Saturday, February 8, 2014

RON KEEL "Metal Cowboy"



(c) 2014 Wild West Media Productions
 
  1. Long Gone Bad
  2. Wild Forever
  3. My Bad
  4. What Would Skynyrd Do?
  5. Just Like Tennessee
  6. The Last Ride
  7. When Love Goes Down
  8. Singers, Hookers & Thieves (duet with Paul Shortino)
  9. Evil, Wicked, Meand & Nasty
  10. The Cowboy Road
  11. 3 Chord Drinkin' Song (featuring the Sin City Sinners)
  12. My Bad (radio version)*
  13. Just Like Tennessee (unplugged)*
  14. Singers, Hookers & Thieves (solo acoustic version)*
 
*CD Bonus Tracks
 
Ron Keel--Lead and Backing Vocals, Guitars, Banjo (3), Bass (3, 6)
Mike Vanderhule--Drums
Ronnie Mancuso--Bass, Keyboards on 1-3, 7, 12
Frank Hannon--Lead Guitar on 2, 4 & 10; dobro on 4
Brent Muscat--Lead Guitar on 9, 11
Keith Robert--Lead Guitar on 1, 3, 5, 12
Travis Toy--Dobro on 1, 5, 6, 8, 13
Joe Spraker--Piano on 4 & 8
Kenn Tonn--Bass on 4
Geno Arce--Bass on 5, 8, 9, 10
Zach Throne--Bass on 11
Rob Cournoyer--Percussion, Vocals on 11
Ditch Kurtz--Pedal Steel Guitar on 5
 
Backing Vocals:  Louie Merlino, Kyle Kruger, Janea Chadwick-Ebs, Geno Arce, Stacey Blades, Rob Valentine, Carol Lyn Liddle, Renee Keel
 
 
Ron Keel is a man who has seen and done many things.  Most famous for his hard rocking band, KEEL, Ron was also in the acclaimed band Steeler with Yngwie Malmsteen, as well as other, less famous bands such as his southern rock project, Iron Horse.  Additionally there was work with the metal group Sabre Tiger, his Fair Game side project, a couple of country releases under the moniker Ronnie Lee Keel, and several other creative outlets.  But never had he been able to release an album as just himself, Ron Keel, combining his many ideas and influences to create an album that was all about him and who he is as an individual.  That all changes now that Metal Cowboy has been released.

Metal Cowboy takes a bit of all of the previously mentioned aspects of Ron's career and folds them nicely together, creating a cohesive, yet diverse project, that gives the listener a wide range of styles and sounds that somehow all manage to not come across as disjointed or mismatched.  Don't let the instrumentation on this record fool you; this is NOT a purely country record, despite the use of banjo, dobro, pedal steel guitar, etc.  Nor is it a southern rock album.  And, well, it's not a metal album, either.  It is, for lack of a better description, EXACTLY what the title implies; it is metal cowboy music.  Clear as mud?  Let me try to help you out.  Take for example the following three songs:  "Evil, Wicked, Mean, & Nasty", "Just Like Tennessee", and "What Would Skynyrd Do".  In these three you have a metallic KEEL song (originally on the Larger Than Live album) that has been given a bit of a southern rock treatment, a ballad that were it not for Ron's gritty, hard rock vocals, would likely end up all over country radio, and, well, as song about THE classic southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Different worlds all brought onto one album and fit together in such a way that it works with no muss and no fuss.  No fan base is offended, and all fans of Keel's various projects will find something to like...in just those three tracks!

For me, the beauty of this project is that it is, pure and simple, a record from Ron's heart.  It's Ron doing what he wants to do, bringing in several big name friends to help out, and creating the kind of music that he obviously wants to play.  "Singers, Hookers & Thieves", for example, is a great song that is one of the high points on this CD, but also one that Ron could NEVER put on a KEEL album.  Mix in the fact that Paul Shortino (King Kobra/Rough Cutt) lends his powerful vocals to the song, and you have one incredible piece of music that would otherwise likely just end up on a hard drive of recorded-yet-never-released songs.  Same thing with "3 Chord Drinkin' Song", which finds Ron enlisting the help of the Sin City Sinners (featuring Brent Muscat of Faster Pussycat fame).  Again, not a song you would ever hear KEEL perform, but a great, fun song that you will swear you have heard pouring out of a jukebox in some pool hall or honky tonk somewhere.

Make no mistake, Ron still rocks on this record as well.  "Long Gone Bad" finds Ron
(Ron and I at Skull Fest, Oct. 2013)
snarling his way through a powerful hard rocker, as does "My Bad", which is the closest in feel to a KEEL song on this solo effort.  "The Cowboy Road" is one of the harder songs on the album, with Ron and Frank Hannon (Tesla) tearing things up on guitar, despite the title giving some the impression of a country song, and "Evil, Wicked, Mean & Nasty" still retains most of the KEEL punch of the original, but also incorporates harmonica and a southern rock attitude on this send-up.

The CD has three bonus tracks not available on the digital download version.  "Just Like Tennessee" and "Singers, Hookers & Thieves" just get even more country in their unplugged and acoustic versions, respectively.  "My Bad" removes an F*bomb to keep it radio friendly, but nothing else is changed.

Packaging is the dreaded slipcase, which we all know I am not a fan of, and lyrics are not included in the packaging (the can be found at www.RonKeel.com), although there is a full list of musicians, songwriting credits, and endorsements enclosed.  My version, as you can see in the photo, is autographed in gold pen, which was one of the perks of supporting the project through Pledge Music.  Also included is Ron's autobiography "Even Keel" (review coming shortly), a jacket patch, sticker, and guitar pick.  A really nice package (which also included an advance digital download) for just $40. 

In the end, this is not a metal album, nor is it a country album.  It is a METAL COWBOY album that fans of good songs and solid musicianship should appreciate.  If you are a southern rock fan, you are most likely going to love this album, as well.  The narrow-minded need not apply, however, as it is guaranteed they are going to have more complaints than positive comments, which is unfortunate, as they will not only be missing out on a very good record, they will be missing the point of Metal Cowboy altogether.

Far superior to the country effort that Hannon's Tesla bandmate, Jeff Keith released, Metal Cowboy finds Ron Keel and his bandmates playing Ron's music the way Ron wants it to be played, plain and simple.  And that's enough for this reviewer.

For more information about the CD, the book, the lyrics, or other Ron Keel merchandise, be sure to check his website at www.RonKeel.com .

Rating:  Crank this to an 8!  Great music from a great guy!   


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