About a year ago, I wrote a review on a four track CD called North Bound by a duo called The Northern Cowboys. Despite not being the world’s biggest country fan (I do have a soft spot for Steve Earle and stuff like Kid Rock and Blackberry Smoke, though), what made me interested in this project was of course because of the involvement from one Andy Zata, lead guitarist and song writer in Swedish melodic hard rockers Crazy Lixx. Knowing that the guy is a killer guitar player and a great song writer, I was very curious of what he might cook up in a country environment. In The Northern Cowboys, Zata handles guitar and bass duties and also as a producer and the as other part of the duo we find Jake Lindholm, lead singer and rhythm guitarist, who must have some kind of Texas vein in his body because never in my life could I imagine that a Swedish guy could get such a southern American accent twist. Needless to say, their debut four track blew me away – hard. Right in to next fucking week! I really had no expectations, but after one listen I sat down and looked like a moron with my jaw down to the floor. All four songs were so damn brilliant that I almost got mad at the guys for only releasing four tracks. I wanted more – a helluva lot more. To give that CD a 10/10 rating was the easiest task in the world – I didn’t hesitate for a second. But I needed to point out that a 10/10 review for four songs is not the same thing as getting one for an album with 10 or 12 tracks on it. Still, an amazing record no matter how you look at it. One year later and it’s time for the follow-up and this time, there are expectations. High expectations. Sky high, as a matter of fact. But I wasn’t really worried that this new four track would fall flat on its back. If you can pull out four total killers for the debut E.P., there’s no risk in Hell that you will release four crappy tracks the next time around.
Opener “Devil’s Daughter” meets all expectations. Not only does it have a metal title, the whole song has a Dio-era Rainbow vibe over it with a huge chunk of country poured all over it. A metal country song, if you will. The guys go all ballad on us already by the second song, but “Hold On” is brilliant, so it doesn’t matter. This is very close to a power ballad and the whole country thingy makes the song stand out. The title track, on the other hand, is very country – it really should be with a title like “Whole Lotta Country”, but at the same time, it’s also very rock, maybe it’s Zata’s hard rock roots that shines through. A good song, for sure. “One Day”, that closes this 4-track is best of all, though. It’s a little AOR / melodic rock jewel with a country twist, instead of the other way around, a melody that’s addictive and the chorus from Hell. If I was in charge, I’d decide on releasing this as a single with a video to accompany it.
Now that I have more or less praised all four songs on this E.P., some might wonder why this only get a 9 when I did the same with the last CD and that one got a 10. Well, I would probably have given this a 10 if this was their debut. But, as a whole, this CD isn’t exactly as strong as the predecessor, but it’s pretty damn close. And just like the last CD, this leaves me wanting more. To tell you the truth, I’m not very big on mini-albums and E.P.’s. I want albums. Real albums. 10 -12 songs. 45 – 60 minutes of music. But now, put together we have an eight track album from the guys so another 4-track E.P. and we have a whole album. Speaking of which, the guys has just decided on releasing the two E.P’s as one double E.P. I can dig that. If you don’t have a problem with a piece of country in your music and you allow musical styles crossing paths, then this double E.P. is a no-brainer. I’m so looking forward to the next one.
Jon Wilmenius (9/10)
1. Devil’s Daughter
2. Hold On
3. Whole Lotta Country
4. One Day