November 19, 2018
Released In October 1971
Released By Capricorn Records
There comes an album once in a while that defies the time and space the music inhabits. An anachronism, a black sheep, or possibly a masterpiece, albums such as these flow in and out of shape and form, not always being heard in their private plot of the continuum.
In 1971, Scott Boyer, Tommy Talton, and company recorded 5’ll Getcha Ten under the moniker Cowboy, releasing it on the legendary independent southern rock label Capricorn (at the behest of Duane Allman). The songs therein baffle the musical expectations of the chronology and geography in which the band existed, taking country rock tropes and southern soul sensibilities well past the extent of their genres.
In the opening track “She Carries A Child,” a husband sings of being amazed by conception and compares it to the natural world and universe, while the band’s accompaniment whispers of the wise and surprising changes that fill the entire album thereafter. Piano, twelve-string guitars, pedal steel, and a rock-steady Muscle Shoals rhythm section solidify the notion that this is not a southern rock record or an Allman Brothers redux. Other songs like “Hey There Baby,” “Right On Friend“, and “Shoestrings” contain Wrecking Crew-esque rhythms, virtuosic tack-piano melodies, and quick cross-picked acoustic guitar arpeggios, along with strong blues-heavy vocals and harmony play that is the answer to the Capricorn question. These tunes are instant classics, but they are not what makes the record fly.
This band proves itself as one of the most interesting wielders of odd time signatured country grooves in a period of four-four, three-chord, rock and roll guitars en masse. The whole record alternates fluidly between measures of 4/4, 3/4, 6/8, 5/4, 11/8, and 7/4 (or however you want to count your beats), and they are all as odd as a fish riding a bicycle. Because of the proficiency of these musicians, the golden pedal-steel-infused vocal melodies, and playfulness of the lyrics (the words “5’ll Getcha Ten” speak directly to the weird signatures), you can’t even tell they are playing in other times. You forget what you know about music, quit counting, and just enjoy the songs for what they are.
“Seven Four Tune” is another song strange and confounding, but you still find yourself moving in ways unknown to its stark electric guitar licks and the shuffled skiffle groove married to the Tennessee border. To this day, I still can’t believe that the record was made in 1971. The Alabama soul leaking into southern rock touts a golden California country AM production, all the while making odd time signatures and angular changes sound soft and as colorful as a Gulf Coast sunset. Math country that sounds effortless, romantic, and heavily nostalgic.
The balladry of songs like “The Wonder,” “All My Friends,” and “Innocence Song” echo fading afternoons set in the jade and marigold of southern summers, reminiscent of Bread and America, and bridges the continental gap to the Eagles. The Capricorn connection on the album culminates with the familiar slide guitar work of Duane Allman on the heartbreaker “Please Be With Me.” I first heard this song after Scott Boyer’s passing earlier this year in February. I was playing in Greenhill, Alabama before the news came, and my friend Cathe posted a lyric video of this song online in memorial.
The cosmos smiled as kindly as these songs did, and I soon fell in love with the album and began to speak of it to others. I found that my studio partner, tour mate, and pal Shonna Tucker had long since listened to this album, being a native north Alabaman. She told me she once shared a living space with this fellow and was witness to his creative windings and meanderings. Last week, in Missoula, MT, the owner of Ear Candy Music and I spoke volumes over drinks and rainy hours about 5’ll Getcha Ten as a hidden treasure in our collections. The next day, he pulled an ancient first pressing out of a record bin, like a sword from a stone, and gifted it to me because he was surprised, as was I, that someone else had heard such a special piece of work.
Within 5’ll Getcha Ten and the romantic sheen of those who speak of it, you can hear a yearning to understand one’s place in the world, in love, and just how small the geography of our lives is. Cowboy created an album that transcended its moment, location, genre, and the expectations of its peers, while being out of time, out of this world, and out of the South, and into the great pantheon of American music.
A treasured thesis of southern rock that uncovers the beautiful soul that lies between the willful intersection of country & folk.
What a time to be alive! OK, so I admit it’s actually a terrible time in many, many ways, but I count as a blessing that we get to witness a truly fascinating battle in the never-ending campaign for the soul of country music. Strange alliances have formed. Artists who lean left politically have taken up the mantle of traditionalism in reaction to the dogged awfulness of the Nashville machine’s output, as if good country music were a reserve of magma that had to find its way to the surface somehow. I wonder if this is how it felt in the waning days of the tumultuous 1960s, when Gram Parsons was swinging a hammer at the wall between rock and country. Of course it wasn’t just Parsons, but a whole wave of cross-pollinators bringing together ideas from across the musical spectrum (Parsons called it “Cosmic American music”) to create something new and necessary for the moment, and you can hear several of those ideas clearly and distinctly on Cowboy’s 5’ll Getcha Ten album. You hear the pleading sincerity of folk in “The Wonder,” not to mention vocal harmonies that call to mind the best work of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. You hear slow, bending pedal steel work in the title track, giving a voice to the heat-induced lethargy Cowboy founders Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton would have known well as Floridians. And you hear the blues in “Please Be With Me” courtesy of Duane Allman’s guest spot on dobro. This is country rock through and through, but it’s also illustrative of one of my favorite middle school science lessons: the difference between homogeneous and heterogeneous mixtures. In a homogeneous mixture, also known as a solution, components lose their individual characteristics; in a heterogeneous one, they retain them. Parsons felt his music represented the latter, hence the looser “Cosmic American music” classification. While I don’t know how Cowboy felt about genres, 5’ll Getcha Ten — with its variety from track to track — sounds to me like a fulfillment of Parsons’ ideal.
Color me completely unsurprised that John Calvin Abney’s guest pick for today would end up sounding as carefree, refreshing, and purely fun as it does. If you read what myself or any of the other fine folk of Team OYR had to say about Far Cries And Close Calls (Issue #116) — or better yet, if you just listen to it yourself — Abney’s own music exudes qualities just the same so it makes all the sense in the world that he has a soft spot for the sounds of Cowboy. While these guest issues aren’t meant to be comparative, it’s hard not to at least notice the similar vibes and styles at play between Abney and Cowboy, even if, at least where the former’s 2016 record is concerned, there’s more tonal jaggedness and grit thanks to the inclusion of some garage style distortion. But comparison’s or not, the enjoyment available from 5’ll Getcha Ten remains free for the indulging irrespective of anyone else. The album is about as “down home folk rock” as a record can be. The music coasts by with tempos that elicit thoughts swinging between comfortable strolls (“Hey There Baby,” “Right On Friend“), sprightly jogs (“Shoestrings“), and laid back drinking with a close loved one (“Please Be With Me,” “The Wonder“). Classic hallmarks of timeless folk rock writing flood 5’ll Getcha Ten — from Dobro, to the pristine plucks of 12 string guitar, to tambourine, to honky tonk style piano, and that subtle but unwavering rim shot (the thing giving many a folk rock tune their necessary rhythmic markers without raining down percussive intensity on the rest of the light and easy going melodies happening around them). There are times when iconic names feel dropped through a style of instrument sound or a moment of performance — especially the kind of straightforwardly melodic but softly edged finger style of one Mr. James Taylor that seems at least partially channeled here on tracks like “Innocence Song.” In contrast of course, with all the familiar elements at play, it’s delightfully shocking to see something like a 7/4 composition smack in the middle of the album. The “almost never seen outside of genres with the word progressive in them” time signature doesn’t guarantee a cacophony of note flourishes of intricate drum soloing and Cowboy doesn’t do any of that here either. Nevertheless, seeing as this isn’t a new album from the up-and-coming folk folks like Punch Brothers, Infamous Stringdusters, Mandolin Orange, I’m With Her, and more, who have been turning the genre on its stereotypical heels over the last 10 years, “Seven Four Tune” does garner a raised eyebrow for the best of reasons. Just listing off what’s in store for someone who might choose to listen to 5’ll Getcha Ten appears like a lazy route to take. Still, that’s honestly how it was for me as the album played through. I just kept noting each signature ingredient and getting all the more excited because the album just encompasses everything one could love and want to hear in a collection of good ’70s folk (rock), except you get it all together in one place and you get it in a way neither obsessed with ticking boxes (because how could Cowboy know what boxes to tick, It was only the second year of the decade), nor thrown together haphazardly in an effort to carelessly experiment under the guise of a folk rock foundation. 5’ll Getcha Ten is like a sonic buffet of everything that makes the decade’s folk rock appealing and its a perfect fix in place of making a giant playlist to fill all your cravings simultaneously.
For roughly the past month, I’ve had quite a bit going on. It’s been good, it’s been bad, and it has been one of the most heartbreaking times I have gone through. I’ve been closed off, unmotivated, lost, and I guess that’s what heartbreak is, but I have never felt it this way or in this capacity I suppose and it has been hard, and will continue to be difficult. Sometimes though, all I need to hear is a line from a song or just that right mix of chords from a guitar to know that I will be okay, that everyone else has felt this in some way and that I am not alone. The second line of the opening track “She Carries A Child” literally says “let others know just how we feel” and as soon as I heard that, I knew this album is something I needed right now. Something about music from the ’70s (or most of the stuff that I have ever listened to) always finds a way to uplift me, to make me feel that however things end up working out, they will be okay. Like I said, something about the right notes that guitar plays just finds a way to pluck at my heartstrings (pun intended) and it is exactly what I need to make me just sit back, reflect, and relax. Music has always been a way for me to escape, but also a way to deal with how I’m feeling and this album has been great because good music always makes me happy, no matter what other feelings may be underlying. “Right On Friend” is one of my favourite tracks for that reason — it has a great folky/blues-y sound to it and the lyrics, to me, talk about moving forward and not letting yourself down, and that’s something I needed to hear, and also something everyone should remind themselves of once in a while. I’m very happy this album found its way into my life, and into my Spotify library.
Given that winter finally hit here in Milwaukee this past week, 5’ll Getcha Ten was a pleasant ray of warm sunshine. Lovely harmonies, catchy melodies, tight performances, and smart songwriting all helped melt the first couple snowfalls (ugh). This was an easy record to enjoy for sure. What really caught my attention, though, were the big connections both 5’ll and Cowboy have, given their relative obscurity in pop culture. You can have some real fun playing “Six Degrees of Separation” with either one. I know because I tried. For example, you can get from “Please Be With Me” to Diddy in only five moves: “Please” was covered by Eric Clapton, who was a member of the Yardbirds, which also had Jimmy Page, who played for Led Zeppelin, who was interpolated by Diddy for “Come With Me” from the Godzilla soundtrack. Even just single-degree connections are impressive: Duane Allman played on 5’ll, and his brother Gregg covered “All My Friends” a couple years later. Cowboy was even the latter’s backing band at one point. And the band has at least one modern connection, too. Jason Isbell, formerly of Drive-By Truckers, was a fan and mourned the death of Scott Boyer by saying that he “wrote beautiful songs, and he was a damn good singer.” I have to concur on both counts, and Cowboy’s other vocalists ain’t bad either. Then again, I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that a diamond in the rough with such deep connections has a deep bench of singers, as well.
Cowboy helped set the standard for timeless soft rock, harvesting southern rock, country, folk, Americana, & blues into one glistening package.
Smoke thickened in our throats, trapped by the glass garage doors of the whatever bar that’s become our occasional after-work spot. Washing down work banter intermingled with childhood stories not yet fully explored, I stood talking with my husband and my work friend. Slowly, story after story, we’re peeling back the “work” in front of “friend” as we all delve deeper and deeper into what makes us the people laughing in that bar, and naturally we’ve turned to music. In talking about our formative albums, he says he never got into Fleetwood Mac, one of mine, citing just a general distance from the sound. Listening to Cowboy’s 5’ll Getcha Ten, I’m thinking back on him and his experience, wondering if this wouldn’t be the perfect gateway drug into a world of sound pretty away from the Rob Zombie and Nirvana universe he lived as a teenager. The self-aware, cheap veneer of modern country is absent, but so is the radio death so many great classic rock songs suffered at the hands of commercials and grocery store playlists. Cowboy’s Big Sky Country quietness, their pared down humility, anchors modern indie folk in a recognizable but pure form that would lure in even the wary would-be listener. This is a soundtrack for the after hours, once the laughter and stumbling has subsided, once almost everyone else is asleep around the living room, for the few left to softly reminisce about the night just had and every night before.
Laura Burroughs (@_thetwors)
Jestful Musical Erudite
What I thought I knew of Cowboy started with a bootleg acquired from my favorite Singaporean site. It was a recording of the night in April 1974 that the Gregg Allman Tour rolled into Boston and played a show at the Music Hall. I was always curious about that tour, which was commemorated with a double live album from the show at Carnegie Hall, a record I used to see in the bins for cheap but rejected because it had kind of a bad rap. But the bootleg was free and, in those pre-streaming days, was an easy way to check out what brother Gregg was up to when he went on the road after Laid Back, his first solo album. I downloaded it, synced it up, pressed play and was blown away. The band was cooking, the strings and horns were lush, and Allman was great in voice, showing off more versatility than his work with the Allman Brothers had led me to expect. He also ran through a gamut of southern soul and New Orleans R&B, demonstrating an encyclopedic knowledge of great American Music. But halfway through the first disc, old Gregg took a break (picture a backstage scene in 1974 — lots of drugs and drink, lots of hair) and there were several uneasy songs by Cowboy, members of which also comprised the backing band on Laid Back and the tour. One listen and I deleted the tracks so I could enjoy Allman’s majesty uninterrupted. I did the same thing when I bought the official album a week or so later. I still have both on my iPod, but Cowboy was forgotten. But then that wise man John Calvin Abney, whose Far Cries And Close Calls we reviewed back in issue #116, graced us with a guest suggestion and I was again confronted with Cowboy. And, lo, it came to pass that 5’ll Getcha Ten turned out to be a damned good record, right in that early ’70s sweet spot where country, soul, and folk (could it be, gasp, soft rock?) meet on the back porch under a Florida moon. Main men Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton are the big news here, both with sweet voices and abilities to quietly dazzle on any instrument with strings. You also get some bonus Duane Allman, for they were his favorite band, in the form of a sharp guitar solo on “Lookin’ For You” and some nice dobro on “Please Be With Me,” which was later covered by Eric Clapton at his soft rock peak. Another guest is Chuck Leavell, the Muscle Shoals keyboard whiz who helped save the Allman Brothers in the wake of Duane’s death, that is always a very good thing. (One of my favorite moments on the Gregg Allman Tour bootleg is after a particularly hot solo from Chuck, Gregg just says “Sea Level, baby!”) 5’ll Getcha Ten also has two songs not by Boyer or Talton and they demonstrate the bad and good side of collectivism. Pianist Bill Pillmore’s “Seven Four Tune” isn’t the worst song, but it might have fared better if he hadn’t sung it in his amateurish voice. But then you get the last track, “What I Want Is You,” written by Peter Kowalke, a lush and gorgeous ballad featuring great harmony singing by him and the other Cowboys. Pure, starlit magic and so many guitars. Kowalke is definitely a lost hero and I’m glad I made his acquaintance on this fine record. I still prefer my Gregg Allman uncut, but at least know I know what he (and his brother) saw in Cowboy.
When I was a kid, just starting to discover and care about music, I used to go rummage through my dad’s record collection. He didn’t have anywhere near the amount of records I had when I was at the height of my collecting boom, but he had a fair few, and most of them dated back to the late ’60s and early ’70s, the time when he’d been really invested in music. Perhaps not coincidentally, his record-buying seems to have trailed off around the time I was born in 1976. Anyway, when I was ten years old or thereabouts, I had moved on from the top 40 music that was my childhood obsession to a burgeoning interest in classic rock. So a lot of my dad’s records interested me on that basis. However, alongside records I knew very well and wanted to spirit away to the turntable in my room on a relatively regular basis (The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Steve Miller Band) were quite a few albums and groups I’d never heard of. Some of these unknowns turned out to be stuff I’d end up loving and eventually spiriting away on a permanent basis when I moved out of my parents’ house (Free and Buffalo Springfield are the most obvious examples here). Some of them fell flat for me (Sopwith Camel, McKendree-Spring). And then there were a few titles that I still remember clear as day, but never bothered to actually play. A self-titled album by “blues violinist” Papa John Creach, who was apparently in Jefferson Airplane for a while, was one of these. And Cowboy’s debut album, Reach For The Sky, was another. I was amazed that this album was by the same band — I kind of figured I’d never run across that group anywhere outside my dad’s boxes of dusty albums from before I was born. But it turns out it’s the same group, a Florida band who were strongly associated with the early Allman Brothers Band and their Southern-rock label, Capricorn. Duane Allman even lends some dobro playing to “Please Be With Me,” apparently this group’s best-known song although I’ve never heard it or any of their others. That song and the rest of the dozen included here have a unified sound that reminds me of other groups that were also in my dad’s early-’70s record collection. Poco and The Flying Burrito Brothers come immediately to mind — I can imagine that fans of Gram Parsons and the whole West Coast country-rock thing from the dawn of the ’70s will find a lot to like in what Cowboy is doing on this album. My dad’s worn-out cassette copy of Workingman’s Dead might relate a little bit here too; while the Grateful Dead are primarily remembered for their lysergic live excursions, they had a brief studio renaissance at the end of the ’60s that brought the folk roots and old-time harmonies of their acoustic material to the fore. And sure, there are some Southern rock touches here, though not nearly as much as you might expect due to the Duane Allman/Capricorn Records connection. Mostly, this is an album you should put on when you want to sit out on the porch with a glass of iced tea on a hot afternoon. Not really appropriate for late November, but keep this one around — by late July, it’ll sound perfect.
Despite its candid message and sound, this is wildly progressive music unheard of for soft rock at the time, or even popular rock today.
I don’t know, I wasn’t there. I mean, I was somewhere. I had at least been born and somewhere I was listening to small town radio that an adult with more sense than I had left on. “It could’a been the whiskey. Might have been the gin. Could have been the 3? 4? 6 pack? I dunno. Look at the mess I’m in.” The first album I can remember was K-Tel’s Full Tilt. I actually found it years after its release, but at the time all of the hits contained on this compilation were the songs that got frequent radio play. It gets even more strange. If you look it up on YouTube you find a version of same record which had an entirely different roster than the Canadian version with which I became accustomed. Mine contained The Powder Blues Band’s “Doin’ It Right On The Wrong Side Of Town” and The Rovers’ “Wasn’t That A Party!” It also included bizarre hits such as “Turning Japanese” by the The Vapours. But the country rock or southern rock stood out in particular. It was new and fresh to me. What has any of this got to do with Cowboy’s 1979 southern rock record, 5’ll Getcha Ten? There’s a very similar down-home, basement jam appeal to the low-energy twang of “Oh, wasn’t that a party?” and the meandering sincerity of 5’ll Getcha 10. I missed out entirely on this album the first time around but listening to it end to end inspires a similar appreciation for the immaculate production, the pop of the snares between lengthy rests and slide guitars. These songs were thoughtful but simple, easy and accessible melodies. Listening to it now makes me wonder why I haven’t heard it before and why it isn’t held up and revered to the same extent as Arlo Guthrie or Alabama. This is one smooth record, flawlessly played and the songs are as beautifully melodic and sincere as one could hope from six southern-born honest farm boys. I played the hell out of Full Tilt when I got my hands on a copy of it and I’ll play the hell out of 5’ll Getcha 10 now. Now that we live in an era where the internet functions with all the unpredictable accessibility of a K-Tel compilation. I may need to take another look at the ’70s.
I wonder what people thought of this record when it was released back in 1971? I wonder what my dad and uncle thought? Boom! Topic number one for a Thanksgiving dinner sociopolitical/religious/race-bating bail out. Trump to southern rock should be an easy enough transition, right? I wonder because my dad is a huge Neil Young fan, and my uncle is an equally huge Allman Brothers fan. About ninety seconds into “The Wonder,” I thought “ok, this sounds like 1971; it’s like Neil Young with better harmonies; it’s like Neil Young with Allman Brothers harmonies.” Did people think the same thing almost fifty years ago? I’ll find out Thursday once dinner gets weird. I really enjoyed the closer, “What I Want Is You.” On my first listen, I thought it was completely an instrumental record. It was only on my second listen that I realized that, no, Cowboy are singing on the first half of the track — it’s just so seamless that their voices sound like an instrument! On another note, I’d just like to say how thankful I am to Doug, my fellow OYR contributors, and you, the readers for giving me a platform to express myself every week. I enjoy writing nearly as much as I do creating music, and OYR allows me to work out those creative muscles that might otherwise go neglected. Thank you. All the best to you and yours.
This album was refreshing and lovely to listen to every single time I listened to it. It is somehow simultaneously driving and also breezy. We’re definitely on the road to somewhere, but there’s no set destination. I love that tension. The vocals kept reminding me of a hybrid of Paul Simon and CSNY, which I suppose makes sense for the time period, and which felt really lovely and appropriate for the music that accompanied it. What strikes me most about this music, though, contrary to the very specific time period I just claimed it evoked for me, is that it sounds completely timeless. The blend of mellow and also virtuosic instrumentalism is something that Fleet Foxes have been seeking to various levels of success since their very first album: capturing the sound of the sun going down before you’re down reveling in nature with your friends. All of that is here, expertly executed and endlessly listenable.
Once upon a time, I was a staunch Clapton disciple, getting hooked on his interpretations of blues standards through The Yardbirds or The Bluesbreakers, and being amazed about the expansive musicality of his solo discography. I marveled over Cream, wondered how Blind Faith stopped with only one album under their belt, and came to know dozens of talented musicians through the Bramlett couple. (If I dug deep enough, I’m sure some of the Cowboy band members would show up in the credits of one or two Delaney & Friends records.) Above it all though, Layla stood tall to me, as perhaps the best blues rock album ever made delivered by the best collaboration in rock history. I might not consider myself a Clapton disciple today, but I’ll still extol the greatness of Layla to anyone who will listen. With all this known, the music of Cowboy was obviously familiar to me, though not because of “Please Be With Me,” a gentle song tucked away in the back-half of 5’ll Getcha Ten that Clapton also covered for his second (and rightful debut) solo record, 461 Ocean Boulevard. I admit I was a little embarrassed to not remember that song, but when looking at the tracklisting from 461, I could see exactly why — it’s sandwiched between two of my absolute favorite tracks on the record, the straight-forward blues swagger “I Can’t Hold Out” and the emotively swirling “Let It Grow.” I remember “Please Be With Me” in this context, but more as a cooldown period between two top-notch tracks, and unfortunately not for its own individual merits, which are actually quite remarkable away from 461‘s sequencing. So if not this to tie in my Clapton love, where does the familiarity come in? Well, we go back to the monolith that is Layla, a record that also featured Duane Allman who guested on 5’11 Getcha Ten. But it’s not Duane’s contributions here that solidify the familiarity I feel — or even Clapton for that matter. It’s musician Bobby Whitlock and his tender album closing composition “Thorn Tree In The Garden,” a song that sublimely follows the lush outro of the album’s legendary title track. “Thorn Tree” is a lovely song, one that’s also designed as a cooldown for the blistering record, but in closing the record instead of popping up in the middle like “Please Be With Me,” its impact doesn’t get washed away by other songs or moments, instead letting your cathartic high come down gently as the music winds to a close. 5’ll Getcha Ten is complimentary in this regard, a perfect record to follow-up on Whitlock’s ballad, as well as other softer elements from Layla like Jim Gordon’s iconic piano work on the title track and the titular melody from Clapton’s serene “I Am Yours.” I know I’ve spent more time here talking about Layla and Clapton than 5’ll Getcha Ten, but just know that in my language, to positively compare something to a personally defining record is one of the highest honors I could give. For reference sake, not only is this album a solid bedrock of my top 10 albums list, but it’s also the only album I have hanging in my house – in my dining room above my vinyl player and speakers. Layla is sacred to me, and in a way, 5’ll Getcha Ten feels the same, being able to beautifully expand upon Layla’s tender sentiments in an angelic and intimate manner. There’s not many albums I actively seek out after listening to a top 10 record of mine, but rest assured that next time I want to worship at the altar of Layla, I’ll be armed with Cowboy so I can explore its closing sentiments with better clarity, and find just as much inventive musicianship, though ones that excite and inspire on an exquisitely subtle layer as opposed to the brash guitar battles of Slowhand and Skydog.
Wilt All Rosy by Sayde Price
Chosen By SJ Lebowski