"When trouble lurks around the bend/
"You can always call your friend/
"He's strong, he's tough, he's fair, he's just, he's brave/
The man, the myth, the cartoon hero, Cowboy Dave is back, looking to turn any bar into a honky tonk and, of course, save the day.
Cowboy Dave is Dave Wilson, the frontman of FortyTwenty. He's introducing his new group, appropriately called The Cowboy Dave Band, Friday night at the Zoo Bar. The 9 p.m. show will showcase the new band and serve as a release party for "Saddle Up, Pal," a five-song EP.
Some of the songs on the EP, including "Cowboy Dave Theme Song" quoted above, were written and performed by FortyTwenty. But that band went on hiatus a few months ago.
"First off, we kind of got bored with ourselves," Wilson said. "Then Lern (Tilton) up and moved to California. … I just got the itch to travel and play music. I've been sitting at home every weekend this year. I'm ready to get out there."
So Wilson rounded up the songs he'd written and started making some phone calls: "My thought was to record these songs, put out an EP of as good of players I could talk into playing with me around here," he said. "So I called in some favors, spent a little money and used that as my starting block."
To make the record, Wilson recruited Steve "Fuzzy" Blazek on steel guitar, Charlie Johnson on upright bass, Tony Robertson on guitar, Tony Hillhouse on drums and, most important, producer Greg Kincheloe.
"He's literally a genius," Wilson said of Kincheloe. "He made that project. It was recorded in five different studios at different times. To make that sound cohesive and not like I went to Nashville and paid guys to break out some soulless solos, that's totally Kincheloe. I'm really proud of this EP. I think it's about as good a project as I could have turned out."
The songs on the EP are a bit harder country than FortyTwenty - a touch more honky-tonk with some swing thrown in for good measure. They hit classic country themes, especially the regret-filled "Baptist Church Blues."
Using the EP as his calling card, Wilson recruited some veteran players for his new band. They are "Guitar" George Laughery, Joe Lidgett on pedal steel, Mike Doran on doghouse bass and Shane Mason on the drums. And they're rarin' to go.
"We're trying to keep the energy up, make it a show," Wilson said. "They're going to play me on, play me off. We're going to do the whole western suit thing, dressed to the nines and play it up."
Friday night, look for The Cowboy Dave Band to work up some western swing and pull out some bluegrass-styled numbers pairing Wilson's fiddle with Laughery on banjo. And keep your ears peeled for a Judas Priest song done honky-tonk style.
Plans call for The Cowboy Dave Band to play within a one-state radius of Lincoln for the rest of 2009 and, with any luck, have an album of new material ready by the end of the year.
After Jan. 1, Wilson said, he figures his new band will take to the highway and head south to Texas and Oklahoma, where FortyTwenty had started to make a dent a couple years ago. Then marriage and kids cut down on trips south.
"We'd tasted just a little bit - to go to Texas and sell records and have people recognize you and sing the words to your original songs," Wilson said. "To bring it back and play more local shows was slightly depressing for all of us."
The drives to and from Texas will still be brutal; to truly be a hit on the Red Dirt circuit, a band probably has to be within four hours of the Red River, Wilson said. But he figured out a few things from the FortyTwenty experience.
"With FortyTwenty, we were all extremely green," he said. "We drove to Jackson Hole (Wyo.) to play with BR5-49 for, I think, nothing, and it was one show and back. That's a 14-hour drive. We'd usually break even on our trips, but we learned that Texas is a huge state. We always said if Kansas was just gone, we'd have done a lot better.
"This is what I was hoping to do, find some talented guys who believe in the vision and get excited about it. But I'm pretty sure they won't be rolling down to Houston for 50 bucks."