Sound Advice: Cowboy Mouth and Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson

Cowboy Mouth Thursday • Madison Theater It'sbeen another eventful year for New Orleans Rock/Roots band Cowboy Mouthand their revolving door lineup. The quartet's founding members --fron

Aug 31, 2008 at 2:06 pm

Cowboy Mouth
Thursday • Madison Theater

It's been another eventful year for New Orleans Rock/Roots band Cowboy Mouth and their revolving door lineup. The quartet's founding members — frontman/drummer Fred LeBlanc and guitarist/vocalist John Thomas Griffith (formerly of the Red Rockers ... ye gads, remember them?) — confronted another round of vacancies with the departures of fifth bassist Sonia Tetlow and second rhythm guitarist Vance DeGeneres, brother of comedian/talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.

LeBlanc and Griffith found able replacements in L.A. bassist/vocalist Regina Zernay and guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Pretus (who had done time with a Weezer cover band called Tweezer) and then finalized the release of the band's debut concert DVD, The Name of the Band is Cowboy Mouth, a filmed document of their summer 2007 capacity show at Hollywood's Roxy on Sunset (recorded after Zernay's arrival but before DeGeneres quit). The freshly minted quartet then hit the studio to record Fearless, Cowboy Mouth's eighth studio album and first since 2006's Katrina-inspired love song to New Orleans, Voodoo Shoppe.

Fearless, slated for release next month, will feature a studio version of "Kelly Ripa" which debuted on the band's live DVD last year and earned them an invitation to perform the song on Live with Regis and Kelly back in March.

Since forming nearly 20 years ago, Cowboy Mouth has attracted a slavishly loyal live following (they've released six live albums of their own), inspired and perpetuated by the band's tent revival demeanor in concert. After working the assembled multitude into an appropriate frenzy, LeBlanc typically launches himself into the audience to ensure their hands-on participation.

Live is clearly where Cowboy Mouth puts their money; estimates in 2003 placed their concert attendance at over a million for that year alone. Warm up your prayer beads, get your kneepads on and prepare to hallelujah: Cowboy Mouth is coming to save your soul again.

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson with Matthew Shelton
Sunday • The Gypsy Hut

While it seems like an unlikely phenomenon, the fact that Indie music fans have helped the singer/songwriter and Folk movements enter the 21st Century as strong as they've been since the '60s and '70s shouldn't surprise any student of popular music and popular song. "The song's the thing" has — despite the perpetual face-lift music has been undergoing since a caveman banged out the first drum solo all those years ago — proven to be a sturdy adage. Within the Folk world, delivery is often the next most important thing and "Indie Folk" artists from Iron and Wine to Jens Lekman to The Fleet Foxes have created unique, soulful auras within their songs. And their eagerness (or maybe an uncontrollable, inherent need) to experiment with and incorporate the past 30 years or so of music since Nick Drake released Pink Moon has made the unintentional genre one of the bigger underground scenes in American and British Indie music right now. (Descendents are to Emo Pop what Nick Drake is to Indie Folk — discuss.)

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson writes some fantastic songs that stand up with the minimal, organic tunes of any of the "new breed." His elastic but modest voice has a magnetic effect, often pulling the listener in like a scruffy, bruised siren. And the tracks on his self-titled album rarely unfold as expected or as old clichés dictate. The acoustic beauty of a song like "Who's Laughing" — with its gauzy, Beach-less Boys background vocals laced throughout — gives way to a bigger, trippier jammy drone, sounding like downtime at the White Album sessions. It's a lo-fi and raw magnum opus that lysergically sways but never unsettles.

Robinson is on a deserved fast track, with his self-titled debut — recorded with Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor — generating a lot of cult and critical acclaim, grabbing features in Spin and even a cover story in Fader. His second album is already in the can, recorded with TV on the Radio's Kyp Malone (a wildly intriguing prospect).

Robinson is clearly keeping good company — along with several dates next month with TV on the Radio, he'll be doing a string of shows with Indie Folk godfather Damien Jurado. Maybe not quite a Woody-passes-the-torch-to-Dylan type of meeting of the minds, but certainly a great sharing opportunity for both artists and a fantastic bill. As is Robinson's Cincinnati stop with local fella Matthew Shelton and members of The Chocolate Horse opening. Folk Rock will be turned on its head; be there to catch all the loose change.

Get details and find nearby bars and restaurants here. (Mike Breen)