2014 brings to fans Ron Keel‘s new release Metal Cowboy. Much has been said about Ron Keel over the years, from his early days with Steeler, to the big 80’s era of KEEL, and even his country stint; a self-described “return to roots” for Ron.
Here I am going to focus on the CD rather than all the back story. If you’d like the whole story though, Ron has a book that is to be released this month, an autobiography entitled Even Keel; Life On The Streets Of Rock N’ Roll. This would be the ideal place to get the facts about the career of Ron Keel if you are so inclined.
It is commonly known, in general, metal and country do not mix well. Metal heads typically have quite a bit of disdain for country music and vice versa. That is not to say there is anything wrong with country. In fact, some of the best guitar players out there are country musicians. I am under the impression that a lot of the issues stem from the fact many popular country musicians do not write their own songs. That assumption and the general lack of originality in a lot of country music leads to many writing off the entire genre without giving it a chance. This is always a bad idea.
In this case, Ron Keel did in fact write all of the music on this album. In addition to writing, Keel also performed all the vocals, a bulk of the guitar work, both electric and acoustic, as well as playing bass and various other instruments. Definitely a talented guy here! There are also a slew of guest musicians from many prominent bands.
The album features drummer Mike Vanderhule (Y&T), Guitarist Frank Hannon (Tesla), and bassist Gene Arco (Keel). Special guests include Ronnie Mancuso (Jake E. Lee’s Red Dragon Cartel, Beggars & Thieves), Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt, King Cobra), and Brent Muscat (Faster Pussycat, Sin City Sinners). There is no shortage of talent here.
Now, what about the music???
You can definitely hear the country. Ron’s country styled vocal delivery certainly stands out. Listening to the album, I’m reminded a bit of David Coe, who has collaborated with Dimebag Darrell Abbott (Pantera, Damage Plan) and Vinnie Paul Abbott (Pantera, Damage Plan, Hell Yeah) on the Rebel Meets Rebel CD. There is a certain down and dirty aspect to much of the lyrics. They deal with issues well suited for both rock and country songs.
The album opens with the song Long Gone Bad. This is a high energy rocking song with loud guitars, drums, and killer solos. That on its own sounds very rock and roll. The slide and acoustic guitars combined with the vocals gives it the country feel. But, Ron has found a way to mesh it well together and this song is a good example of a majority of the album.
The songs are full of cool guitar parts, hooks, and licks, along with a lot of solo work. Catchy, sing-along choruses with an overall positive feel to them are predominant. Tunes such as What would Skynyrd do? are purely country. Others are more rock than country. Evil Wicked Mean and Nasty is one of the more rocking tunes, with a cool groove and much more heavy playing as well as singing.
Metal Cowboy contains eleven songs. Beginning to end, it is well done and well-played; seriously talented musicians spearheaded by the one and only Ron Keel.
To me, this is not really metal and country though. Honestly, this is a Southern Rock album. Heavy on the country and light on the rock. I say rock rather than metal, as there really isn’t any heavy metal here.
But, it is a good album. Anyone who digs the Southern Rock thing will definitely like it. They did a great job. Hats off to Ron for doing what he truly feels rather than try to live off his past!