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Cowboy In Flames

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Album Review

On To the Last Dead Cowboy, the Waco Brothers sounded like one of Jon Langford's better side projects; on Cowboy in Flames, they sounded like a real band, and a damn good one at that, and that made all the difference in the world. A year and a half of gigging around the Midwest had given substance to the Wacos claim of being "the World's Tuffest Country Band," while the full-time addition of Mark Durante on steel guitar reinforced the twang in their tone as Langford and Dean Schlabowske kicked up the wattage on their guitars. The working-class rage that bubbled under the surface of the first album came to a full boil on Cowboy in Flame, and that passion fueled the sweaty, urgent rage of the best cuts, especially "See Willy Fly By," "Take Me to the Fires," and the title cut. At the same time, the band proved the could slow things down and still make their music connect, as "Dollar Dress" and "Dry Land" eloquently testify. The inspired covers (supercharged arrangements of "White Lightning" and "Wreck on the Highway") make clear the band's nitro-fueled take on classic country comes from a place of love and respect, and the final cut, "Death of Country Music." speaks volumes about what's wrong with the current state of mainstream C&W (and, by extension, American culture). Some wag once described the Waco Brothers as "half Cash, half Clash," and, on Cowboy in Flames, they sound strong enough to make good on both halves of that equation. A triumph, and one of the finest albums to emerge from the Chicago alt-country scene.

Biography

Formed: 1994 in Chicago, IL

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Often described as "Half Cash, half Clash" for their fiery mixture of classic country spirit ("Cash" meaning the Man in Black) and old-school punk energy and defiance, the Waco Brothers were the most successful of the many side projects launched by Jon Langford, one of the founding members of eclectic British punk-and-beyond troublemakers the Mekons. In the '80s, the Mekons began exploring the influences of American country music, which they had discovered while touring the United States, and the...
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Cowboy In Flames, The Waco Brothers
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