Monday, July 12, 2010

Cowboy Mouth: Are You with Me? (1996)

(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )

Cowboy Mouth
Are You with Me?

Longtime fans of Cowboy Mouth consider this album--the frenzied French Quarter foursome's first for MCA--something of a sellout. Gone, the fans say, is the Band-like versatility that having four lead singers lent Cowboy Mouth's earlier efforts, and they're right: At the behest of MCA, drummer Fred LeBlanc sings lead on over half the songs, and bassist Rob Savoy sings lead on none. Gone too, the fans complain, is the frenzy that has made Cowboy Mouth one of the biggest draws at New Orleans' annual Jazz and Heritage Festival.

That, however, is not entirely true. "Love of My Life," LeBlanc's manic farewell to a "shady lady" who "used to be calm but now [is] crazy," has frenzy aplenty, especially in the drumming, and "Jenny Says," about yet another girl who "went insane" (maybe it's the same one?), certainly herky-jerks its folk-rock melody around. Yet there's no denying that more non-herky-jerky folk-rock shows up here than fans familiar with the band's live incarnation might expect.

Some of it is pretty. "God Makes the Rain," "Take It Out on Me," and "Peacemaker," the latter of which surely constitutes the first pro-policeman pop song of the post-"Cop Killa" era, should score points with those whose obsession with all things unplugged has reactivated in them an appreciation for hummability, and John Thomas Griffith's retro-rocking "Man on the Run" should score points with fans of the Red Rockers.

Still, nothing on Are You with Me? would ever lead the uninitiated to suspect that LeBlanc has been known to climax Cowboy Mouth shows by running amok through the crowd, singing Aretha Franklin's "Respect" from beneath a trash can.

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