CD Review – Cow 2009 CD “The Long Ride”

UPDATE 2011 – “Cow” has undergone a name change and is now called “Sun Theory”

“The Long Ride” is Cow’s third CD, following on from their debut “Cow” in 2006, and “Sunset Posse” in 2008, and it’s a polished collection of 12 beautifully crafted vignettes. Melancholy, uplifting, lyrical and musical, these songs contemplate the simple yet complex relationships and emotions that frame the lives of ordinary folk. Folk like you and me.

Cow is a 5 piece band comprising experienced Adelaide musicians Glyn Lehmann (keyboards), Steve McBeath (drums), Anthony Scott (guitars), Michael Boundy (bass), and Rich Coldwell (guitars and main vocals). Although they would best be described as Alt-Country, this genre encompasses a broad spectrum of interpretation; the songs on The Long Ride are constructed using a variety of instruments, arrangements and structures. Rich Coldwell’s vocal deliver a consistency throughout the album with a variety of backing vocalists and instruments enriching the bands core sound.

The opening track is “Black Days”, and although it is a sad song (it’s about depression), it is also uplifting. The irony of a beautiful song about depression captures the essence of the condition. Reaching out to guide a friend through the uncontrollable darkness, yet being unable to shine a light. It’s a perfect song.

The melancholy mood continues with “December”, this time exploring relationships and the illogical nature of their dynamics. Rich’s vocals and the sparse piano interweave with the tremolo volume swells to create a mood that would not be out of place in a David Lynch movie.

“Je Men Fous” is a lighter tune, more uplifting perhaps. Some nice brass arrangements, poppy backing vocals and a juicy guitar solo interplaying with the organ. I suspect this song is about beautiful but vacuous women, and beauty is not always as it appears. “Outside your Circle” is a “get in your car and go” song driven by chord-jangling piano and Rich’s narrative storyline.

“Hippy Three” has an open-air feel to it. You can picture a meadow, a stage, a warm breeze, a young hip crowd swirling with beads in their hair. This song has its roots in the Seventies, not the Noughties. Could be Sunbury, could be Woodstock, the juicy guitar suggests the latter. “Be True” changes the pace again. A lonely piano and sad yet beautiful strings, it paints a picture of a long late night around an open fire with too much said, and not enough remembered. A fat horn section features in “Crash”, telling of young hearts on the road. This is Cow‘s trip to Vegas.

“Dark Ages” is Alt-Country along the lines of early Uncle Tupelo. With its green anti-globalism theme, this is the only political song on the album. It is musically grittier and therefore slightly at odds with some of the other songs.

Certainly the remaining songs return to more familiar themes: “In Front of Me” with its slide guitar; “Beer and Cigarettes” mixing fiddle and lap steel to a hoe-down country honk. “The Long Ride” opens on old organ, reviving memories of days gone by in an old home town that you’ve out-grown and escaped from. A sentimental song, it will have meaning for anyone who has ever left, and briefly returned to find they no longer belong. “Frames” completes the picture. It is a beautiful and lyrical piano contemplation on the photographs that litter any house, telling stories of times and people gone by.

The Long Ride is an enriching experience. With its lyrical depth and musical maturity it is the work of seasoned musicians and artists. To sum it up: I love this album.

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