Cowboys Go East With Busby Tracks

David Belcher shoots the bull with Glasgow's own Cowboy Mouth, recently rounded up by a Munich outfit for the big drive to stardom, yep.

Glasgow Herald, January 20, 1995

They perceive Scottish music differently in Munich, and we should be grateful for that. "I think they have a romantic notion of maverick minstrels; they see us all as sad Glasgow singers singing sad songs, bathed in pathos--which is, of course, completely accurate," says Douglas MacIntyre with a paradoxically perky and self-mocking grin.

"What was it that German review said about our album?" inquires Douglas's Cowboy Mouth co-partner, Grahame Skinner. "It was something like 'Music for guys in the dark hours when only other guys called Jimmy or Jack can help.' It was quite touching to read. Geezer confession-time: "I think that's how they look on our music."

Douglas chimes in to express his hope that the reviewer meant Jimmy Beam and Jack Palance, and not Jimmy Krankie and Jack Milroy. Aye, seriously funny and funnily serious are Douglas and Grahame about their new roles in Cowboy Mouth, the third Glasgow band to be signed to a Munich-based label, Marina, run by Stefan Kassel and Frank Lahnemann, two enthusiastic journalists who are determined to see Scottish musicians at their best.

Of course, prophets tend to go without "porridge in their ain kail-yaird" and all that: some folk in Glasgow might find it difficult to see beyond Douglas and Grahame's respective pasts. Douglas has been Mr Ubiqitous Fret-Fingers with a trillion bands, most notably with the recently deceased Love and Money, as well as piloting his own label, Creeping Bent, while Grahame's epic tones first achieved world-wide chart prominence with pop-funksters Hipsway in the late Eighties.

One album and three singles having failed to achieve similar success for his next band, Witness, Grahame withdrew from a form of music-making that had become a slow and ultimately painful process. "Creating records should be enjoyable, but it becomes difficult when, due to record company release-schedules, you're having to take a year out to record an album, and then take a year out to promote it, followed by another year to make another--it becomes very precious and you miss out on so much.

Consequently, Grahame draws much quiet pride from the fact that Cowboy Mouth's album, Life As A Dog, was recorded live in a studio in Busby in three days for 800, using the first 10 songs the duo had written together inside two days.

"They're not bad songs,"says Grahame, "but they may not be the best songs we'll ever write; in fact we've already written the same number for our next LP, and we'll probably end up having 40 songs to choose from by the time we come to record it. But we're as proud of our dumb songs as we are of our emotive songs. And listen to the Velvet Underground's third LP. "After Hours" is dumb, and "Candy Says" is really emotive, but they're both good."

Velvets' references don't tell the whole Cowboy Mouth story, however. "We're still into them and Television, but Glen Campbell and Jimmy Webb, too," says Douglas, "And we've been raiding our mums' record collections for all those melodic country-based albums that every parental Glasgow music-centre had; that we were brought up on and then rejected."

So how does Life As A Dog sound? Understated; grown-up; resigned; intelligent; sensitive. At its best, it showcases songs of much, woozy 2 AM charm. Its worst isn't much less than its best, but there are some songs which have maybe been left a little too unformed and throwaway--and while you know that a song which rhymes "body" with "Kirkcaldy" is meant to be dumb, there's still dubiety over whether it's bad-dumb or good-dumb.

But surely it is always better to try for that which seems beyond one's grasp. "Neil Young states our artistic credo on Rust Never Sleeps: You have to stretch to achieve things. We're not into perfection and safety. When we started the album, we didn't know we could do it--but we did.

Helped by the Marina instrumental collective, not least drummer Gordon Wilson and guitarist Mick Slaven. As well as playing with Cowboy Mouth, the Wilson-Slaven axis play with Marina's two other bands, the Bathers, led by Chris Thomson, and Sugartown, featuring Gwen Stewart and Douglas MacIntyre.

All three Marina combos should be sharing Glasgow and London bills "in refined, seated venues, still to be confirmed" early in March. "I think Marina have a talented roster," says Douglas. "And we're like the Stax house band and Booker T and the MGs...which means that I'm Steve Cropper," says Douglas, displaying palpable scepticism. Grahame ponders. "So I'm Otis Redding!"

No, laddies, no. You've achieved something that's better than pretending to be someone else; you're yourselves. You're Grahame Skinner and Douglas MacIntyre, and you're Cowboy Mouth. And you, out there in Heraldland, should check them out.

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