The Hooscow 7" is the follow-up to Cowpuncher's acclaimed 2011 album “Call Me When You're Single” that sees rifle-scope focus on their signature Northern Rock sound - a blend of stoner rock, honky tonk, country and psychedelica.
A teaser as they finalize work on the upcoming full album ‘Ghost Notes’, Hooscow sees songwriter and vocalist Matt Olah mature his distinctive raspy, scrapyard delivery amongst the musical prowess of bassist Harley Hoeft, drummer Jeffery Sulima and guitarists Ryan Kelly and Scott Martin.
Renowned for ferocious live intensity, Cowpuncher is dead set at cementing their legacy as timeless songwriters, while furthering their ambitious recording output. One hand is face slapping mean, the other heartbreakingly melodic. Cowpuncher is the horse to bet the family fortune on.
Matt Olah - Acoustic Guitar, Singing
Ryan Kelly - Baritone Guitar
Jeff Sulima - Drums
Scott Martin - Electric Guitar
Harley Hoeft - Upright Bass, Singing
The Brown Album (2010)
Call Me When You're Single (2011)
Hooscow 7" (2012)
Walking that line between country and rock
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That line of which Johnny sang, Matt Olah knows it and walks it well.No, the Calgary musician wouldn...That line of which Johnny sang, Matt Olah knows it and walks it well.No, the Calgary musician wouldn’t dare compare himself to the Man in Black, but sitting on the Ship & Anchor patio with the frontman for local band Cowpuncher you get the sense they’re something of kindred spirits, he and the late, great Cash.
That’s especially true musically, where that thin border between country and rock is something both patrol, dipping in and out of each territory with amnesty, mingling with the locals, speaking their language and fitting right in.
For Olah and his band of outlaws, it’s a pretty great place to exist.
“We do kind of walk that line,” Olah says. “We had someone ask us to do their wedding ceremony acoustically, and I thought it was the worst idea I’d ever heard. But it ended up being awesome. We totally can pull off an acoustic, bluegrass banjo thing, but we can also pull off a greasy rock ’n’ roll show at the Distillery or Broken City.
“And we own it on either side. So it’s a pretty interesting line to walk.”
Thursday night, Cowpuncher will make another claim to that perimeter by releasing their new album Call Me When You’re Single with a show at the Republik.
It’s the band’s first since its 2010 release, The Brown Album, and it’s an easy, honest, exceptional statement that goes down as smooth as if it were swigged straight from the still.
On a musical level, it shows the artistic growth and stylistic evolution of the band, one that Olah and Co. have hard-earned through gigging relentlessly in the city’s clubs and around the rest of the prairies. And it’s a definitive and distinct sound they’ve rustled up — informed by their original twangier beginnings but never letting the dust settle as it honky-tonks, rockabillys, bluegrasses and lazily rocks.
“It’s like a soup,” Olah says. “The base is country but we put in a lot more ingredients.”
It also never falls into the land of kitsch and coy where many other country rock acts find themselves floundering and where even the band name might even suggest, with lead songwriter and lyricist Olah sounding like other contemporary C&W-influenced troubadours such as Bobby Bare Jr. and Jeff Tweedy. From the gutty Light That Shines, which features the Cowpuncher “male choir” and lines such as “I’m gonna pick you up/When you hit the ground” to the sad and lonesome Hole In My Heart, it’s unabashedly in touch with and successfully reaching out from its emotional depths.
“It’s pretty honest and earnest,” he agrees. “I don’t know if it’s too popular to do these days, but it is, we just wear our hearts on our sleeves and lay it out.”
Helping with that honesty is the sonic air of the disc, which was recorded live off-the-floor in The Blackbird Cafe, an old church in Coleman, AB. The band camped out and laid down the songs — which they’d spent the previous four months rehearsing and working into shape —during a two-week period last January and in the throes of an Alberta winter.
It all works together for something that Olah is understandably proud of, but, oddly, already wanting to move on from for a number of reasons. The first being that the band dynamic has already changed, with the band’s pedal steel player, Shawn Canning, already having moved on.
And there’s also the fact that, quite possibly, the sound could be growing a little more, perhaps taking trips deeper into that rockier region and spending less time on that line. Who knows, thanks to a little more encouragement and acknowledgment from Calgary’s hard rock community, including the Calgary Beer Core, who named Cowpuncher the best new band at its recent awards ceremony, perhaps Olah could be convinced to stop walking and maybe make a leap.
“We just keep falling further down the rock ’n’ roll rabbit hole,” he says.
Rootsy country and greasy rock ’n’ roll
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They may have painted this town brown on more than one occasion, but celebrating a recent coronation...They may have painted this town brown on more than one occasion, but celebrating a recent coronation as the best new band according to the 2011 Calgary Beer Core Awards has local rock-posse Cowpuncher seeing gold.
Happy to claim that crown and the ensuing sensations of triumph, singer/guitarist Matt Olah, baritone guitarist Ryan Kelly, guitarist Scott Martin (the Smokin’ 45s), upright bassist Harley Hoeft (5 Star Homeless), percussionist Jeff Sulima (Matt Masters’ band) and guitarist Tynan Groves (the Bobby Kork Orchestra, also of Matt Masters’ band) are all the better for their five-year run at the title. Known for their hard-driving and quick-shifting alt-country and punk antics, Cowpuncher has become notorious for rustling talent from other local acts until their onstage roster swells to seven or more players. Whipping crowds into a frenzy with their genre-defying live performances, the Calgary-based ensemble has the unique distinction of being able to straddle the ditch, saddle the bronco and piss in the wind without missing a beat.
“The timing is right,” confirms founding frontman Olah. “We’re all quite proud and excited about the release of our second album, Call Me When You’re Single. Getting back to recording required some mental adjustments after performing live on the road for a stretch. After we got home there was no rest. We hit the road for a ranch and finally became men. We branded cattle, cooked pig and ate prairie oysters. That same night we played in a field under open skies in the cold of night until our hands froze up. That was the start of a good spring and summer; now we’re reaping that harvest.”
The latest recording to receive the Cowpuncher brand of approval sees the manly men parlaying their twisted roots into a bonafide rock ’n’ roll round up. An evolutionary leap away from the primordial mud of the band’s 2010 debut, The Brown Album, this new release connects the seemingly random dots in Cowpuncher’s sound. The picture revealed depicts a group that has run the gambit from honky-tonk to hardcore and found some mighty comfortable stomping grounds in between.
Somewhat deflated by the departure of banjo/pedal-steel player Shawn Canning, Cowpuncher dug deep to test their mettle and put some true grit into their second album. “Sadly, one of our members is concentrating on fatherhood and has left the punchers to focus on the family,” Olah says. “Rock ’n’ roll ain’t easy on a personal life…. We’re gonna miss you, Papa Shawn Canning. You’ll always be part of our family.”
Canning’s departure meant the group could try out some new musical ideas without changing their lineup. “Seeing as our pedal-steel player has moved on, and given that we already have enough mouths to feed, we decided it might be fun to bring in some different instrumentation on the new record rather than attempting to recruit new members,” says Olah. “I started Cowpuncher a long time ago, and since then we’ve had a pretty steady revolving cast, so it was the same crew for this record. We’ve all been playing as a group for two years straight now and you can hear it on the album.”
The recording studio also played a role in shaping the album’s sound. “Fortunately, the gentleman who mixed our first record is some big shot who was kind enough to engineer this one. We did it in January during his slow time and reached out to friends who helped us rent out a church that’s been converted into café in Coleman. We hung out for the better part of two weeks and the results were dramatically different than our previous experience. We made the last one right in the heart of downtown Calgary; I have to admit it was fun to go out to the country for a change.”
Cowpuncher turned the isolation of the remote Rocky Mountain mining town to their advantage. “We’ve definitely packed in the tasty licks,” Olah says. “On some songs you’ll get to hear three solos! I mean, you don’t have three guitarists in your act without wanting to hear some good licks.... I guess you could say we’re a bluegrass band that morphed into a crazy rock ’n’ roll band. Our aim is to provide an interesting twist on things and become everyone’s favourite rootsy country and greasy rock band.”
Slice sold out for Alberta Music Showcase
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The Slice was sold out for an Alberta Music event featuring local singer -songwriter Alyssa McQuaid,...The Slice was sold out for an Alberta Music event featuring local singer -songwriter Alyssa McQuaid, the Dudes and a surprise visit from Calgary alt-country band, Cowpuncher, Nov. 12.
While I missed Alyssa McQuaid‘s half hour set of originals, I was blown away by Cowpuncher’s five guitar attack.
Cowpuncher played an upbeat set of country rock. They combined elements of Tom Petty’s roots rock with Fred Eaglesmith’s storytelling lyrics and a little bit of the Band’s laid back feel.
But they were just getting warmed up by the end of their 45 minute set, which had most of the crowd on their feet.
They had the audience singing along by the last song “Thank God for Lonely Nights,” which had a guitar riff reminiscent of “Ghost Riders in The Sky.”
One of the guitarists, Tynan Groves picked up the banjo to add even more twang to the proceedings.
Cowpuncher - Packin' a Punch
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“Heartbreak Honkeytonk Rock ‘n’ Roll Show” is how the Calgary seven-piece, Cowpuncher, sums it up, c...“Heartbreak Honkeytonk Rock ‘n’ Roll Show” is how the Calgary seven-piece, Cowpuncher, sums it up, complete with cowboy hats, rocker attitude and a performance style that may not be suitable for minors without parental supervision.
“Our baritone player tends to not wear a shirt, or otherwise, onstage, although he might be growing out of that,” says Puncher frontman Matt Olah.
Well, sort of the frontman. Considering that the band always gigs with a minimum of seven players, Cowpuncher sounds like they’re shaping up to be a farm team for the Calgary Stampeders.
“It’s a guitar explosion!” remarks Olah, as he explains the dueling guitar extravaganza that takes place onstage when five or six guitar players go at it.
Yes, picture the amplitude when five or six seasoned guitarists battle it out onstage. One might say front row show attendees might want to have an ear exam if they can’t get the last set out from rattling around in their brains following a show.
Full time members of Cowpuncher include Matt Olah (hollering, acoustic guitar, prancing), Ryan Kelly (baritone guitar), Shawn Canning (banjo, pedal steel, electric guitar), Jeffery Sulima (drums), Scott Martin (electric guitar, also from the Smokin’ 45’s), Harley Hoeft (upright bass, also from 5 Star Homeless) and Tynan Groves (electric guitar, also from the Bobby Kork Orchestra).
Not to mention that the band also has a list of nine special guests that just might threaten to join the tour de force onstage at any given show.
A filled-out assembly of versed musicians and one common goal to take Cowpuncher as far as it can go sounds like a recipe for success, or, at the very least, this band seems to have all the ingredients lined up to have a blast at their upcoming CD release party.
After a year in the making, countless hours recording and a multitude of live shows, Cowpuncher is coming out swinging with their debut album, which they’re calling The Brown Album.
“That album was a heckuva process - some of those solos took fifty takes!” remarks guitarist, Tynan Groves, who (as a former jazz cat) puts up a high level of personal expectation.
“I love this band a lot. There’s this magic in the band… sometimes you just click with people, y’know?” continues Groves, who couldn’t be happier about the direction in which Cowpuncher is heading, as well as how close the band members have become.
“We’re all kind of rough and tumble guys,” he laughs, reflecting on a recent gig in Saskatoon where the two carloads of band members had a competition throwing roman candles at each other while driving.
When not roughhousing, hollering, or competing with one another, the band really does focus on their musicianship. While fun is always on the agenda, the level of professionalism that each member carries out is evident in the overall production of Cowpuncher’s music.
“The musicianship is second to none,” explains Olah. “I’m a writer, so I spend all my time in the words, but the guitar playing is insane… like, from outer space.”
So, providing no members of Cowpuncher get abducted by aliens, fans and intrigued music lovers alike can expect a full-scale, no-holds-barred performance for the release of The Brown Album.
3 Set Night
2. What The Hell I Got
4. Crazed Country Rebel
5. All We Are
6. Kill All the Artists
7. There She Blows
8. Light That Doesn't Shines
9. Hole in My Heart
10. Older Guys
11. Time to Get a Gun
12. I Met Your God
13. I’m Coming Home
1. Country Maiden
2. Get In the Truck
3. Jane’s Song
4. Ho Hum
5. It’s Time to Wake Up
6. Melt Canada
8. Head in the Hallway
9. Backs of Vans
10. Fisherman’s Blues
11. Call Me When You’re Single
12. Raised on Rock N Roll
13. Can’t Save The World
1. Web in Front
2. Love Guns and Money
4. Song for Alejandro
5. Smashed Teeth
6. Gimme Shelter
7. This Don’t Feel Like Love
9. Carry It All
10. Stupid Tattoo
11. Brazilian Summer
12. Thank God for Pretty Girls