features a choir of male voices crooning "Dale Earnhardt" while a basso profundo voice intones the racer's various nicknames ("Number 3! Big E!"). The best moments come near its fadeout, with the lead guitar quoting from the rock classic "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" while the Cowboys call out a list of speedways where Earnhardt raced.

Rounding out the disc are four raucous tracks recorded live at Atlanta's Star Bar. The best of this bunch is "You Must Be From Nashville," a raunchy rocker with a Chuck Berry intro and the gritty stompin' rhythm of an Exile on Main Street-era Stones tune. It's a style to which the Cowboys' big six-piece ensemble is particularly well suited. The EP also contains a hidden sixth track whose banjo and fiddle evoke the Byrds' excursions into country. Here the departed spirit of Gram Parsons provides the Cowboys a level of inspiration that even Dale Earnhardt couldn't beat.

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