Every once in a while, it's nice to find a singing cowboy that really is a cowboy. Along with gigs from L.A. to Pa., indie artist Jeff Mamett has mainly paid the bills in the cattle business. He's no greenhorn - in fact, Mamett's giant soupstrainer of a moustache has long gone silver. But he deftly applies the lessons learned from being close to riding and roping to his homegrown songs. There's authenticity in spades, not to mention long years of crackerjack musicianship, in the recipe.
The album kicks off with "Isla Mae" a honky tonk blazer with guitar-licks aplenty. Thanks to some studio magic, Mamett runs frets on both lead guitar and bass.
Mamett's musical passions fall squarely with classic C&W. But he's still game to explore other sonic pastures. The title track's drum and organ combo aims for a more modern rock stroll (it would mash up nicely with Garbage's "Stupid Girl"). A bright mandolin shines on "High and Lonesome," and the chosen chords bring the spirit of Jerry Garcia back for a little while. Mamett tips his hat a little more overtly with two cover tunes, including the immortal "Pancho and Lefty." A clever cowboy might stay clear of that one - it's already been branded by some of the all-time best. Things land a little closer to the pin with "About Horses and Wars," taking us back to 1970s-era Texas cowboy singer Red Steagall.
Some artists have a straight 50-50 split in their singing and songwriting talent. That's not the case here, and Mamet's much more a poet than a crooner. There's a croak at the bottom of his register - some might more gently refer to it as a gravelly delivery. You'll either find it distinctive and charming or a distraction. Either way, vocally, his best moment's on the higher perch of "Wanna Stay Mad." But there's no denying Mamett's more than a moonlighting cowboy when he pens lines like on the waltzing closer, "Withered and Died": I wake up each morning to a life that I dread/All for chasing a rainbow/That lived in my head.