Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Basics: Cowboy Mouth

You might as well listen to this while you read:

Light It On Fire by Cowboy Mouth on Grooveshark

There are times I wish I went to college in the '90s. For one thing, finding a job would have been a lot easier. And I would've gotten away with wearing overalls and cargo pants and making it look awesome.

But the other reason is that I would have had bands like Cowboy Mouth coming through my campus, instead of synthesizer-laden shoegazers like Neon Indian and Future Islands and everyone else who's hot with the kids these days.

In case you couldn't tell by now (you did hit play, didn't you?) Cowboy Mouth is all about their live show -- almost as much as they are about New Orleans. Lead by lead singer and drummer Fred LeBlanc, the band has been a powerhouse for the last twenty (count 'em) years. (Here's a video of Fred doing his thing.*)

But I didn't see them live for several years after discovering them. Do you remember that episode of Pete and Pete? The one where Pete hears his favorite song for the first time? You should watch it if you haven't, because there's always time for Pete and Pete. That's how I felt when I first heard "Light it on Fire." I could not stop listening to this album. It really annoyed all of my cabinmates, since I was at summer camp. They were my first favorite band -- at least one that I genuinely liked. (I only got those Creed CDs because I thought I was supposed to have a favorite band. Really.)

Everything I listen to has at least a six-degree separation from Cowboy Mouth. That's thanks in part to the advent of Pandora (one of the advantages of going to high school in the '00s.) What really grabbed me about the band was their particular brand of Southern rock that managed to not be derivative -- a rock'n'roll that has been tempered by country, funk, cajun, zydeco, and rock-a-billy but still manages to be accessible. That is in no small part to inaugural members Fred LeBlanc's (drums and vocals), John Thomas Griffith's (lead guitar and vocals), and Paul Sanchez's (rhythm guitar and vocals) collective songwriting experience in the New Orleans music scene.

As you can see from the live clip above and from "Jenny Says," the majority of the band's songs are about heartbreak and setback...just like anyone else. But their more overt message is a relentless, almost religious optimism. No matter what kind of bullshit you have to deal with, life is a gift, and we have to live it to the fullest.

Unsurprisingly, the band's sound has changed over the years. The first song on this playlist was the inspiration for this blog's name. Paul Sanchez's songwriting talent is featured here in "Little Blue One" and "Great Wide Open World." There's a sensitivity and cleverness to his lyrics that I've certainly missed since his departure shortly after Hurricane Katrina. But that stage of the band's history ended on a high note with Voodoo Shoppe. "Voodoo Shoppe" represents, to me, the pinnacle of Cowboy Mouth's style: Sanchez's lyrical style, combined with JTG's deft guitar licks, and Fred's vocals (supported by the legendary John Boutte) eloquently justify the band's two-decade existence.

You can see from the video above, with the band's current line-up (Fred, JTG, Matt Jones on guitar, and Cassandra Faulconer on bass) are doing just fine, and Paul's doing great in his solo efforts. I've been to about 25 Cowboy Mouth concerts, and here's hoping to 25 more. Because nothing makes me dance and scream like a 12-year-old than the band that first lit a fire in my musical belly.

Cowboy Mouth by Rachel C on Grooveshark

*Holy shit, those kids are adorable.

Who was your first favorite band?

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Cowboy Mouth Official ...you know where to find the rest.

As always, leave comments. Send music and/or suggestsions to ubia61 @ gmail.com [sorry that there's no link. I've already been visited by three Russian spambots, and I'd rather not get spam.]

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