Howdy Do! CD - Gravewax

Brent Amaker and his rodeo gang clearly have a fascination with, if not open affection for the rockabilly boom-chicka-boom rhythm of early Johnny Cash. Just about every tune on their second outing, Howdy Do!, is driven by it. And while affection it may be, this disc yet shows a continued ambivalence in Amaker's take on country music purism. Like their 2006 debut, Howdy Do! has some trouble figuring out whether it is homage to Cash and general refute to the dilute genre of today's country radio, where roots are cut deeply with saleable pop grandstanding, or simply good-natured spoof. Then again, why not both? Amaker's deep bass vocals, a la Cash, boom over classic twang and a sensual bordering on implicitly sexual rootsy thump. He delivers lyrics that are frequently and narcissistically hilarious (intentionally so), and he so dollops these with obscenities and 'cuss-words' that you have to wonder into what alternative music history the band hope to fit. I have to say that I found this fairly off-putting last time out, but Howdy Do! bests its predecessor and succeeds in one important fashion: it is entertaining. And for die-hard fans, the band tracked their two early vinyl singles, "They Make Cowboys in Montana" (Amaker wryly observing, "They make cowboys in Montana / But in Texas they make men") and "This Is the Gun" (dripping with Freudian entendre). Of the 13 cuts here, only one exceeds the three-minute mark, and a few barely edge over one. So Amaker is keeping things short, as did his obvious influences in the day, and regardless of his ultimate intent here, he's made a fine recording. Those without a strong sense of irony, however, best mosey their candy pop asses along.

By Michael Meade



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