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Ron Keel - Metal Cowboys (Reissue) Award winner

Ron Keel
Metal Cowboy (Reissue)
by Tarryn Campbell at 21 May 2018, 6:51 AM

The EMP Label Group has recently announced the formation of EMP Outlaw, a special Southern Rock/Outlaw Country imprint whose flagship artist and poster child is none other than the RON KEEL BAND. As such, RON KEEL's solo album “Metal Cowboy” which established a definitive musical direction for both the band and its creative driving force in addition to setting the stage for their overall sound and image, was reissued earlier this year courtesy of EMP Outlaw. The original independent release in 2014 was the first album of his career completely written by Ron Keel (legendary STEELER/KEEL vocalist and musician) himself. The 2018 reissue includes 13 rockin' tracks – remixed, remastered, and reloaded for your listening pleasure!

Given that I was unfamiliar with its predecessor, I had no real expectations from the reissue – other than the obligatory “okay it's RON KEEL, it must be good” of course. Evidently, my assumption proved extremely true. First I'd like to just say yes, this really does sound like southern rock, country, and heavy metal all rolled into one. You're treated to a taste of just about everything here and yet it's so unbelievably cohesive. I cannot even begin to explain how or why… it just is! Furthermore, I can honestly say there's not a single track on this album that I dislike or that I feel is “weak” – solid and consistent sound, through and through.

The first track “My Bad” demonstrates the sound of which I speak to a T. It's a strong opener for sure, and gives the listener a general idea of what to expect from the album but without giving away all of its secrets. Between the instrumental work and vocals, you're told you can expect that classic metal sound we all know and love but still, that's not all you're getting. If you were to ask me what I like most about this song in particular, I'd have to say lyrical content… the thoughts and feelings of a man whose sins have brought on the apocalypse by way of the four horseman (or at least he believes it was his doing). Interestingly enough, “My Bad” was placed third on the original release. It was a good choice to change up the order, at least in my opinion.

Another track that deserves its own mention would be “Just Like Tennessee” which I've dubbed the half country/half hair metal ballad. It reminds me of all the 80's metal bands I grew up listening to but there's definitely something different about it. Ron Keel's voice wormed its way right into my head – I swear I saw an old country road! – while that moody guitar brought it all together with practiced perfection. Directly after follows what I believe to be – and it was not an easy choice mind you, considering there are thirteen to choose from – the best song on the album: “Dead Man Rockin'” This tune was not featured on the 2014 release though it's a most welcome addition to say the least. Listening to it made me feel like I actually got to know the man who wrote it, like Ron Keel shared his heart and soul with us. The lyrics really spoke to me, these lines in particular: “Old Rockers Just Die We Never Retire. ” “If I'm Already Dead I'll Never Grow Old. ” “Dying Inside and Everybody Wants Another Piece of Me. ” Hauntingly powerful.

Speaking of powerful, let's talk “Singers, Hookers & Thieves” which features Paul Shortino, thus showcasing not one but two incredibly talented vocalists. In comparison to much of the album, this one is more country without a doubt. Nonetheless, I'm certain a lot of you metalheads out there will appreciate it as I do …Just as I'm certain we can all appreciate the cover song “Evil Wicked Mean & Nasty” originally performed and recorded by KEEL which appears on their 1989 release “Better Than Live”. I certainly enjoy the sentiment of returning to one's roots and remembering where you started while ensuring to add all that you've learned along the way.

On the note of mixing it up, track 12 “Three Chord Drinkin' Song” does just that: good old fashioned fun and easy listening, makes you want to have a drink (perhaps a few) like it says on the tin and well… sing along. I especially love that this live in studio recording is what made it onto the album – apt considering the subject matter yet it doesn't sound messy, just sounds raw and real. Then to close, you've got the radio version of “My Bad” which was actually a bonus track for the original release of “Metal Cowboy”. I suppose my one criticism of the reissue would be that I'd prefer if the ordering were different towards the end, allowing another song to have been placed last but that's really splitting hairs at this point.

Overall, I have very little to say outside of strict praise and with good reason. Admittedly, this album might not be for everyone particularly those who are unwilling to step out of their comfort zone, although I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to hear something new and quite frankly bold from someone who helped shape what metal music is today.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. My Bad
2. The Last Ride
3. Just Like Tennessee
4. Dead Man Rockin'
5. What Would Skynyrd Do?
6. Singers, Hookers & Thieves
7. Wild Forever
8. The Cowboy Road
9. When Love Goes Down
10. Evil Wicked Mean & Nasty
11. Long Gone Bad
12. Three Chord Drinkin' Song (Live in Studio)
13. My Bad (Radio Version)
Ron Keel – Lead Vocals, Guitar
DC Cothern – Lead Guitar, Vocals
El Diablo – Bass, Vocals
The Rev – Drums, Vocals
Dakota Scott – Keyboards, Vocals
Record Label: EMP Label Group


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