Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Previously issued by Bilocation Records in Europe on vinyl and limited CD, the Black Cowgirl self-titled double EP compilation will see domestic US shelves May 14 thanks to Restricted Release. The band, who’ve spent the last couple years tightening their approach alongside some hefty touring acts while clocking a bit of their own road time, have recorded a new cover of Rory Gallagher‘s “I’m Not Awake Yet” to accompany the new version.
The PR wire sees it like this:
BLACK COWGIRL ALBUM TO SEE NATIONAL RELEASE
Lancaster County, Pennsylvania’s BLACK COWGIRL will see the North American release of their self-titled double ep released via Restricted Release on May 14. The 11-song recording was produced by the band with mixing and recording by Rich Gavalis. The national release of Black Cowgirl has been expanded to include lyrics previously unavailable on the version of the album sold at live performances and the band’s official webstore. It showcases the unique illustration work of Adrian Brouch.
BLACK COWGIRL recently performed at West Chester’s The Note alongside England’s Viking Skull. It was the UK rocker’s final show. BLACK COWGIRL vocalist/guitarist Ben McGuire shares, “the Viking Skull guys have always been great to us. It is a shame it was their last show. We played our first show with them a couple years ago and were honored to play their last, though I won’t be surprised if they come back from the grave down the road.”
Black Cowgirl will also include a recently recorded cover of “I’m Not Awake Yet” by Rory Gallagher. One of the late Irish singer/guitarist’s most popular songs, it is a tough one for any band to tackle. “I’m Not Awake Yet” is one of our favorite Rory Gallagher songs,” notes McGuire. “We talked about recording it for a while because we felt like it fit in with our other songs pretty well. We are all big fans of his mellow songs that are often overshadowed by his blues rock songs. There is just something about the sad, desperate, lonely feeling he captures in some of his low key songs that strikes a chord with what we are trying to do.”
Originally conceived as a one-man instrumental project by McGuire, BLACK COWGIRL’s current incarnation took shape in 2008. Guitarist Nathan Rosenzweig, bassist Chris Casse, and drummer Mark Hanna with McGuire initially united their talents to record six songs. Recorded quickly, three days in fact, the band immediately set out on tour supporting local heros CKY. Drummer Jess Margera was immediately impressed by the band. “BLACK COWGIRL kicks ass,” he says. “The band combines all the best elements of classic rock, groove rock, and even some prog at times.” Since that maiden tour, BLACK COWGIRL has shared the stage with Graveyard, The Company Band, Radio Moscow, Karma to Burn, Black Tusk, Monstro, and many others.
Complete track listing for Black Cowgirl is: 1. Talk of Wolves 2. Roadmaster 3. The Ride 4. Alkaline 5. Dead House 6. Eclipsor 7. Weight of Oblivion 8. Three Seasons 9. Solarizer 10. Becoming Nothing 11.Unio Mystica 12. I’m Not Awake Yet
Posted in Features on September 1st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning in East Lyme, Connecticut. Why wouldn’t there be traffic on I-95? Seven hundred gajillion TARP funbucks later, I sat in a miles long line of cars weaving into and out of two exceedingly busy lanes. Much to the chagrin of the dude from Massachusetts next to me with a boat towed off the back of his pickup, I was barely paying attention to my drifting. Some of the sternest looks I’ve had in at least a week.
I managed to sneak in a quick to-go breakfast with The Patient Mrs., who is in the area, and then basically came right here. It’s about 10 to noon now, and I don’t know what time Akris is going to start — they’re setting up now — but when they do, it’ll be the launch of day three of Stoner Hands of Doom XII and the first of two massive all-day shows here at the El ‘n’ Gee in New London.
No doubt it’s going to be a long day, but hell, I’m here. I’ve got a deli sandwich in a cooler in the trunk of my car for later, and enough earplugs to last a month. My plan is basically to do the same as I did yesterday — but, you know, twice as much of it — with updates as the day goes on. Hopefully you enjoy keeping up as much as I do.
SHoD XII day three begins in just a bit. More to come.
UPDATE 12:46PM: Hope you like bass. Akris, the Virginian duo of bassist/vocalist Helena Goldberg and drummer Sam Lohman, fluidly blend thrash, doom and noise, but are also able to dive quickly into runs of progressive technicality. Goldberg played through three heads — Sunn Concert Master and Slave and an Earth Super Bass Producer — and should go without saying was assaultingly, feel-it-in-your-chest loud, and Lohman had his own kit set up toward the front of the stage and off to the site, turned sideways. If I wasn’t awake yet, Akris were loud enough to get the job done, but as overwhelming as it was in terms of volume, the tone wasn’t muddy. The vocals cut through the low end (duh) and I’m not sure whether Lohman‘s drums were actually coming through the P.A. or not — they were mic’ed up, but he looked to be crashing down hard enough to be heard down the street, so who knows — but there was no trouble hearing him either, and even when Goldberg was at her loudest and most raging, everything came through distinct. Their demo was cool and hopefully it’s not too long before they follow it up with either a full-length or an EP. I’d be interested to hear how the dynamic between them came across over the course of a whole album. In the meantime, they were a shot of energy to start the day. Much needed and much appreciated.
UPDATE 1:44PM: From the wilderness of New Hampshire, double-guitar doomly foursome Eerie were quick to align themselves with the extreme. In look and attitude, I half expected the band to bust out throat-ripping screams and searing blasts. Didn’t happen, but they weren’t lacking for grimness besides. Instead, they doomed out a wall of riffs and varied abrasive and clean vocals, relying on steady undulating riffs, not unfamiliar, but hard to place directly somewhere between Cathedral and the semi-psych tonality of earliest Zoroaster. One of the guitarists broke a string early into the set, but if it really affected the sound, I wouldn’t know it. The two guitars played well off each other, and if the broken string did anything, it was force him into a higher register and into starker contrast with his fellow six-stringer. They have a record that I’ll hope to pick up and check out further, but it’s high time New Hampshire’s untamed forests spawned a unit as dark as Eerie — who might need to take a different name for how well it actually describes them. They seemed to have common cause with Statis, who are on next, but what the alliance might be, I don’t know. Either way, if Akris were the stoner hands, Eerie were the doom. Doom like “we only use our first initials” kind of doom.
UPDATE 2:27PM: Well, mystery solved. Stasis‘ drummer — listed on their Thee Facebooks as the mysterious “TBA” — was the same dude who played guitar and handled vocals in Eerie. See? I know it’s precisely that kind of investigative reporting that keeps you coming back to The Obelisk. Anyway, a trio from Portland, Maine — where Revelation and Ogre will doom this very evening — they were more on the sludge end than Eerie before them, but while guitarist/vocalist Michael Leonard Maiewski wasn’t including the same kinds of Euro-doom derived ambient parts, there was still a decent cut of drama in what they were doing. Bassist Mindy Kern had a Warlock or some such bass — many interestingly shaped instruments this weekend — and I don’t know to say for sure, but I think the sound guy working the board here at the El ‘n’ Gee is about ready to hang it up and go get a real estate license. It’s a universal fallback plan. So far, the three bands that have played have been so loud that by the time Stasis were halfway through, he’d left, perhaps in pursuit of lunch, I don’t know for sure. Would require some more of that investigating. I’ll get with the budget office and see if we can swing it. Stasis threw down a little mud, but the wash of low end was obviously intended. Wouldn’t be sludge if it wasn’t dirty.
Curse the Son
UPDATE 3:20PM: Beardbanging all the while, guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore led Hamden, CT, trio Curse the Son down a long trail of smoke to the riff-filled land. Playing through a righteous custom Dunwich amp — they make ‘em pretty — Vanacore’s riffly plod was second to none I’ve heard so far over the course of this year’s SHoD, and with the rhythm section of bassist Cheech and drummer Mike Petrucci stomping away, the band gave a strong herald for their upcoming Psych-achefull-length. Most of what they played seemed new, but I did recognize a tune or two from the prior Klonopain(review here) long-player, but really, old material or new, it’s all about the riffs, and Curse the Son has that down. I’d like to see Vanacore (who’s fighting a sinus infection but didn’t let on on stage) in a beard-off with Ben McGuire from Black Cowgirl, who play later, but in the meantime, Kin of Ettins is on next, having come all the way from Texas for the show. Curse the Son gave them a good lead-in and the crowd seems to be right on board. There’s been a lot to dig about today so far, though it’s hard to believe we’re only four bands into the day.
Kin of Ettins
UPDATE 4:22PM: In a dark venue such as this, it’s kind of easy to lose track of time. Whenever someone opens a door to outside and the sunlight comes in, I’m surprised. It’s still daylight out. It’s four in the friggin’ afternoon. Obviously no one told doomly Dallas four-piece Kin of Ettins that. They rocked like it was well after 11PM, proffering a doom that wouldn’t have been at all out of place on Hellhound Records in the mid-’90s and delivering it with just a hint of Texan swagger and inflection. Bechapeaued guitarist/vocalist Jotun (above) made mention in thanking Rob Levey for putting this together that he and bassist Donar were at the first SHoD in 2001 in Dallas. Must be quite a trip 11 years later to play it in New England, but they did well, and with one hand, guitarist Teiwaz ripped into impressive leads, overcoming some early technical difficulties and making a song like “Snake Den Time,” the title-track of a reportedly coming full-length, a standout. They saved the best for last, however, with the cut “Echoes in the Deep,” which also ended the set on their Doomed in Dallas live EP (review here). Awesome to have them represent the fertile Texas scene at Stoner Hands of Doom, and I’m glad I got to see it.
UPDATE 5:13PM: It’s only been about a month since I saw Black Cowgirl in Philly with The Company Band, so they were pretty fresh in my consciousness, as much as anything is at this point. In that time, however, their self-titled full-length (comprised of two prior EPs put together) has seen its CD release, so they haven’t exactly been sitting still. They were much as they were at the Underground Arts, maybe drummer Mark Hanna was a little less inclined to stand up behind his kit, but beyond that, the two guitars of Ben McGuire and Nate Rosenzweig still worked well together and bassist Chris Casse held down the grooves ably without being overly showy. Someone put themselves in the spot in the bar area where I had been setting up the laptop, so I moved outside, and it’s apparently a pretty fantastic day out. Not quite enough to make me regret spending the whole thing inside the dark club, but still. The thing that stands out most about Black Cowgirl‘s set is the dynamics within the band’s approach. The performances were spot on, but even more than that, their songwriting is strong and varied and their ability to convey that in a live setting like this makes them that much stronger a band.
UPDATE: 6:12PM: Wonderfully monikered Maryland classic doom trio Beelzefuzz just wrapped their set with a cover of Lucifer’s Friend‘s “Ride in the Sky.” A pretty bold choice, given that Trouble did the same tune and The Skull is playing later tonight, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t pull it off, guitarist/vocalist Dana using his pedal board as much for his vocals as for his guitar. And I do mean “vocals,” plural. At several points in the set, he was doing live double-tracking, clicking on to add another of his voice and then clicking off. He got jumbled up doing it, but it was impressive nonetheless, as was his voice in general. Though I dug their demo, I’d only ever seen Beelzefuzz for two songs at Days of the Doomed II back in June, so a full set was welcome. Following the energy of Black Cowgirl, they were a calmer stage presence, but tight performance-wise, and usually if it’s going to be one or the other, I’ll take that. Dana‘s guitar magically became a Hammond organ at several intervals and that was awesome as well. The Maryland contingent — a big part of SHoD for the last couple years — will have further representation from Admiral Browning in a few hours, but Beelzefuzz were a welcome dash of Krug’s Place in the meantime, making me a little wistful for Frederick. New London’s been alright in the meantime, though.
One Inch Giant
UPDATE 7:14PM: This was the last stop on Swedish rockers One Inch Giant‘s US tour. I saw the first one earlier this week in Brooklyn. Pretty awesome of an underground band, relatively unknown, to get over here and do a week of shows like that. Unlike in Brooklyn, I watched their whole set this time around, though it seems I’d seen more of it than I thought last time. They sent out a building jam to the ladies, hit the blastbeats again — frontman Filip Åstrand warning the crowd beforehand by saying, “I know you like them slow, but this one’s fast” — and gave a solid, energetic showing of their straightforward European-style heavy rock. I couldn’t help but wonder if Åstrand washed his Morbid Angel shirt between the two shows, but as I couldn’t smell him while was taking pictures, I figure probably there was laundry done at some point during the week. Their stuff was straight ahead catchy, and I think maybe some of the ideas got lost in translation between the Euro and US markets, but for both the fact that they’re here and for what they actually did while they were on stage, it was more than respectable.
UPDATE 8:11PM: As good as some of the doom I’ve seen over the last couple days has been, I don’t know if anything tops Rochester, New York’s Orodruin. They haven’t put out an album since 2003′s Epicurean Mass, but here as at Days of the Doomed, they came on and promptly blew the crowd away. John Gallo doesn’t so much play riffs as he conjures them, summoning them from his guitar in some kind of doomly ceremonial rite. The band played as a four-piece tonight, with second guitarist (and if I’m wrong on the name, please correct me) Nick Tydelski joining the melee alongside bassist/vocalist Mike Puleo and drummer Mike Waske. As a four-piece, they were no less potent than as a trio, and they had what I think was the biggest crowd of the fest so far. I didn’t count heads or anything, but all the people I’ve seen milling about the El ‘n’ Gee today finally seemed to all be in the same place at the same time. Good reason, as Orodruin are hands down one of the best traditional doom acts I’ve ever encountered live, breathing new life into what in most hands is a genre based in no small part on retread. Not knocking that, just saying that these guys have something special. Their In Doomdemo/EP is here and on sale. I bought one in Wisconsin, but I’m almost tempted to pick up another, just to have it. Fucking a.
UPDATE: 9:10PM: Anything strike you as a little strange about the picture above of Ron “Fez” McGinnis of Maryland progressive noisemakers Admiral Browning. He’s singing! When their set first started, I said to myself, “Now why the hell would they leave a microphone on stage?” thinking maybe it was just so guitarist Matt LeGrow could say thanks or something, but then Fez had one too, and sure enough, vocals. Not just vocals though, harmonies too. Either these dudes just discovered they could do that stuff or they’ve been holding out. I’d always kind of thought of Admiral Browning‘s tech-minded approach as being too complicated as to allow for structuring into verses, but it worked and it worked well. They still had plenty of instrumental material on offer, but they’ve put themselves into a different echelon entirely by adding singing, all the more so for actually being able to pull it off. And of course, as LeGrow and McGinnis were belting out the songs, drummer Tim Otis was running a marathon across his kit behind them. Legitimately, I’d be surprised if he covered any less than 26.2 miles. They paid homage to Buddy Rich with “Traps” and, after a story of how they ran into Geraldo Rivera in Coney Island earlier today, shouted out “La Araña Lobo” in his mustachioed honor. My plan had been to run out to the car and grab my long-awaited turkey sandwich from the cooler in my trunk, but Admiral Browning kept me right in here. That might not sound like high praise, but there isn’t much that beats “turkey sandwich” in my book. Kudos, gentlemen.
UPDATE 10:10PM: Chicago’s Earthen Grave went sans violin for their set. I seem to recall Rachel Barton Pine, who usually handles that instrument, being either pregnant or recently a mother, and either way, I’d expect that to account for her absence from SHoD. It’s a valid enough excuse. The show went on, as I’m told the show must, and Earthen Grave delivered a crunchier-seeming set of traditional doom and metal. Vocalist Mark Weiner has hit himself in the head on purpose both times I’ve seen the band — here and at Days of the Doomed II — and so I guess he’s just that crazy. He had on a Church of Misery shirt and was happy to show it off along with his formidable pipes, but bassist Ron Holzner has “used to be in Trouble” on his side, and that’s always an attention-getter. The band was pretty crisp, even for lacking their violin, and the assembled heads dug in wholeheartedly as they kicked into a new song, the title of which I didn’t get. Good to know they have new stuff in the works though. I did run out and grab that turkey sandwich, eating half as I sat on the lip of the open trunk of my car — a doomer tailgate party of one — but when I came back, Earthen Grave made me think perhaps I should revisit their self-titled full-length, and covered Pentagram‘s “Relentless,” which is a bit of a coincidence, since that band is about to go on stage in Brooklyn playing that album in its entirety. Go figure.
Devil to Pay
UPDATE 11:12PM: No coincidence that Devil to Pay guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak was representing the Ripple Music logo, as it was recently announced the Indianapolis four-piece had signed to that label for the release of their new album. Janiak said on stage that the record is due out in January — it’ll be their first since 2009′s Heavily Ever After– and they played a few songs from it, including the gloomy highlight “Yes, Master.” Devil to Pay are always pretty humble on stage, but they’re pretty clearly riding a high. They seemed confident and assured in their sound, guitarist Rob Hough breaking out the weekend’s first and only (to date) windmill headbang, and Janiak‘s tenure in the doomier Apostle of Solitude has brought a new dynamic to his vocals, which had a kind of post-Alice in Chains grunge feel. I had been looking forward to the new album already, but it’s good to have some affirmation for the anticipation. The night is starting to wind down, and with Pale Divine and The Skull still to go, things are about to get awfully doomed around here, but Devil to Pay‘s heavy rock was a great balance between the stoner and the doom, and Janiak is beginning to emerge as a genuine frontman presence. Cool to watch.
UPDATE 12:14AM: The funny thing about watching Pale Divine‘s set tonight was that for most of the contingent up front to see the band, they were local, like well-known, like married-to-them local. For me, seeing Pale Divine, who hail from Pennsylvania, is something exotic, something that doesn’t happen every day. It had me thinking about the bands that I feel that way about — Jersey acts like The Atomic Bitchwax or even a Long Island band like Negative Reaction — who I take for granted. My moment’s pondering didn’t last much longer than that, however, because I was astonished to see Fezzy from Admiral Browning was playing bass alongside guitarist/vocalist and band founder Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey, who also played with Beelzefuzz tonight. Fez was a little punchy on the bass, but that dude’s the kind of player that could pretty much fit in anywhere so long as it’s heavy, and it was cool to see him in a more traditionally riffy context, playing off Diener‘s Wino-inspired riffs. A highlight was “Amplified,” the opening track of their first album, Thunder Perfect Mind, and when the whole thing was done, I won the Stoner Hands of Doom raffle! More on that later, as The Skull is about to go on.
UPDATE 1:40AM: You know what the difference is between The Skull and your Trouble cover band? First of all, you don’t have a Trouble cover band, but even if you did, chances are it wouldn’t have Ron Holzner playing bass in it or Eric Wagner singing, and as someone who saw Trouble proper on their tour with Kory Clarke fronting them, I can say first hand that that makes a big fucking difference. Seems frivolous to say “Psalm 9″ and “Bastards Will Pay” were high points — the whole set was a high point. Together with guitarists and a drummer culled from Chicago metallers Sacred Dawn, Wagner and Holzner ran through a set of classics that seemed utterly antithetical to the late hour. They killed, and the people that stuck around ate it up. Nobody even spoke in between songs. Everyone just stood there and waited to see what was coming next? How about “Revelation (Life and Death)?” Well, yeah, okay, right on. I guess the big difference between tonight and when I saw The Skull at Days of the Doomed is I’m not miserable piss drunk tonight, so I’ve got that working for me. When their set was finished, Wagner said he’d keep going if someone bought him a beer, so beer was acquired and they wound up closing with “At the End of My Daze,” which was incredible of course. The bar called a “get the fuck out” last call after they were actually done, so I’m writing this in the car in the parking lot outside, about to drive back to where I’ll crash out and get up tomorrow for the final day of Stoner Hands of Doom. Tonight was unreal.
Posted in Reviews on July 30th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The forecast was ominous, and I don’t mean a little. Listening to the news on the radio on my way southbound on the Turnpike to see The Company Band, Lionize and Black Cowgirl in Philly, it sounded like that movie The Day After Tomorrow when all the storms come together in a rousing bout of disaster porn. Sure, the sun was out, but whatever the hell a “derecho” storm was, it was headed our way. I guess people in this region have gotten used to the threats of your standard El Ninos and Noreasters, so corporate media has to come up with something else to scare my mom with. Fuckers.
It did storm, but by the time it started I was well secure within the walls of Underground Arts, a new venue in a mostly empty but highway-convenient section of Philadelphia that I wouldn’t be surprised to see gentrify within the next couple years — I immediately started looking at spaces to open a bar, and there were several (have I mentioned how much I fucking love Philly?). The place was cool enough, kind of reminded me of Santos Party House in NYC with two large columns on either side of the stage and a professional setup, P.A. and lighting rig. The lights were LCDs or some such like that, which was fascinating. Turns out it’s the future after all.
Underground Arts had good beer on tap — the Stoudts Pils and Yards were the local contingent — and it was decently cheap as well, but with the weather and work Friday still to go, I wasn’t drinking. More the fool I. I’d been asked to come down early and take some promo shots of The Company Band, who were headlining as one show on a three-night tour that would subsequently hit Brooklyn and Washington D.C. That’s not something I’ve ever done before, but I figured if there’s going to be a first time, a band that has members of Clutch, Fireball Ministry and Fu Manchu can’t be a bad place to start. It went alright and I got some decent shots out of it. The guys — vocalist Neil Fallon, guitarists Jim Rota and Dave Bone, bassist Brad Davis and drummer Jess Margera — were all cordial, and as inexperienced as I was, it wasn’t the first time any of them had had their picture taken.
There was a while between the end of that process and the start of the actual show, which was opened by Lancaster, PA’s Black Cowgirl — no strangers to Margera, having played with his main outfit, CKY, in Philly last year — so I went in search of some Advil to help quiet down a headache I’d acquired on the drive down. All the sunshine. Ironic enough, considering the armageddon I was hearing about on the radio. I stumbled on and then into a Shell station and bought two of the little travel packs of two pills each. A short while later, Black Cowgirl hit the stage to play songs from the two EPs that they’ll release as one self-titled full-length collection on Bilocation Records this week. They had the CDs with them; vinyl is due in August.
A two-guitar four-piece, they were a band I’ve wanted to see for a while. Guitarist/vocalist Ben McGuire set up on stage right, his fellow six-stringer/singer Nate Rosenzweig way on the other side with drummer Mark Hanna and bassist Chris Casse in between. They were almost in a line — McGuire, Hanna, Casse and Rosenzweig — but the drummer was a little further back on stage and Casse out in front, and they looked ready to tour, excited to be there on the bill with the other two acts. Casse was more in the pocket than fronting the band, and McGuire was partially obscured by the giant column on his side, but the songs were tight and the band gave a solid impression to people in the crowd who, like me, hadn’t seen them play before.
To put a point on it, they looked ready to tour. You know how sometimes you see a local band play in their home territory and it just seems like they’re ready to get out? If Black Cowgirl isn’t there, they’re close. I don’t know the life circumstances of the members of the band, if they would permit larger-scale touring, but they seem to have learned what they need to know about opening shows like this one and they’re ready. Someone get Lo-Pan on the phone and tell them to book four or five weeks. I bet Black Cowgirl would come back absolutely lethal, and that their resulting confidence — McGuire seemed to hesitate to “front” the band, where his beard alone would’ve given him the ground to do so — would let them lay waste to any room they played. Still, good band, and well on their way. They threw in a couple moments of three-part vocals — Hanna joining McGuire and Rosenzweig — and it’s something I hope they continue to develop.
It was to be an early night. The Company Band were slated to be done by 10:40PM, which, yeah, might not feed into that whole “rock and roll all night” thing, but whatever, I’m not 17 years old anymore, I drove two hours to get to this show and I had to work in the morning, so I’ll take it anytime I can get it and let KISS‘ “Official Banking Partners” or whatever they have now worry about the all-nighters. Lionize went on shortly after Black Cowgirl finished up. They brought out the organ and soon got underway with their blend of whiteboy reggae and semi-heavy jamming rock.
Stylistically, they remain unaffiliated, and in terms of having seen them three or four times now as they’ve been for a while in Clutch‘s regular stable of openers and their having collaborated with Clutch guitarist Tim Sult, I remain ambivalent. The crowd at Underground Arts dug them, and I know a lot of people who do as well, but there were several instances during their time where I stood and asked myself, “Okay, what part of this doesn’t sound like Sublime?” They threw a few Clutch-esque riffs in, but ultimately left me cold and were standoffish on stage, like they wanted to bust out into hardcore punk but didn’t want to upset anyone by doing so. Come on, gentlemen. I know it’s an early night, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t disturb the peace a little. Some you win, some you lose.
As regards The Company Band, it was a win. They marked the show as being their first in four years. I didn’t doubt it, but you’d never know it to watch them play. Each of the five members of the band have a distinct personality, but they gelled remarkably well. Fallon was out front, as you’d expect, and Bone — the only member of The Company Band whose name is not immediately followed by a parenthetical, à la Rota (Fireball Ministry) or Davis (Fu Manchu) — had stage left to himself. Responsible for all the band’s songwriting and taller by a head than everyone else up there except perhaps Margera, who was sitting behind the drums anyway, it just made sense.
“House of Capricorn,” the first cut off their new Pros and Cons EP (review here), made for an appropriate set opener, with its lyrics welcoming everyone and thanking them for their cooperation, etc. Like the venue itself, the band was thoroughly professional. It was clear in watching them that although Fallon is an undeniable presence at the front of the stage, it’s the songwriting driving the material. In the past, I’ve attributed this to Rota, who’s long showcased powerful pop structures in Fireball Ministry — whose last album was overproduced but not lacking in excellent choruses — there are elements culled from classic rock’s methods without aping what those bands actually did. Pros and Cons draws on earlier metal — Fallon called the quieter “El Dorado” a heavy metal ballad — but songs like “Hot Topic Woman” and “Who Else but Us?” from The Company Band‘s 2009 self-titled full-length sounded well within the sphere of what Fireball Ministry does musically at their best, despite the fact that they were penned by Bone.
With that album, the new EP and the 2007 Sign Here, Here, and Here EP that launched the project, The Company Band had no trouble filling an hour. All four tracks from that initial release made their way into the set and were highlights, particularly “Heartache and Misery.” As the lead guitar lines that make up the first part of the verse transitioned into the slower nodding riff, one could practically feel the air push from Rota and Bones‘ guitars and Davis‘ bass. Davis, however, made the newer “Loc Nar” a standout, and though obscured to many standing directly in front of the stage by the column on the side, he nonetheless made his presence felt by riding out in-pocket grooves on top of Margera‘s straightforward drumming.
That song and “Hot Topic Woman” were fun, as had been the earlier and absurdly catchy “Fortune’s a Mistress,” but the regular set rounded out with “El Dorado” and full-length opener “Zombie Barricades,” and the band left stage. There was no way they weren’t going to round out with “Company Man,” the first track off the first EP, but they started the encore after joking that bands do nothing but stare at each other when they wait to come back out with “Spellbinder,” and here several days later, that’s still the song I have stuck in my head. Rota joined Fallon on vocals (more of that please; their voices complement each other absurdly well) and left a sting that in no way felt like “side-project.” They hit “Company Man” quick after that, playing it so fast it was practically a punk song, and then the house lights came up. Show over.
Perhaps it had been the awesome power of heavy rock and roll that had thwarted the climate change apocalypse that had almost certainly assured the destruction of America’s northeastern quadrant, but it was raining and lightning-ing when I left Underground Arts. I’d told The Patient Mrs. on the phone earlier that if it was the end of the world, I’d come north in snow shoes like Dennis Quaid, but it didn’t come to that. I got in the car and got back on the Turnpike, soberly weaving around the cars who’d either given into the Thirsty Thursday impulse or bought into the Weather Channel’s propaganda machine and believed rain to be the new snow of roadway hazards. I’m not gonna tell you the world is or isn’t ending, just that even if it is, it’s not gonna go out like the people who fill time between the “Kars for Kids” commercials say it is.
Posted in audiObelisk on May 31st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yeah, I know I’ve streamed audio from Black Cowgirl before, but there’s just something about the Pennsylvanian riffers that begs to actually be heard. I can tell you they’re melodic, or that they’re fuzzy, or that their songs are catchy, but that could (and often does) describe 100 other bands, and I really think these four dudes bring their own edge to what’s admittedly a well-trod path of genre. Their debut full-length will see a vinyl issue through Bilocation Records in July.
As a preview for that and the self-released CD version set to coincide, Black Cowgirl once again granted me permission to feature some of their down-home pastoral tone-age. The album, called simply Black Cowgirl, matches last year’s demo on the first side with a batch of new material on the second. To support, Black Cowgirl will once again hit the road — the summer heat is perfectly matched to their sound — and play shows along the Eastern Seaboard in July with Clutch-offshoot The Company Band, and they’ll make a stop Sept. 1 at this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom fest in Connecticut, where they’ll share the day with Pale Divine, The Skull, Devil to Pay and Admiral Browning, among others. Good company to keep all around.
“Weight of Oblivion” from Black Cowgirl shows the band reaching a Pearls and Brass-style (if we’re keeping the comparisons to Pennsylvanian acts) balance of blues, Americana and heavy. Check it out on the player below — followed by the full gatefold artwork; click to enlarge — and enjoy.
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Black Cowgirl‘s Black Cowgirl LP — cover art by Adrián Brouch — is due in July on Bilocation Records (website here). The band will self-release a CD around that time as well. They’ve also already begun to write the follow-up, so for the latest news and tour updates, be sure to check out their Thee Facebooks or their BigCartel store. In the meantime, here’s the full tracklist for the self-titled:
1. Talk of Wolves
3. The Ride
5. Dead House
7. Weight of Oblivion
8. Three Seasons
10. Becoming Nothing
11. Unio Mystica
A while back, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, heavy rockers Black Cowgirl let me post one of the tracks off their self-titled EP for streaming (it’s still here, if you want to listen), and I was thrilled to do so, since the four-piece managed to touch on something pretty special with those songs. They were a little hurried-sounding, true, but Black Cowgirl achieved a potent and unexpected blend of riff and melody there — like earliest Fireball Ministry with a rural touch — that was all the more impressive for the lack of time the band had to make them.
The reason they were in such a rush was wanting to have a CD ready to go prior to a 10-date tour supporting CKY. Black Cowgirl managed to get the disc done, the tour was great and they all lived happily ever etc., and since I enjoyed the EP, I thought I’d fire up the old intertubes and see if guitarist/vocalist Ben McGuire (also of Electric Horsemen) had any interest in fielding a few dumb questions. Six or so.
McGuire was only too glad to oblige, and you’ll find the results below. Black Cowgirl is McGuire alongside guitarist NateRosenzweig, bassist Chris Casse and drummer Mark Hanna. Please enjoy the following six dumb questions:
1. How did Black Cowgirl get together? Did you know what you wanted it to sound like when you got going?
Back in 2006 I started recording instrumental songs under the name Time Travel Decelerator. I had a fantasy of a instrumental band that I did not have to sing in that was like Wishbone Ash meets Mystick Krewe of Clearlight. I recorded a bunch of guitar and bass songs on my four track and often thought about forming a live band but Electric Horsemen, the other band I play in, was really busy at the time and it never came together. I knew our drummer Hanna from playing shows with Backwoods Payback (great dudes/lady, by the way) when he was drumming for them and we had talked a couple times about playing together someday but we never got around to setting anything up.
In the summer of ‘08 I met our guitarist Nate at a show and we got to talking and by the end of the night I asked if he would like to add some lead guitar on my instrumental songs. Me and Nate live about a hour apart so for the next few months we started sending riffs, demos, and songs back and forth in emails and chatting on the phone like teenage girls for hours about music and guitar and found we had a lot of ideas that went beyond just instrumental songs. We had both been stockpiling ideas for songs that did not fit any of our previous bands for years and we had a ton of material between us to sift through and we decided to start a new band that had vocals as well. We looked for a singer for a while but had no luck and because I had sent Nate demos with me singing on them I became vocalist by default.
Once we had a couple of solid songs we wanted to find a drummer and the first guy we thought of was Hanna, and things came together one night at a party when the three of us jammed for about a hour and basically wrote two songs. Soon after that night we got together at my house and cooked some food and cranked out two more songs in no time. A little bit after that we added Chris on bass who fit in perfectly as he was a great bassist and already playing in Electric Horsemen and playing around with my sister (they are married and of consenting age) so that worked out great. Things went on like that for about a year (band-wise that is… I’d rather not think about the sister stuff which I guess is still going on), we would see each other every couple months, eat a ton of food, write a bunch of songs and talk about how much fun it was but we could never seem to get our schedules to line up long enough to record or play shows. Before the CKY tour we had only played maybe five times in public but the tour finally gave us a great reason to get into full productive mode.
2. Who picked the name Black Cowgirl?
We never thought about what the band should be called until we had our first show and had about a week to think of one. We tossed around a few other names like “Sharkcharmer” and some other terrible ideas until sticking with Black Cowgirl and we almost didn’t use that. For some reason some people thought it was racist which I thought was ridiculous. The name came to me in the middle of the night during a sleepy brainstorm and to me it represented the ultimate rebel. I imagined a black cowgirl who was a mix of ‘70s Pam Grier and Yul Brynner‘s character from the movie West World who would ride from town to town righting wrongs and shooting assholes in the face with her dual nickel-plated Peacemakers and sawed off lever-action shotgun. The ultimate rebel, the ultimate fantasy. So the name is a great litmus test for racists… if you think it is, you are.
3. How does the songwriting process usually work? Do you have something specific you try for going into putting together a song, or does it all come from jams?
There are songs that totally develop from jams that seem to write themselves and a lot of those ones end up being instrumental. We started and ended our set on the last tour with two of these style songs and they were different every night apart from a basic framework and so much fun to play for us because you had no idea where they were going to take you. Then we have songs that begin very structured with a vocal melody and chords but even those songs change drastically once the whole band gets a hold of it and we begin improvising sections. We all take part in writing and arranging. Once in while me or Nate will have a song that is basically done before we all get to hear it but more often than not writing is a collaborative effort. We are also very open-minded as far as trying many different things to see what suits the song best. It is exciting and tons of fun writing songs with these guys, very effortless and very easy to bring any idea you have in your head into reality. The only thing we go for when writing is to make the songs fun to play and trim the fat and filler until nothing is left but a well-balanced hearty riffy meal with a reasonable harmonized snack at the end.
4. Talk about recording the self-titled. Where and when was it recorded, and was there anything in particular you wanted to accomplish in the studio this time around?
We had arranged to record some demos with our friend John Brenner (from the great bands Against Nature/Revelation) early in the year before we knew about the tour. We headed down to Baltimore and did five songs with the amazingly cool-headed John in about 16 hours straight. We were not very picky with our playing and tracking because it was basically just a demo to help us develop our sound. The week after recording that demo we got wind of the tour and realized we needed a CD that was a little more focused that we could bring out on tour. We did not have the heart to put John through another marathon recording session (even though I bet he would have been kind enough to do it!) so we decided to re-record it ourselves and pay someone else to mix and master it. Going to John‘s was totally worth it though, not just because we got to drink a bunch of Mr. Brenner‘s homemade beer and hang out, but we had a better idea of what we wanted to sound like on record. We may put the original versions John did out someday, the guitars are cleaner and have some cool mellotron and organ tracks on some songs.
A couple of days after finding out about the tour we started re-recording for a couple of hours a night for three or four nights in a friends basement studio which is nothing more than a soundproof room we equipped with some mics and Nate‘s little Korg portable studio. Then we took the tracks to Rich Gavalis at The Dome in Royersford, Pennsylvania to record vocals, mix and master. Rich is a cool dude and he did a great job of making what we had recorded sound less like a demo and more like a legit release.
We did not have very much time to mess with tones, sounds, and different instrumentation on the self-titled. It was more about getting it done in the most straightforward way we could, and getting what we sound like across as simply as we could. I think overall we are all pretty happy with it as a first release and we cannot wait to spend more time tweaking and fine-tuning sounds on the next one!
5. How did the CKY tour come about? What were those shows like?
Our drummer Hanna is a longtime friend of CKY/CompanyBand/VikingSkull drummer Jess [Margera] and he has done work for CKY acting as stage manager for a number of tours and our guitarist Nate plays in Uncle Matt and the Shitbirdz with Jess. CKY had a string of shows coming up and were kind enough to ask us to tag along. I was worried at first that we would not be well received by CKY fans, who are like KISS fans as far as their level of dedication, but we figured Graveyard went over great when they toured with CKY last year and it was a good opportunity for us to play to a lot of people so maybe it would be cool.
Turned out the CKY fans were very kind across the board and we were very well received and had a amazing time, great bunch of people everywhere we went. We got to play a lot of places I never thought we would get to play, I am used to basements and small clubs (which I love, basements especially) but it was awesome to play some bigger places. I hope we get the chance to do it again… and again… and again. We also got to play some all-ages shows, which I had not done it a long time and that was really cool too. It feels good to know somebody likes the band not just because they are 15 beers deep into the night.
6. What’s next for the band? Will you tour more this year or focus on writing or recording?
We are looking for more shows and we are about halfway through writing our full-length. We are also toying with the idea of recording an acoustic CD as well, kind of like a Neil YoungHarvest-era style release. We may combine those songs with what we have already and throw them on the full-length or do it as a separate EP, not sure yet. Right now we are just trying to find the time to get everything we want to do done. If the right tour pops up we would definitely be into that and we should have some shows popping up here and there soon. Overall we are just happy to be an active band finally and can’t wait to make more music!
Posted in audiObelisk on March 7th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Lancaster, Pennsylvania, four-piece Black Cowgirl have just completed recording a new six-song demo (the band was previously put On the Radar for their last release) at Westtown Lake Studios, and to celebrate, have announced a 10-day tour as direct support for long-running mischief-makers CKY. Black Cowgirl was kind enough to give me my pick of the songs to host, and of course I went for the longest — the catchy seven-minute jam “Eclipsor” — which you can stream on the player below.
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The new demo, aptly-titled Black Cowgirl is available for purchase here and at the band’s shows, and I thought “Eclipsor” made a pretty good representation of what they’ve got going on: Melodically-aware and straightforward heavy rock with solid-packed groove, memorable choruses and an eye for letting the parts ride out. The fade-back-in jam at the end is a lot of the difference between “Eclipsor” and the other tracks I’ve heard, but even so, Black Cowgirl change up their sound and put enough of the Pennsylvanian countryside in there to make it pastoral in atmosphere.
Says Black Cowgirl’s Ben McGuire of the song:
“Almost all of our songs come together through collective stream of consciousness. One of us may have a riff or idea but we try to let the songs write themselves as much as we can without interfering then we tweak them. “Eclipsor” was a perfect example of this process. We had a main section and the rest came out on its own. The lyrics came out just the way they are the first time we played it through. We never plan them or pick a topic. The best way to describe how we write is it is like using a Ouija board, we just put our hands on our guitars and hope they take us somewhere cool.”
Demo track listing:
1. Talk of Wolves
3. The Ride
5. Dead House
Black Cowgirl on tour with CKY:
03/17 Lancaster, PA Chameleon Club
03/18 Philadelphia, PA Theater of the Living Arts
03/19 New York, NY Gramercy
03/21 Hartford, CT Webster
03/22 Allston, MA Brighton Music Hall
03/24 Asbury Park, NJ Stone Pony
03/25 Morgantown, WV 123 Pleasant St.
03/26 Buffalo, NY Mohawk
03/27 Baltimore, MD Bourbon Street
03/28 Richmond, VA Canal Club
Posted in On the Radar on February 15th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster
With members on board from Backwoods Payback and Electric Horsemen, you probably already know Black Cowgirl is going to be some hard-hitting stuff. But the four-piece take a surprising tone, injecting a kind of psych-garage rock vibe into their songs, like early Nebula driving while later Nebula rides shotgun. Not that they sound like Nebula or anything.
All kidding aside, Black Cowgirl (what is it with these Pennsylvania bands and their awesome names?) throw a little Americana into the mix as well — a bit of Neil Young pops up during the quiet part of “Dirt,” despite the rest of the track’s boogie shuffle — but basically, this is the kind of rock that those who have been around the scene for a while will have no problem recognizing or welcoming into their ears.
The production of the tracks on their MySpace is a little rough, but how much of that is crappy MySpace compression and how much is the band’s actual sound, I couldn’t say. Nonetheless, I think the fuzzy garage stomp of “The Prowler” has no problem getting its point across. Oddly enough, my favorite of the three Black Cowgirl tracks online is the one without a name, unless it’s actually called “…” or “[Elipsis],” which has a more laid-back style and spacier groove. I received a disc compiling several songs together, but no tracklist, so specifics are hard to get to at this point.
I have no fodder to set the rumor mill in motion as regards future recordings, so I’ll just say keep an eye out for Black Cowgirl updates and if you get a second, click on their MySpace to check them out. If you’re looking for some classic-style rock that won’t make you feel like you need to write a dissertation about it, you could do a hell of a lot worse.