Big and Rich's music. I became a convert after hearing
"Holy Water" and as soon as I heard Gretchen Wilson
sing; well, I was on board as a devout defender (and admirer) of
the Muzik Mafia. It really didn't take long to see past the
flash and trash and recognize their incredible talent but it's
been tough to stay loyal. Once you saw the "Save a Horse,
Ride a Cowboy" video for the fiftieth time and heard the
lyrics one hundred times on radio in a single day; well, like
anything that you are over exposed to, you become desensitized
to. What initially shocked you morphs into amusing then it
becomes less funny and, after a while, boring. Fortunately,
there were twelve other songs on their debut album that
demonstrated they were far more than just a "freak
said that, I also feel compelled to say, somebody, please,
remind Big Kenny Alphin and John Rich of that old saying,
"less is more." The intro track to this album is so
irritating that if I were not committed to reviewing the album,
I would have just hit the eject button and been done with it.
For one minute and eight seconds - which is about one minute to
long for this nonsense - they are aggravating enough to give you
a migraine with their round of "somebody needs to be
unafraid to lead the freak parade." If you could set a
nervous breakdown to music, this is probably what it would sound
like. But I came to this album with faith that, beneath the
clown make up, there were singers and songwriters with real
depth and talent and, read on, they didn't disappoint me;
although at times they did frustrate me.
the title track of this album, "Comin' to Your City,"
was so over played on radio that it was already old by the time
the album was released. The third track, "Soul
Shaker," sounds so much like "Comin' to Your
City" that if it weren't for the pause between when one
song ends and the other begins, you would think it was just a
very long song. But just as I was thinking that I needed a break
from the monophonic lunacy, "Never Mind Me" began to
play. This track, immediately, reminded me why I had been
looking forward to reviewing this album. It isn't just the great
vocals and excellent harmony; it's also the lyrics. With genius
hooks like "don't rewind me then replay me," well,
there is no doubt that as singers and songwriters, they excel.
And when they partner up with Rodney Clawson to write, they just
kick it up a notch to the next level of excellence.
after "Never Mind Me," comes "Caught up in the
Moment" which, to me, sounds exactly like the first two
tracks but stick around for "Leap of Faith." To a
rocket I've been tied, I'm ready for the screaming ride / It's
full of fuel and I just lit the fuse. Great lyrics on this
track and some really classic guitar riffs. The excellence, in
lyrics, music and singing, continues on "I Pray For
You" before the insanity returns on THE INTRO to
"Filthy Rich." However, if you forego the intro, you
are in for some really great Dixie land jazz instrumentals and
totally enjoyable, feel-good, vocal harmonies.
I wrote that last sentence, I had an epiphany of sorts. I
realized that one of the reasons I felt compelled to defend Big
& Rich, when they were wrapped in so much controversy at the
beginning of their popularity, was that I believed they would
bring a whole new audience to country music. Their outrageous
behavior and lyrics, calling themselves the Muzik Mafia ... I
came to see the whole scenario as brilliant, creative genius;
and that has proven to be true. So, although I might prefer that
they forego the whacked out behavior on occasion, I acknowledge
that it is one of the things that has contributed greatly to
their success and, for some, it is a major part of their appeal.
are several tracks that I liked on this album but one that
really stood out for me was "8th of November (1965),"
not surprisingly, written by Big and Rich. This is a
magnificently written tribute to Niles Harris and the soldiers
of the 173rd Airborne Brigade ("Sky Soldiers" unit who
served in Viet Nam from 1965 - 1971). Harris is a Viet Nam
veteran of the
173rd and the friend who gave Big Kenny his outrageous top hat.
This track has a moving, and historically enlightening,
introduction by Kris Kristofferson and the song is a
heart-rending reminder of the sacrifice our soldiers make.
album does have a bonus track. On track fourteen Big and Rich
are joined by Gretchen Wilson and Cowboy Troy to sing "The
Star-Spangled Banner." I was not surprised by their choice
for a bonus track since much of their success can be attributed
to them doing what you don't expect them to do and beneath the
crazy costumes and beyond the outrageous behavior, in their
saner moments, Big Kenny and John Rich are just like the rest of
us, right? Well, maybe not, but in this case, I'm certain that's
a good thing.