X-Rated Cowboys: Honor Among Thieves

Nikki Tranter

X-rated Cowboys

Honor Among Thieves

Label: FFN

Is there anyone out there who can give me Quinn Fallon's phone number? After becoming addicted his band's latest album, I'm beginning to think this man's voice is the perfect substitute for Advil, Nyquil, alcohol and sex -- curative and therapeutic, ridiculously sensuous and raw, Fallon's voice, as lead singer of the X-Rated Cowboys, can do just about anything, and I must have him on my speed dial.

Unlikely as it is that I'd get away with calling Fallon (who sounds remarkably like Elvis Costello) to sooth my ailments more than say, three or four times, I take comfort knowing his band's debut CD Honor Among Thieves is always by my bedside, ready to be flipped into the stereo whenever necessary.

The album is a triumph. A rough and ready mix of country, bluegrass, blues and pop, with their debut Honor Among Thieves, the Cowboys succeed in confirming the necessity of the alt-country movement by jazzing up their old-school country grooves with brassy beats and heavy guitars, busting out and laying low simultaneously to give so much swamp-scented atmosphere to their outstanding rock.

Hailing from the neon-tinged barrooms of Columbus, Ohio, the X-Rated Cowboys recorded Thieves in band members' kitchens, opting for down-home, dirty succulence over the glisten of a big time studios. This decision gives a traditional sheen to the album's 13 songs, about everything from Gothic lovers to the stolen cars, washed up rock stars to porno movies. The guitars are so soft, delicate and precise on a handful of tracks, rowdy and rambunctious on others.

"I've been driving all night / Switching from station to station / Listening for anything that / Sounds like redemption / And I'm still waiting", Fallon sings on opening track, "Trans-Am", a song about love in the front seat of a stolen car. Poetic and lustful, the song grandly introduces the Cowboys as purveyors of a refined musical style, exhibiting the ability to subtly seduce the listener with sharp storytelling and peaceful guitars.

This relaxed quality continues with "Light of Day", a song about displaced lovers aware they don't fit into the mainstream, exploring just what separates them from the world but keeps them together. Lyrics like "I wish I'd known you when you were punk rock / When you were shiny and new / When it was you against the world / Before the world beat the piss out of you" in the song further establish the Cowboys' captivating writing style, creating definite pictures in the mind of the listener, giving their disconnected and defeated characters substance and charm.

"Goth Girl" is another grand example of the band's excellent writing. "You're the only Goth girl in this sleepy little town / And you've long since thrown away your homecoming crown," Fallon sings, as he carefully and exquisitely paints a striking portrait of a young girl challenging her beauty by reinventing herself as a kind of Gothic princess, but, as Fallon knows, she's not fooling anybody -- "It must be tough growing up in a looking glass / With a decidedly un-checkered past / You hide in the basement / Listening to the Replacements / Hey Goth girl / You're no mystery to me".

The Cowboys are just as good with the more hard-rockin' tunes on the album, especially on the novelty "Cowboy Song" ("I'm a cowboy / Ain't no doubt about that / 'Cause when I watch pornographic movies / Always wear my cowboy hat") and the cathartic "Forever" ("I'm not the type to cry in my beer / Another six-pack and I'm out of here"). "End of the Road" allows band members, Bob Hite (keys), Andy Harrison (guitars), C. Douglas Wells (drums) and Ben Lamb (bass) to show off exactly what they're made of, tearing Fallon's self-destructive rant ("You see the end of the world as I know it / Give me a shot and watch me blow it") to pieces in a slick and satisfying few minutes of genuine ass-kicking rock.

And, the gems keep coming on Honor Among Thieves -- candid "Rock Star" ("I'm a rock star / Washing your car / Cleaning glasses behind the bar"), mysterious "She's Got a Gun" ("I've got a girlfriend / And she's got a gun"), tragic "Misfortune" ("The hope we used to drink to / Is almost gone ... Don't know why they call it misfortune / It hasn't missed me yet"), murderous "Devotion" ("Tonight she's gonna find out / How far you can go when you've gone without") -- each with superb writing and perfect execution. There's not a single miss on Honor Among Thieves, everything managing to cement the X-Rated Cowboys as the best rock band to emerge on the country-rock scene in years.

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