Venture South (Vinyl)
Venture South (Vinyl)
Venture South, the debut full-length album from Cowboy Dave Wilson, paints a 10-song picture of the American West — from 19th-century cowboy tales to the plight of the modern day working man. While hard-swingin’ honky-tonk is a descriptor many country artists might shy away from in the current music landscape, Cowboy Dave embraces the term with an exclamation mark. With the backing of Grammy-winning producer John Macy and an all-star cast of musicians, this new album is a triumphant culmination of over a decade spent honing chops in country dancehalls across the country.
These are songs that perfectly capture the ruggedness, honesty and sense of adventure associated with western folklore. Wilson’s soulful voice infuses each track with an authentic country vibe, while his clever lyrics bring a fresh twist to traditional sounds. Telecaster, fiddle and pedal steel further elevate the melodies, alongside a dash of trumpet for good measure. Whether it’s the dust-kicking dancehall anthems like “287” or “This Kind of Living,” or an understated ballad like “Sandhill Girl” or “Whiskey Tonight,” Venture South shows Wilson’s range and isn’t short on spirit.
Much of the inspiration for the record stemmed from a revisited comment by cowboy author and artist Will James (1892-1942), who noted, “a cowboy is a man with guts and a horse.” In fact, this directly inspired the track “Guts and a Horse,” featuring trumpetist Gabriel Mervine – a tune which feels like it could fit right in on Marty Robbins’ Gun Fighter Ballads and Trail Songs.
“If there was a theme to this album, it would be ‘Tales of the American West,'” Wilson notes. “I greatly identify with the Bakersfield Sound – Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Wynn Stewart, among others.” Wilson wears this influence proudly in his output, while also pointing to a love of Texas Swing as a source of inspiration.
Recorded over a handful of sessions between Colorado and Texas, Venture South’s studio musicians came from rich backgrounds in the aforementioned influences. Macy hand-picked a group of legendary players associated with both the Bakersfield and Texas sounds, which – coupled with his top-notch touring band out of Colorado – brought Wilson’s vision for the project into focus. The initial Colorado session — later dubbed the “Bakersfield session” — included Jay Dee Maness (The Byrds, Buck Owens, Gram Parsons, Ray Parice) on pedal steel, Eugene Moles (Merle Haggard) on telecaster, and Jim Christie (Merle Haggard, Dwight Yoakam) on drums. The Texas session wasn’t short on legendary names, either, featuring Tommy Detamore (Johnny Bush, Moe Bandy, Robert Earl Keen, Ray Price) on pedal steel and Hank Singer (Alan Jackson, George Jones, Ray Price) on fiddle. With the added talent of Colorado-based Zach Boddicker (telecaster), Scott Johnson (upright bass) and Andy Sweetser (drums), the result is an all-star affair of country and western music in its purest form.
A native of Nebraska, Wilson spent the better part of seven years (2002-2009) touring much of the midwest and south with country outfit FortyTwenty, which saw an album reach the No. 12 spot on XM Satellite Radio’s X-Country chart and earned an invitation to Nashville to record songs for CMT’s “New Voices, No Cover” series. When the band took an extended hiatus in 2009, Wilson relocated to Colorado, setting off on his own and recording the first Cowboy Dave EP, Saddle Up, Pal, followed by 2014’s Driven Man.
Touring in support of their output, the Cowboy Dave Band has spent much of its time in Texas. The state has become a regular stop for the group, including shows at the historic Gruene Hall, Floore’s Country Store, as well as legendary Austin watering hole the Continental Club.
Venture South is an album that pays homage to the vistas of the west as well as the history of the country music genre, melding Wilson’s heartfelt songwriting and storytelling with top-notch musicianship for a truly memorable listening experience. It’s an album made for nights spent in a dimly-lit, smoky barroom just as much as it is for those who long for the wide open spaces and freedom found in life on the trail — so saddle up and head out.