Cowslingers – Hank most certainly didn’t do it this way
Alternative country. Insurgent country. Twangcore. Y’allternative. “The great roots-rock scare,” producer Eric Ambel has been known to call these movements at various intervals over the past several years. The Cowslingers, a fearsome foursome from the rusty city of Cleveland, don’t know, or care for that matter, what to make of it all. They just go out and play. And rock. And make a general nuisance of themselves. Who cares what people call it? The money, limousines and obsessive fandom could all be theirs, though, with just one little trip…to Spain. Maybe.
“We could at least be demigods in Spain,” explains Greg Miller, vocalist and co-songwriter. “We’ve got the whole fucking package. We got a little of that Americana and a little of that punk rock. We’ll even throw in some of that country and western for ’em.” But what makes this funny is Miller’s delivery: When he tosses out terms such as “Americana” and “country and western,” he uses a hilarious faux-Southern drawl. This, in a nutshell, is what the Cowslingers are all about. They’re not faking anything, but chances are they’re laughing at a lot of those hard-core country rockers out there.
Having already released three full-length CDs (all of which have sold several thousand in quantity) and a bunch of 7-inch singles, the Cowslingers have established a following throughout the Midwest and seem to be on the verge of something, well, bigger than the Midwest. Maybe even on the verge of becoming one of those “No Depression” bands. “Nah,” Miller says. “We are now officially the band which is not included in any movement. We have alienated ourselves completely. The only thing remaining is the cover of Rolling Stone and Spin. Really, the only difference between us and Marilyn Manson isn’t much. He’s sexual perversion, and we’re American perversion.”
Take the latest offering from the band, for instance. Last year’s 21-song romp A Fistful of Pesetas (on the Spanish label Rock & Roll Inc.) features a cover of Hank Williams’ “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used to Do?” that rocks with positively reckless abandon. (The ‘Slingers also render Hank’s “Hey Good Lookin'” on the disc.) Other covers include Duane Eddy’s “Movin’ and Groovin'”, Link Wray’s “Slinky” and “Black Widow”, and Dick Dale’s “Shake & Stomp.” But it’s not all covers. The 11 originals on the album are just plain spit-out-your-beer rockers with the slightest hint of twang thrown in. Seven of the album’s tracks were produced by that great roots-rock scarecrow, Eric Ambel, who pretty much sums it all up perfectly by saying, “Who says downwardly mobile unapologetically sleazy lifestyle determinate rock ‘n’ roll is dead?”
While the Cowslingers seem headed toward the big city, their love for the smaller towns won’t soon be waning. “Charleston, Illinois, is the greatest city in the world to play,” Miller says excitedly. “We got there once at 2 in the afternoon and the bar was just packed and everybody was drunk off their asses. It was like a sardine can. By 4, the sound man pulled the plug. Everyone just rioted and broke windows, and the police were there by 4:30. It was great.
“Then there was Youngstown, Ohio, another amazing town to play. I got set on fire there once. They pulled all the toilet paper out of the bathroom, wrapped me up like a mummy, and lit me on fire. That’s how they show their love for you.”