Watch It Cowboy
Remember the days when Nashville still had at least the faintest aroma of sawdust underneath it's heels & whiskey on it's breath? Before 'crossover' became the no-longer-secret word of the day & country music had all but sold their soul for some magic beans? Well, Douglass Street sounds like their mission is to bring the twang back to Nash Vegas, and coming from outsiders in the Hoosier State, it is a hostile takeover that is welcome & necessary. The 'Cowboy' in WATCH IT COWBOY is certainly the operative word here. Bands are not exactly a dime a dozen in country music, at least when success & longevity are concerned. In a genre where vocalists & made-to-order songs rule the game, it seemed the days of Alabama (who had some pop success, but never lost sight of their roots even while collaborating with Lionel Richie & 'NSYNC), Southern Pacific & Confederate Railroad have gone the way of the dinosaur. Even Rascal Flatts have gotten in touch with their inner pop star & kicking up their heels seems the furthest from their mind. With any luck, Douglass Street ought to bring those days back & add their name to the all-too-short list of successful country bands who can write their own music, thank you very much! Most bands usually accent the 'country' in the subgenre of 'country-rock,' but it is clear Douglas Street does the opposite & WATCH IT COWBOY pays off in spades for that. Even the ballads have a kick to them while still providing ample opportunities for crying in your beer. The opening 'Way Before You Did' exemplifies this approach, and later entries like 'What Do I Do' & 'Working On Some Lonely' maintain that clear-eyed method of tugging on the listener's heartstrings without yanking them. Lead singer Doug Gusching's voice has the air of 'love sucks, but life goes on': probably not the most commercial attitude to write about, but it speaks the truth nonetheless. 'Pour Me To Sleep' is enough to have Kenny Chesney rethink his status as country's favorite beach bum with it's gentle tropical undertones, and also stays realistic about the fleeting nature of love. Back to kicking up those heels, WATCH IT COWBOY has plenty of those moments for those who have ten-gallon hats tucked away somewhere. It does not get anymore redneck than 'Let's Get It On' with fighting words delivered at a breakneck speed that would make Michael Stipe proud (think 'It's The End Of The World As We Know It' with a mullet). 'Where You Goin' has 'line-dance' written all over it, along with 'Girls Night Out', which can definitely make it onto the playlist of any neighboorhood bar band, although guys may want to pray for a happier ending when it comes to chatting up that special lady. In which case, the suggested domestic bliss of 'She Dances' might be the perfect soundtrack. It's naughtiness is more sly & with a wink than outright crude (we ain't talkin' Warrant & 'Cherry Pie' here), and definitely has the makings of a killer video on CMT---at least in the hours it still shows them & with the requisite creative camera angles for keeping it family-friendly. I definitely can smell a single on this song, but that is the beauty of WATCH IT COWBOY. Every song could find a home on the radio, and a record label definitely has their work cut out for them in deciding what to release. Finally, the album comes to a sobering end with the armed forces tribute of '21 Guns'. Regardless of how you feel about war, the song is enough to bring out the patriot in you without shoving you full of naive jingoism, a la Toby Keith. This is one ballad Douglass Street is not afraid to let it's guard down on & embrace emotion, but as always, managing to keep the tears at bay & a brave face on at all times. At a time when it seems country music is too busy reaching out to listeners who would not set foot near a saloon, a rootsy band like Douglass Street might appear to have been born a few decades too late. On the other hand, those musicgoers who have wondered where the twang has gone might be greater in number than imagined, and a large collective 'Yee-Haw & Hallelujah!' might be in order for the occasion of WATCH IT COWBOY. For someone who likes his country music to sound country (are those banjos I hear?!) & pop to sound pop, and never the twain shall meet, that is certainly my reaction. It is always refreshing to hear music made by people who are well aware of where the genre came from & who do not give a damn about being the flavor of the month. Douglass Street & WATCH IT COWBOY help say, if belatedly, what should have been told to crossover country specialists long ago. -Eric Andrews, Independent Music Reviewer.