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Cowboy Crush - An Introduction
Phoenix, AZ - Ak 'Chin Casino 
Special Feature by Cheryl Harvey Hill

The comparison of Cowboy Crush to the Dixie Chicks is inevitable for the simple reason that they, too, are often described as a dynamic, "all girl band" but as much as I admire the immensely talented and beautiful Dixie Chicks, with all due respect to them, the vibrant power house band known as Cowboy Crush are way more than Dixie Chicks clones; they are the Chicks plus two, with a talent quotient that elevates them into a league of their own.

For those of you, who haven't had the pleasure of meeting them, allow me to introduce you, alphabetically, to Cowboy Crush. Trenna Barnes, a native of Tulsa, Oklahoma is their engaging and vibrant lead singer. Darla Rae Perlozzi, born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, is the drummer but she also plays guitar and keyboards. Becky Priest, from Hubbard, Texas, is on keyboards but can play guitar, banjo, mandolin and accordion in addition to providing magnificent vocal harmony. Debbie Johnson, born in Springfield, Missouri, plays bass and is a third generation musician who also delivers flawless timbre on the extraordinarily tight vocal harmonies. Renae' Truex hails from West Virginia and, like Debbie, is from a musical family; so I guess it should come as no surprise that, in addition to her ability to bring down the house with her fiddle playing, she is also accomplished on mandolin, tenor sax and rhythm guitar. 

This amazingly talented band isn't comprised of just your average beautiful girls - no, sir - they have been endowed by their combined heritage with immense talent, pride, and a work ethic and determination that allows them to take on their peers, regardless of their gender. On the subject of competition, Trenna would most likely say with confidence, "no problem 'cause we can kick a—" and, living proof that dynamite does indeed come in small packages, Darla, proud of her Italian heritage would, no doubt, jokingly add that the Crush has their own music mafia; a remark that could generate a cautionary glance from Becky, a not so subtle snicker from Renae' and a knowing smile from Debbie. Yep, listen up world; those aren't your average designer genes they're wearing. They are sisters in spirit and purpose; each one of them adding a unique strength that contributes a dynamic facet to their band DNA. You can feel their energy filtering out over the stage lights and it permeates the venue with electricity and excitement.

When Cowboy Crush started up the ladder of success, they weren't taking any chances, they came with graduate degrees in place, home grown talent refined by years of practice, a solid support base of family and friends, dues paid by a combined musical resume' that includes world tours and "the" White House. You can be sure that when Cowboy Crush finally came face to face with the industry glass ceiling, they had their ambition sledgehammer loaded with charisma and talent and were at the ready. Go ahead; you can call them girls, which usually implies they are less than women and certainly less than a man. Go ahead, they don't care. They relish the all-girl band title. They get a kick out of being underestimated. They aren't offended by the whistles and cat calls because they know; no, they K-N-O-W, I mean really know, that being thought of as "only pretty" can be a definite advantage. As the house lights go down, the curtains part and they step into the spotlight once again, they aren't just smiling because they are happy to be where they are, they are smiling because they know that they are about to obliterate another stereotype and land another smashing blow to that glass ceiling. 

They are a band on a mission. They are determined to not only entertain; they are out to educate, enlighten, inspire - oh yes, and they are going to make certain that anyone who hears their message - boy, girl, man or woman - they hear it loud enough to be genuinely inspired. Inspired enough to raise their own emotional sledgehammer and break through whatever they perceive to be blocking them from achieving their own goals. The ladies of Cowboy Crush have rejuvenated the little engine that could and they are, without prejudice, rounding up passengers who trust, like them, that the dream can be a reality. With hearts as big as their talent, they are recruiting the believers and inviting them to get on board. This is one crush that feels more like a big ole bear hug ... multiplied times five.

I've done a lot of interviews in my career but this one ranks, not only among the most memorable, but definitely among the most fun. After seeing the high energy Cowboy Crush perform in concert (twice on the previous night) quite honestly, I expected the interview the following morning to be somewhat anti-climatic; boy oh boy, was I wrong. Since our interview was scheduled for mid morning, they invited me and my husband, to have brunch with them. Within moments of sitting down at the table, it was apparent that their energy and antics aren't reserved only for the stage. Before they even say it, you can see that they are kindred spirits; soul sisters is how they described their relationship later in the interview and like true sisters, they tease each other, finish each others sentences and watch out for each other.

Before beginning the interview, since there are five of them, to avoid confusion I ask that they say their name before replying to a question so that when I transcribe the interview, I will know who to credit with the answer. As the interview progresses, giving someone else's name proves to be great fun for them. As Debbie answers a question in a way she would rather not take credit for, she says her name is Trenna and as Renae' gives a somewhat lighthearted reply in response to another question, she quickly credits Becky as the source and on and on it goes. At one point, Darla gives a reply that is rather risqué and without skipping a beat she quickly credits me as the person speaking; everyone thinks this is funny; including me.

Since I had heard several different stories about how they came up with Cowboy Crush for the name of the band, that was my first question. Trenna responded, "The name was actually from a Nashville Record Executive. He had been with a band at one time and had suggested the name for them and, lucky for us, they didn't want to use it." Renae' adds, "We had gone everywhere looking for a name for our band" and then Debbie interjects how they almost ended up with the name of "Pistol Packin' Mama's" and Becky says someone actually suggested they call themselves "The Broad Band." After a few more laughs, Trenna continues, "After all our searching, we ended up with Cowboy Crush and now we have written a song about it." At which point, Darla injects, "By the way, that was Trenna talking and she wrote the song; before her, it was Renae' and then Debbie talking." To which Becky responds, "And that was Darla." Then Darla says, "That was Becky." And now everybody is laughing again. Before I've even asked the second question, It is easy to see that the exquisite vocal synchronization, animation, and playful interaction they exhibit onstage is merely an extension of their overall sense of camaraderie and every day friendship off stage.

In their bio it says they are often described as a high-octane blend of Emmylou Harris and Aerosmith so I ask them how they would describe their sound. "Well, we pretty much concur that we're a high-octane blend," Trenna responds; a comment that causes a lot of laughter and a unanimous agreement. "It was actually Charlie Daniels who said that about us," Renae' volunteers, "We have been compared to Emmylou Harris too, and although we love Emmylou, I don't think we are as blue grass oriented as she is and we get compared to the Dixie Chicks too but we aren't even as blue grass as they are." Becky adds, "Remember that one DJ even said that we were a whole different genre of music because there is nothing else out there like us." A statement to which they, again, all nod in agreement and Trenna, giving credit for the previous statement says, "that was Becky" to which Becky replies that I will be able to tell when she is talking by the recognizable twang, which causes Darla to respond, "That was Becky again" and Debbie says, "That was Darla" at which point everyone cracks up - again.

When I ask, what their favorite facet of this business is, without hesitation they reply, in almost perfect unison, "performing and the fans." Renae' says, "We love to perform but it is the reaction that we get from the fans that keeps us wanting to perform." Darla adds, "My favorite part is when we have a fan come through the autograph line, crying because they have been touched by the song "I Am Pretty" (a powerful song about an abused woman who finally realizes her own self worth) or one of the other songs, and we know that we have affected their life and maybe, because of something they heard from us, it will give them the courage they need to make it better." Debbie echoes that sentiment and adds, "I'm amazed. You know. If you are coming up to a complete stranger and you're crying and unloading and there are forty or fifty people standing behind you in line and you don't care, well, that's how we know that we have really touched that person and, hopefully, they are going to go home and make some positive changes." Being the kind of people that they are, they want to help but these are intelligent women and they know that they aren't qualified to give advice. "All we can really do at a meet and greet is offer up a supportive ear or a hug," Becky says. They are trying to figure out the best way to help when someone comes to them like that and, collectively, they have decided that giving out this number is a good place to start: 1-800-799-SAFE. This is the Domestic Abuse Hotline. They are also looking into other ways that they may be able to "make a difference and draw attention to a problem that is so often swept under the table" Trenna adds.

Another subject they are passionate about is the military and they are very excited about their new video, "He's Coming Home." The message of the song is a very positive and patriotic one so they are hopeful the video will be seen by a lot of people. Trenna has performed overseas in USO/DOD Tours for the U.S. Military and just this past July, Cowboy Crush entertained soldiers and their families at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas as part of the Spirit of America Tour. They are all in agreement that the military audiences are among the most appreciative audiences and they hope to be able to include more military bases on future tours.

When I asked what they thought had been the greatest challenge in their career to date, their immediate response, not surprisingly at this point, once again in perfect unison, is "getting beyond the stereotype" and they agree that the second most challenging thing is "waiting for the album to be finished." Renae' points out that "it is difficult to stay motivated and happy when things aren't progressing as quickly as you would like them to. Even though you have the label working for you, they are a big machine and someone has to keep turning the wheel that keeps them in motion and it is difficult to keep the momentum going." The others nod in agreement. Then Darla addresses the stereotype, not necessarily about the band but about women in general. She remarks, "People aren't only surprised that we play are own instruments but they are surprised to hear that we all actually get along. This is so frustrating for all of us. People seem to think we shouldn't get along just because we are all women and it is absurd that people think we should automatically hate each other because of our gender and, worse, they anticipate that we will be difficult to work with." Debbie adds, "It is always funny, though, after a concert to see how differently everyone treats us. Before the show, the people working backstage are pretty indifferent to us but after the show it's a whole different thing. It's like 'Hey, that was great. Here's my card if you ever need any help' and everybody is all friendly ... 'great job' ... high fives all around."

Yep, one more stereotype dispelled and one more successful blow landed on the glass ceiling by the absolutely peerless Cowboy Crush.

Cowboy Crush - An Introduction - Part II

The #43 Nascar has set a new standard for beautiful cars. Gracing the hood, back quarter panels and trunk are photos of the spirited and lovely gals that comprise the hottest country music band to come out of Music City in the past several decades; possibly ever. It is appropriate that their likeness should grace a Nascar auto since Becky, Darla, Debbie, Renae' and Trenna; collectively known as Cowboy Crush, have been known to cause the same adrenalin rush and excitement level as a hundred car merge in the final turn on at a major Nascar race track just before the approach to the finish line and they can just as easily bring an audience to their feet.

Just before coming to Arizona, Cowboy Crush had been the official spokespersons for the first annual Sound and Speed show in Nashville. They won over the racing fans on WTVF's "Talk of the Town" program by changing the lyrics of their rowdy new single, "Hillbilly Nation" (released to radio on 18 February 2006 Curb/ Asylum) to "Nascar Nation." They also rocked the main stage of the Gaylord Entertainment Center before mingling with new fans Michael Waltrip, Kyle Petty, Dale Jr. and others.

Fast forward to Arizona just a few days later. It was just after the sun came up in Phoenix. I'm not normally a "morning person" but I had been notified by their publicist that the Crush would be appearing on the "Good Morning Arizona" show in conjunction with their encore appearance at Harrah's Casino, so I set the alarm. Knowing that they had performed two sets at the venue the night before, hadn't left the casino until after midnight, and had a 6 a.m. wake up call; I wasn't expecting a lot of energy so boy oh boy was I surprised. Not only did they look beautiful but their performance energy was incredible and this was a live show. They did a fifteen minute interview and then performed two songs. Clearly, the folks at KTVK were impressed and apparently so were a lot of folks in their viewing audience because that night at Harrah's we heard several people remarking that the reason they came was because they had seen the girls perform on the morning show. You definitely can't forget it once you've been "crushed."

*There's no band out there like Cowboy Crush. They sing like angels, play like demons, and have more fun while they're doing it than anyone you've ever seen onstage.

On our previous visit, we arrived at the venue about thirty minutes before their show was to start and got two front row seats. This time, we arrived at the casino three hours early so we could eat dinner first and as we walked past the venue we could see it was already packed! By the time we got back to the stage area, there were no seats left at all, no standing room left, folks were packed outside the half rail at the back of the lounge and ten deep at both side entrances. We ended up watching the show from the sound board area; we couldn't squeeze in any where else in the room.

None of this really surprised me; nor was I surprised by the standing ovation and the encore at the end of their final set on the last night. You have Becky on keyboard, Darla on drums, Debbie on bass, Renae' on fiddle and Trenna in front as lead singer. Well, Trenna is supposed to be in front; most of the time she is all over the stage and seldom stops moving but then neither does Renae', and Debbie does her fair share of stage traveling too. I think a large part of their appeal, and effortless ability to generate a rowdy enthusiasm from their audiences, is that they are clearly having a great time performing and their constant interaction is indicative of that. They are all so high energy and each of them is uniquely beautiful and when you add to that their incredible musical skills and out-going personalities it is easy to see how they can bring an audience to their feet.

I said in part one of my feature on the Crush that "They are sisters in spirit and purpose" and that observation was confirmed when I was able to hang out with them again in Arizona. Perhaps the key to their successful kinship and compatibility is that they are each quite beautiful in their own unique way and therefore, competition between themselves is so utterly unnecessary that it really is nonexistent. They are five amazing, diversely talented individuals with a unified objective and a common goal but more than that, they each know that although they could be (and have been) a success as individual performers, together they are five times better and they relish that concept and embrace the knowledge.

Darla is ambitious and determined and not just on the drums. She is this feisty, beautiful, dainty blonde powerhouse, with mega attitude, that could easily match sticks with Gene Krupa or Buddy Rich. She is representative of their collective drive.

Debbie is more quiet than the others but only because still waters run deep. Her persona is subtle and understated but she is a gorgeous dynamo on the bass and her vocal harmonies are laser perfect. She is representative of their collective strength.

Renae' is a vibrantly adorable pixie with an electric and engaging smile. She is also an energetic fireball that can ignite even the non-believers and bring them to their feet when she fires up her fiddle.  She is representative of their collective energy.

Beautiful Becky, affectionately called "Becky Crocker" by the others because of her propensity to mother and because she likes to cook and is rumored to be as skilled with a needle and thread as she is a keyboard; is equally adept at rocking the house with her energy quotient onstage and she adds an additional octave on the vocals. Call her what you want, she bears little physical resemblance to your average mother; this is definitely one very hot mama. She is representative of their collective heart.

Trenna isn't just their lead singer; she is also their primary voice on stage and often off stage as well. She is the high energy, animated, vocal catalyst for their collective, musical spirit. Her vocal range is impressive and her beauty and talent easily transcend the stage lights. Unlike many lead singers who take a position in front of the band, at the front of the stage and remain there throughout their performance, Trenna is all over the stage; playfully cajoling her band mates and often relinquishing the spotlight to them. She is representative of their passion.

They really are kindred spirits; soul sisters in every sense of the word. Their incredible vocal harmonies are another indication of their marvelous kinship. I had a savvy Nashville insider say to me, after listening to "Nobody Ever Died of a Broken Heart," "Well, one thing is certain, they are definitely sisters. You can't produce vocal harmonies that tight unless you are blood related." When I informed him that they were not related he suggested that I was probably wrong. Well, I'm not. Their incredible vocal harmony is simply the result of their combined passion for the music and an innate sixth sense they have when they share the same space - on stage or off.

*Let's be clear: We're not talking just all-girl bands. We're talking bands, period, whether all-girl, all-guy, or whatever combination you like. Whoever you throw into the mix, it's hard to imagine topping the energy, excitement, musicianship, and sheer joy these five friends and colleagues pump out.

They each bring a unique energy to their group dynamics and before ever combining their talents to form Cowboy Crush, each of them had already experienced impressive success as individuals. Their past successes are reflected in their present confidence and in the quality of their performances. I hope you will take the time to stop by their website and read their biography because their collective accomplishments are far too many for me to list here. And I hope you will also get to see them in concert one day or, at the very least, hear them on radio.

A major goal of Cowboy Crush is to become a positive influence for country music fans of all ages and genders. From where I stand, they already are the most perfect ambassadors for a genre of music that was born of America's heart.

*From their website: www.cowboycrush.com

Trenna Barnes is also a prolific songwriter. In addition to co-writing on "Cowboy Crush," she also wrote "Hillbilly Nation" and "Here Comes Trouble," and one of my favorites,  "Livin' Every Single Day." As of this writing, all but the last song will be on the forthcoming debut album.

Related Links:
Official Site 
MySpace  
www.curb.com/artists/cowboycrush  - Curb Records Site 
Cowboy Crush:"Nobody Ever Died of a Broken Heart" - CSO Single Review

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Real People Reviews

Cowboy crush is awesome. I don’t know how you can compare them to the Dixie chicks, the Dixie chicks are terrible. Got to hear Cowboy Crush on the 4th of July on the beach by Camp Darby, Italy. It is cool that they are willing to play at a small venue for our troops over seas. Their song He's Comin Home will bring a tear to your eye. Have never enjoyed a concert as much as I did when they was playing. When they was ready to finish their show we was begging for more, they came back for two more songs. They sang The Star Spangled Banner and when they started playing The Devil Went Down To Georgia, what was left of the roof came off. These beautiful Ladies have big things ahead for them. GOD BLESS THEM
~ Wayne
Hearts in TEXAS but proudly serving RAF Fairford , United Kingdom
U.S. Air Force, AMMO

 

Love this band, lots better than the Chickie Dicks, since they went into political downturns, with the mouth of the South, Natalie.. will never buy their stuff again. Went to see them, Cowboy Cush, at a fund raiser in Phenix City, Alabama, on the river walk, the fiddle player is my favorite of them all, great entertainment, wonderful personalities and I hope that they keep turning out hits and floating great notes. We need great groups like this. Makes the day better, knowing they are making it.
~ MSG Rock

 

The first time we heard them was at Virginia Beach. They Rocked !! We can't stress how much we LOVED them!
When they played in our home town of Lynchburg Va. we couldn't wait to see them again. This time even better, Their songs have a lot of meaning and they play and sing so great it goes right through you! At one time my self esteem was very low. Their song "I Am Pretty" was my new song to live by.  The song "He's Coming Home" will bring tears to your eyes, and "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" was the BEST! My family loves them, including my 11 yr. old son, who has a crush on Darla Rae. Since the day she handed him a autographed drum stick and let me take a picture of her and my son together. I hope they go a long way, the have the looks, attitudes, and voices. Let's just say everything they need to go to the top! Keep up the good work ! We hope to hear you again soon!
~ Cathy and Tyler 

 

Oh yes I am familiar with them. The band is awesome and you can't help but tap your toe when you hear them. Compared to Dixie Chicks, wellllllll there is no comparison. These girls are so filled with life and it shows in everything they do. And yet, they manage to keep in touch with their families with a love that will last always.
Wish our local radio stations would fill our requests when we ask for Cowboy Crush to be played. I listen to a station in Tulsa, Oklahoma and I am so tired of hearing the very oldies. Today, believe it they played a Randy Travis from years ago. 
Thanks for listening to me, I do hope we hear more from those very talented young ladies in the future and thank you for such a wonderful article on them.
~ Marge G. - Claremore, Oklahoma

 

I had the opportunity to catch a Cowboy Crush show in Warren, Ohio a few months ago and have been very excited about this band since then. The beautiful and powerful voice of Trenna Barnes was just one thing that caught my attention. After the first few songs I immediately knew that reviews I had read previously about how well these ladies are in tune with their instruments were correct. The perfect harmonies were delightful and the musical chemistry these ladies have with one another on the stage stood out. The awesome fiddle playing by Renae' Truex adds a high energy touch to the show. These ladies love what they do and they do it well. If you get a chance, catch their show and see for yourself.....you wont be sorry. I'm sure there are nothing but big things to come for Cowboy Crush! Looking forward to the CD release! 
~ Mark E. - Akron, Ohio

 

The energy & talent that these girls have is absolutely unbelievable. You have to see them in person to even conceive it. They are such talented musicians with such wonderful harmony. Can't wait until the next show. Also, I'm looking forward to a CD with all of their music on it. Can't wait!
~ Dawn H. - Arizona

 

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