Alan Tyler and his band of merry men are a strange bunch. Cowboy hats galore and sporting sideburns to give Brian Blessed a run for his money, the five-piece look, sound and probably smell like they’ve stumbled straight out of Nashville.
What blunts their hillbilly onslaught somewhat is the realisation that they’re as painfully British as it gets. It’s not necessarily a fact they try to hide. Alan Tyler is perfectly willing to admit he’s an English bloke singing trans-Atlantic tunes, so let’s not dwell on appearances too much. Let’s face it; he probably wouldn’t last long as a successful contributor to London’s alt-country scene if he forgot his lumberjack coat.
His voice is perhaps of greater substance than his choice of outdoor ware. In fact, it’s undoubtedly the highlight of the record. Lonesome Cowboys would have little to stand on were it not for Tyler’s soothing tones that wash over each song, rarely stretching above bass range but sounding as mellow and smooth as Eva Cassidy in a blender.
However, cut the vocal quality and there’s plenty to be whinging about. For a start, bearded folk purists might find themselves turning their noses up at the obscene amount of �pop’ that creeps in between the country licks. The chorus and closing section of Buddy Greene style crooner Fool Around is as accessible as anything else in the charts (not particularly surprising since Tyler’s old band The Rockingbirds appeared on both Top of the Pops and MTV several times).
Folk-genre grumblings aside and you still have the issue of lyrics: about as inspiring as a Gordon Brown party conference and equally easy to foresee. Instrumentally, there’s some nice guitar knocking around but drum fills at times sound strangely like they were taken from a ‘Keith Moon for Dummies’ manual. Pile on unimaginative, clumsy string arrangements and we really do have a list of problems that need amending.
But it’s not all rusty mandolin strings. There’s some ‘o those nice ‘ole country harmonies flitting about in the surprisingly catchy chorus of Fool Around, and The Fields Beneath is a nostalgic, wistful little number that showcases some decent song-writing. When You Get Back From New York City is possibly the record’s most memorable moment, surging with a tad more energy than the rest.
Album opener Rambling Girl is an admirable statement of intent; a solid Cash-like ditty that pretty much sets the slow pace for the rest of the record. Look past the tongue-in-cheek (we hope) track-title and you’ll find Cowboys Don’t Cry a pleasingly emotive waltz that plods along at its own sweet tempo.
There’s no doubt that avid fans of Alan Tyler’s career (a career not without its fair share of merit and success) will find ample happiness amongst the soft vocal tunes and southern-state smoothness on offer here. Unfortunately, the rest of us will probably find Lonesome Cowboys starts to wither well before its closing bars.