Brent Amaker And The Rodeo – Country Sky EP Review

It’s unlike Brent Amaker and the Rodeo to follow up a full length LP with another release so soon but the way the new tracks came together for the upcoming Country Sky EP, it was clear that the band had struck a distinct, more reflective chord from the tracks on Year of the Dragon released last year.

Portland-based producer Jeff Saltzman (known for his work with Stephen Malkmus, Dolorean, Death Cab for Cutie and Menomena), who has previously worked with the band on their Please Stand By album from 2010, returns to the fold to give the new batch of songs his magic touch.

While he was at it, he crafted a brand new version of the single Country Sky from Year of the Dragon which acts as a fitting thematic anchor for the rest of the songs on the new EP.

The Country Sky EP has been announced for a January 21 release date on Fin Records. The new EP strikes a more contemplative tone from Brent Amaker and the Rodeo’s previous work, matched by the epic artwork.  It’s apparent that after many years of touring, the band has arrived at a place where the music matches the reputation.

The Country Sky EP contains five tracks all of which ooze the essence of country rock and roll. The EP starts with the Country Sky alternate version which has a danceable walking bass line and guitar riff. It won’t fail to get your feet tapping even despite Amaker’s low almost unenthusiastic vocals.

Track two Tomorrow features vocals from Rachael Ferguson from the Seattle female locomotive punk band NighTraiN. This extra voice helps to uncover a much softer side to Brent Amaker and the Rodeo. The guitar riffs and drum beat produces a happy, bouncy feeling to the song while Ferguson’s vocals carry a very feminine quality throughout the song. There’s an amazing piano solo using jazz and country influences making it an interesting blend that works really well. It’s good to hear a piano solo instead of another guitar solo.

Josephine sees the acoustic rhythm guitar alongside Amaker’s deep vocals introduce a darker side to the EP. This song has less of an upbeat feel to it but the lyrics are captivating, “Josephine/Skin was soft like silk/Seduction was her power/Gave herself to men/Charged them by the hour.” It’s a song about a prostitute that a man falls madly in love with even though he knows it’s dangerous. It speaks of passion, lust and ultimately the thrill of danger.

Top Of The Food Chain sees Brent Amaker and the Rodeo return to their new found uplifting sound. This track is very country rock and roll inspired with slight hints of Johnny Cash being heard in the vocals and recording techniques used on the vocals.

Good To Be Home ends the new EP on a reflective note which suits the overall feeling of the record perfectly. It has that very 50s rock and roll introduction with the acoustic rhythm guitar and electric guitar using blues notes and scales. The lyrics, “Stop…And look around/Add up what I’ve got/Put my ear to the ground/This I must confess/Home is just the best/My mistress is the road and it’s good to be home” sum up the theme behind this song – it’s all about reflecting on what you have and not focusing on what you lack. It’s appreciating the home you have even if sometimes you’d prefer to be a million miles away. This song ends the EP with an uplifting message.

Country Sky EP will be released on January 21 on Fin Records.

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