Album Review - The Brooklyn Cowboys: Dodging Bullets
by Ann Marie Harrington (October 2002)
Though The Brooklyn Cowboys are a fairly recent band on the Americana/alt-country scene (they released their debut CD, Doin' Time On Planet Earth in 1999, followed by an EP The Other Man In Black, in 2001), it's members are hardly new to the music business. The band originally formed in 1996, after Walter Egan, best known for his solo albums in the mid-70's/early 80's and his mega hit "Magnet & Steel," as well as his songwriting (Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris recorded his song "Hearts On Fire"), met songwriter and drummer Fredro Perry. Egan agreed to help Perry record his songs, and the sessions went so well, they were soon rehearsing to perform publicly. Shortly, Buddy Cage, legendary pedal steel player from The New Riders Of The Purple Sage joined them, and they quickly gained acclaim on the country-rock circuit in the Northeast. However, things came to an abrupt halt, when Egan left for Nashville in '97.
Feeling they had a good thing going, Perry and Cage followed Egan to Nashville, and The Brooklyn Cowboys reformed, this time with an expanded line-up. They were joined by bassist Supe Granda (Ozark Mountain Daredevils), who has since been replaced by Jeff "Stick" Davis (Amazing Rhythm Aces), keyboardist Michael Webb (Stacey Earle, Allison Moorer, Pinmonkey), and Joy Lynn White on vocals & acoustic guitar, who has since traded places with Brian Waldschlager (Brian started out as "guest vocalist," and is now a regular member, while Joy Lynn now contributes guest vocals). On their new Dodging Bullets outing, The Brooklyn Cowboys are also joined by the outstanding musical talent of Lona Heins on vocals, Kenny Sears & Hoot Hester on fiddle, Van Manakas on guitar and dobro, Jim Hoke on clarinet, and Dave Roe (Johnny Cash band) on upright bass.
The Brooklyn Cowboys take the best elements from 60's country-rock, and combine them with classic sounds of country and today's current Americana, creating a hard driving, twang rocking, no nonsense sound. Touring for 18 months after the release of their debut gave them the chance to get to know each other better, and by the time they went into the studio to record Dodging Bullets, they felt they were finally a tightly connected, and far stronger band than they were on their debut, since at that time, they had only known each other a short time.
The resulting Dodging Bullets most certainly bears that out. The musicianship is impeccable, the vocals are edgy, and the songwriting is strong and witty with an excellent mix of styles. The Cowboys come busting out of the gate right from the start, a la The Blasters, with the blistering, hard driving rocker "I Was Wrong." "Trick Ponies" is a twangy country-rocker, about waiting for that big break. The title track, "Dodging Bullets,' with Lona Heins, is a lovely ballad very reminiscent of a classic Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris duet. The standout "Hey Juanica," is driven by a two-stepping, Tex-Mex melody, highlighted by some great guitar picking. "Trouble With A Capital T" has that loose rocking, jangley, Little Feat style influence.
"The City Is Different" with Joy Lynn White, is a mesmerizing ballad, with a haunting kind of Roy Orbison feel about it. "My Heart's In Denial (The 12 Step 2 Step)" is a witty, infectious, full blown honky tonker. "Rita" is a twangy country tale of regret, about a poor white trash little girl that grows up to be a hooker. "Someone You Can Live With," with Joy Lynn White, is a wistful, steel and fiddle driven country-rock tale of regret, about not letting love pass you by. "I Stand Accused" is a rollicking two-stepper, about a guy that's always unintentionally messing up in his relationship.
"The Gift" mixes twangy country with a jazzy, Dixieland inflected melody, and some witty lyrics. The stellar "You Never Quit On Me" is a western flavored country rocker, about a woman's unwavering loyalty. "Waycross Stables" is a pretty duet with Lona Heins, looking back on the years of a marriage filled with love. Dodging Bullets closes on the pace it opened, the driving rockabilly of "What You Call Love," that conjures up Buddy Holly's best songs.
Dodging Bullets is packed with first rate songs, and first rate talent, without a single mis-step along the way. This one should push The Brooklyn Cowboys out into the spotlight where they gain far wider recognition, and deservedly so. With the stellar Dodging Bullets, they have proven themselves to be one of the best and most talented bands out there today.