Cow Bop: Too Hip For the Room

2011: Bruce Forman asked me to write the liner notes for the new Cow Bop album. I don’t want the usual jazz liner notes, he said. Just write like your usual crazy self. Just start riffing. So I riffed a take. I like this, he said, got another? I riffed another, and another. Yeah, he said, I like these. Anymore? So I dashed off another. That it? I gave him one more. Five takes. That enough? Yeah, this is great. I’ll use one for the CD, he said, and another for the website, and he cut me a check. Cool. Can’t remember which of the five he used, though. But if only all liner note gigs were like this.

Cow Bop Take 1

Too Hick For the Room my big city ass. Sounds just right by me. This town, hell this world, needs a lot more Bob Wills. Western Swing is air you can breathe, smoky and boozy and dudes out in the parking lot fighting. Inside the honky tonk everyone’s grooving and swinging, hell there’d be dancing with the ladies if all them uppity jazz swells and slick hipsters would or could take a step or two. Man, can these cats play. Cow Bop ain’t no country radio band (not yet anyway), ain’t no jazz band either, but mama they sure swing, and yup that’s some pure Charlie Parker you’re hearing there in that mind blowing guitar solo. Bruce Forman that cat is, a barbed wiry, smirking smartass in a Stetson. The fiddler trading licks with him is Phil Salazar, and the hottie singing sweetly in the middle is Pinto Pam. Hands off, fellas, she sizzles. A dude I knew heard this album just once, jumped into his car and headed straight up the Grapevine where the mule deer and antelope play. Bakersfield is up that away, he said, next best thing to Amarillo. They got pickup trucks there, and cows and oil fields and chicken fried steak, and they got the Silver Palace and Merle and honky tonking Saturday nights. They got Cow Bop? No, he said, but they should. Best western swing in the land.

Cow Bop Take 2

Never expected to see something like CowBop in a jazz club. Saw ‘em take the stage in cowboy hats, pronghorns glued to the bass drum, singer in a long cowgirl dress. The regulars in the jazz joint stared over their cocktails, not getting any of this. The music was lightning fast, kinda swingy but awfully down home too. And man could those cats play. Solos zipped back and forth from fiddle to guitar and back again. Damn if that smartass guitar player wasn’t quoting Charlie Yardbird Parker. And ol’ crooked horn Dizzy too. And a lot of Bob Wills. The pretty girl sang about Texas, and dancing, and drinking, and men doing ladies wrong. By set’s end I was hooked, line and sinker. Y’all got any records? They said they had a couple. We got a new one we’re working on too. Yeah? Any good? Goddamn right it’s good. It’s gonna make us stars. And they packed up their gear and tossed it in the back of an old red Chevy pick up and took off in a cloud of dust. Well, that new one is this one here, Too Hick For the Room. Hot damn. What they call great driving music. That long stretch of highway between Tulsa and Bakersfield went by in a flash. Cow Bop.

CowBop Take 3

Never expected to see something like CowBop in a honky tonk. Not even one in Toluca Lake. Place was filled with big city cowboys, who were just regular cowboys for the most part who’d somehow done good in the city but needed a cold beer to cry in. Place was full of hipsters too. Funny watching them slide round one another like oil and water. We sat through a mess of Merle wannabes. Some not bad but the place was itching for a little more something. Past midnight this strange bunch takes the stage in old Stetsons and sparkly Nudie shirts and what looked like pronghorns glued to the bass drum. Some band…I wouldn’t buy a used car from that smart assed guitar player, the fiddle player had an attitude, the bassist and drummer looked a little off. I liked the singer, though, a pretty thing in a long dress, like she was right off the bus from Amarillo. Everyone on the dance floor looked mighty skeptical. Then the band started playing. Hot damn. The real Texas swing. Bob Wills and be bop. Licks flying fast. The banter even faster. That singer sizzling hot, man, don’t touch. They whipped through their set and the crowd loved every country fried second of it, dancing and happy. And I can’t remember when I saw another band do that. This is the real shit. CowBop.

CowBop Take 4

A guy I know, a real good ol’ boy but with smarts, he’d been looking for something old, something new. Something country that don’t piss him off all shiny and Nashville. Something that swings like a good Panhandle electrifried fiddle band. Something with smarts and guts and chops. With licks like them jazz boys had in the old days, fast crazy licks. Something funny. And all that plus a pretty singer. He’s been going bar to bar, club to club hoping to find something and finding nothing. But he’s stubborn like a mule, and keeps looking. He calls me one night from some run down honky tonk in the Valley. Says he found it. Said they got a guitar, a fiddle, some drums with horns on ‘em and a bass fiddle. The prettiest little singer you ever saw. They play the western swing, they play a little bebop, they play some honest to god country. And they play their asses off. Git on down here. So I went and damn if he wasn’t telling the truth. The band was soooo good. Then soon as they finished my buddy was out the door. Found him out in his roadster, yelling something about Bakersfield or Tulsa or Luckenback. I couldn’t make it out. All I could hear was Too Hick For the Room blaring from his tinny speakers. I just shrugged. He shrugged back, then tossed me a Lone Star and was gone. CowBop.

CowBop Take 5

Buddy Rich hated country music. Buddy Rich was an asshole. Kicking trumpet players off his bus in the middle of the desert for no apparent reason. Willie Nelson doesn’t hate jazz. And on Willie’s bus the whole band gets high all day, smoking the best reefer this side of Tulsa. Bob Wills was born in Tulsa. Or should have been. He had a bus too. Lord knows what happened on Bob Wills’ bus. Charlie Parker made the Count Basie bus stop a minute so he could pick up a fresh killed chicken that had run smack into the grill of a Studebaker. That’s how you got named back then, just by picking up a bird. Now the thing about Cowbop is they play that Bob Wills thang and buckshot the instrumental passages with Charlie Parker licks. The guitar player tosses one at the fiddle player who fastballs it back. The bassist and drummer cook behind them. There’s a pronghorn skull screwed into the bass drum. The singer’s a beauty, sizzling in that long gingham dress. No way you can’t love this band. And if Buddy Rich were on CowBop’s bus he’d know when to keep his mouth shut. Of course they don’t have a bus, so the point is moot. But they got this album, though. And man, what a cooker. Take a listen. CowBop.

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