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Album Review

STEVE CASPER
& COWBOY ANGST
Topanga Ranch Motel

Angst ain't the half of it. These cowboys are dipped in everything from cowpies to cowabunga and have a country edge, but they don't stop there. Toss in a bit of Foghat, Motown (that's right--- Motown!), San Francisco (the early 70s, which you can credit to violinist-with-angst Ross Levinson) and a whole lot of South cushioned (thankfully) by the less-than-Van-Zant voice of Casper (in this case, less really is more and haven't we all heard enough of those lame Southern Rock clones anyway?). But let us be honest here, the South is not the key anyway. It is the mix.

That mix is intriguing, Through With You feeding on Motown and modern rock, the melody line following Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water and The Temptations' My Girl in short bursts. They sound nothing like either, so that may be a stretch, but the lines are there. It is straight up rock, no chaser, and when the violin and lead guitar duel, you get a small taste of what San Francisco gave us during those heady days of the late 60s and early 70s.

For sure there is cowboy in Cowboy Angst and they step in it on Takes Me Back, one of those modern country tracks that Nashville is pretending is country though it is really rock. The band makes the difference here, weaving their way around Casper's voice just enough to make a point but not get in the way. They do it again on I Want To Know, substituting a slowed down Foghat rhythm guitar and violin lead on the break. Maybe nothing groundbreaking, but impressive nonetheless.

No doubt, these guys can crank it out or lay it back. They crank it on Down Home Girl, the heavy and chunky rhythm guitar riffs reminiscent of early ZZ Top on the rock side and the heavier side of The Charlie Daniels Band on the country. Topped off by Levinson's violin lead and Glen Lynskey's brassy lead guitar, it choogles its way through four minutes that you wish was ten at a minimum, but that is part of what makes you like these guys--- they don't overdo. There is taste and balance throughout and, man, it would be so easy to let Lynskey and Levinson take over because they are solid players, but the whole band is solid and the good ones know how to balance.

I'm doing you a favor here. The video above is short and a bit rough, but it gives you an idea of what these guys can do. Take a listen to the ripping guitar of Glen Lynskey and, though a bit in the background, Levinson's impressive violin. The rhythm is solid, the playing is solid and Steven Casper holds his own as a frontman. It gives me just enough to regret my not having been there.

But I'm not worried. Casper and Angst are ready to make their move, I think, and opportunities to see them will mushroom. I think. Well, I hope. Maybe. Hmmmm... I think I'm beginning to see where all that angst is coming from. Maybe we should all just start checking the local venues to see if they are playing anywhere near. Just in case. Or buy the EP. Either/or. Or both.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

SUPPORTING THE INDIES SINCE 1969

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