The Cowboy CodeStomp Records
By Cole Faulkner
When I think of Calgary, Alberta’s Raygun Cowboys, the first image that pops to mind is a larger than life, ten gallon hat sporting beef baron ready to sink his teeth into mouth watering Alberta-raised Angus steak. In other words, it’s an image of a gut-bursting, Canadian cattle-ranch iteration of a late-career Elvis Presley. While a curious imagery for sure, such a description is intended as an unlikely compliment to the country-infused, brass-based take on genre-bending psychobilly that is Raygun Cowboys.
Their fourth full length, The Cowboy Code, combines a deep and confident country drawl with equal parts thumping upright bass and full horn section. Vocalist Jon Christopherson’s deep, commanding baritone leads the charge amidst a backdrop of speedy, punked-up tempos. Opener “It’s Coming Down” is a particularly rambunctious aural assault, with plenty of thumping and bumping that combines a smattering of influences from The Long Tall Texans to The Creepshow. The guitar is quick landing, and various instrumental solos are forceful and snappy. The track serves as a welcome initial shot of adrenaline, even if the general atmosphere cools off quickly thereafter.
Subsequent tunes thump away at varying tempos as inspired by different genres. Those like “Don’t Want You Anymore” and “One More Time” fuel their tank with anthemic “woah-oh-oah” driven choruses, while dusty saloon stompers like “Storm’s a Brewin” feed off heavy 50’s rockabilly rhythms. And of course, all this happens under the support of the full brass section, with a particular shout-out to the strategically and skillfully inserted saxophone solos that just add that personalized, unmistakable Raygun Cowboys touch. Perhaps one of the most unique applications of the brass section has to be the 80’s movie-inspired tune “Robocop.” Those familiar with the iconic blockbuster will instantly succumb to nostalgia as the rolling bass and front and centre horn blasts emulate the memorable movie theme. With their own twist of humourous commentary and movie sound-clips, Raygun Cowboys make an unconventional inspiration an undeniable album highlight.
Raygun Cowboys are a rare breed even within the narrow confines of their niche. As The Cowboy Code demonstrates, Raygun Cowboys’ rich combination of brass meets psychobilly remains a unique Canadian prairie export well worth the cost of import. The band’s last big refinement took place with 2015’s Heads Are Gonna Roll, and while the latest offering only offers minor tweaks to the now well established formula, The Cowboy Code is exemplary of a band that are clearly masters of their trade.