Brothers Chip and Tony Kinman, formerly of punk band The Dils and country group Rank and File, serve up 11 tracks of simply phrased desolation and thoughtful rollicking on their second release as Cowboy Nation. Their vocals and harmonies are deep and dark as the inside of a saddlebag, and the album's rich, atmospheric sound evokes the wide open west.
Guitarist Chip, bassist Tony, and drummer Jamie Spidle excel at musically choreographing the songs' action. "Two Miles to Town," a gleeful number about getting off the trail to get shaven, drunk and laid, carries all the rush of impatient cowboys slapping haunches. "E-Z Ridin' Cowboy," on the other hand, evokes the slow lope of a malingerer.
A cover of "Shenandoah," a misty meditation that runs close to eight minutes, is the collection's most striking feature. The song itself rolls as steadily along as the Missouri. The album's other two covers are "Back in the Saddle Again" and "Blood on the Saddle"; the rest are Kinman originals.
When a band adopts the easy image of the cowboy to propel their songs, the results run the risk of sounding like hokey, uninspired covers or self-consciously mocking ditties. Cowboy Nation, however, with their unpretentious lyrics and their provocatively dark sound, have produced a heartfelt homage to the cowboy.