If Fort Worth can claim a reputation as a music town, it’s likely that, at least to those outside the city limits, it’s mostly seen as a country music town. Provided the confining association is a fair one (it’s not), it’s never been of much use to Convoy & The Cattlemen. Though the music the rowdy six-piece plays is certainly country, they’re as ill-fitting among the tight black t-shirt and embroidered jeans-attired Red Dirt crowd for which the city is often known as a Pat Green-type would be if he somehow wandered into sharing a bill with a Japanese anarcho-hardcore band.
Because Convoy is made up of an odd assortment of punks, metalheads, and hard-rockers, and because the ethos of those genres undoubtedly informs their approach, they can often illicit a dance of question marks over the heads of unsuspecting boot-scooters who happen upon their sets. Though all the requisite instrumentation is there — guitar, fiddle, pedal steel — their unique take on hopped-up honky-tonk and wildfire Western swing isn’t intended for the glitzy teased-hair and square-toed boot set. Theirs is a sound best consumed in rambunctious smoke-filled dives rather than the polished floor of a country music revue.
For more than 10 years, Convoy & The Cattlemen have been one of the best live bands of any style playing around town. Unfortunately, in that time, a lone LP (2014’s Convoy Cabriolet) and “Division Dive,” a seven-inch released last year, serve as the only recorded documents of the sextet’s whisky-fuelled ferocity. This weekend, that changes when the Cattlemen unleash Too Fast Too Loud, their long-awaited second album. To deliver the record, said Cattlemen’s guitarist Joel “Toker Ace” Adamson, who engineered the project, was an arduous three-year process.
“Man, if there were, like, even three people in the world who weren’t in the band that were like, ‘Hey, can’t wait to hear that new record,’ I would have finished it in like a day,” Adamson said of the process. “But when you’re kind of a weird, under-the-radar country band that’s as obscure as us, you can just say ‘Fuck it’ and take forever.”
Too Fast Too Loud is worth the wait. From the caffeinated opening dobro slide of “Cattle Rag Blues” to the climactic vaudevillian turnaround that caps the pseudo-title track, “Too Fast Too Loud Too Bad,” which closes the album, drummer Chris “Leche” Acosta (The Ju-Ju Beans), Adamson (Tolar, Baby Shaker), fiddle player Sheridan “Tandy Hyde” Silver (Cruella), pedal-steel ripper Alex Johnson (House Harkonnen, Mountain of Smoke), and double-bassist Brett Walker (Walker & The Texas Dangers) back singer/guitarist Tyler “Convoy Cabriolet” Morrison’s amphetamine-driven truck-driver holler with their patented head-spinning virtuosity. The nine songs alternate between blistering electrified bluegrass, jazz-tinged swing, and up-tempo ’60s-style country pop all delivered with the band’s signature punk-inspired zeal. As advertised, the record is mixed so hot that Walker’s thumping bass threatens to bounce the needle out of the groove. It’s exactly this aesthetic that keeps the “traditional” country crowd at bay but also infuses Convoy & The Cattlemen with an authenticity that that same crowd likely rarely gets to see. Convoy is no contrived punk band cosplaying at being Hank III. They mean it.
Adamson credits Morrison for this. “It’s definitely 100 percent from Tyler,” he said. “When we first started the band, we were like, ‘Haha, this will be a fun way to drink for free,’ and we all kind of made characters. But the longer the band goes on, I realize that Tyler didn’t make a character. He just finally found an outlet to be what he was meant to be all along.”
Though Adamson’s nimble chicken-pickin’ runs, Silver’s frenetic fiddle fills, and Johnson’s hypnotizing pedal steel acrobatics are a sight (and sound) to behold, Morrison’s natural showmanship is what grounds the Cattlemen’s country-fried cacophony.
The Peggy Sues won’t get it, but as Morrison sings on the album’s closer, “Too Fast? Too Loud? Man, too bad / If you can’t waltz to this, just waltz on out.”
Convoy & The Cattlemen album release show
8pm Sat w/Two Ton Folk, The Rye Boys, and Mo Robison at Lola’s Saloon, 2736 W 6th St, FW. $10. 817-877-0666.