Lazy Cowgirls

By now L.A.'s kings of protopunk, wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am rock should need no introduction, although those who think they had the Cowgirls pegged as "just" a Stones/MC5/Dolls descendant might get a surprise or two while listening to this live album. Convening last May to tape a couple of gigs at Van Nuys' Uncle Studios, Pat Todd & Co. apparently pulled out all the stops, kicking out the jams per usual but also settling in for acoustic sets as well.

What makes Todd one of America's most authentic rock 'n' roll singers? His foghorn blare, while busting at the gills with vim and vigor, wouldn't necessarily win him top honors at a punk-rock hog-calling contest, and, sorry, kids, he's loath to affect a faux British accent. He sounds more like a cross between Johnny Winter and the Dictators' Handsome Dick Manitoba than the goofballs from Offspring or Green Day.

But what does come through is that rarefied brand of deathless charisma that comes from years of soaking in the masters (Dylan, Jagger, Eric Burdon, ancient rockabilly and country cats, etc.) and the kind of won't-roll-over-and-die forceful delivery that only a balding, stocky guy in his 40s who knows that in a million years he'll never be added to a "TRL Tour" bill can credibly muster. With a red-hot band that features longtime cohort Michael Leigh on lead guitar, Todd simply grabs the mike and rips some shit up, never mind the bollocks.

Here and Now (Live!) channels all this, and more, into a finely meshed sieve of attitude and sound, superbly recorded with the small but appreciative studio audience stirred right into the mix. Following a rollicking instrumental opening of "The Magnificent Seven" (a.k.a. that old Marlboro commercial theme), the Cowgirls catapult full tilt into a slamming triplet of ampage: "Route 66," Billy Joe Shaver's brutal swoon "Goodbye to Yesterday" and Todd manifesto "Don't Count Me Out," one of those modified Chuck Berry-esque wallopers the band excels in, right down to the brief but effective Leigh solo.

Up next is the "unplugged" segment which showcases a pair of Cowgirl originals (including band classic "Somewhere Down the Line," recast with a "Love in Vain"-styled acoustic slide guitar) alongside an old tune that was once a staple of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, "Live in the Past," its good-time twang 'n' strum matched bar for bar by Todd's supple -- get this -- croon. The remainder of the record is electric, with highlights including turbocharged covers of the Flamin' Groovies' "Second Cousin" (Leigh on lead vocal) and Clarence Garlow's "Route 90" (Texas R&B-turns-thrash) plus a couple of brand-new Todd compositions -- "You," with its call-and-response vocal hook and killer melody, is one of the poppiest tunes the band's ever done, a dance-floor-filling jukebox hit if there ever was one.

Does the world need another live album? As long as there's rock 'n' roll performed live, fug yeah. Hell, make the next one a double-LP, deluxe gatefold sleeve (all the better with which to clean one's weed on) and call it -- Cowgirls Come Alive!


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