Material: Hailing from Austin, TX, Cowboy Diplomacy takes the fundamentals of alternative rock and blues, and decorates them in a sound all its own. The band’s songs are percussion-driven, punctuated with energetic guitar riffs, prominent hooks and lyrics that range from sexy to serious. Doing great justice to their classic influences, there is something uniquely evocative and primal that sets the band apart.
Musicianship: Singer Ian Cochran’s voice comes from what sounds like a deep well; part alt-rock gravel and part mid-century croon, the kind of voice that quiets a room and draws even the cynics in. Matt Whilden on drums is a standout, his pristine timing, feel and power matched only by his eye-catching charisma. Billy Boswell shows incredible prowess on lead guitar, exhibiting rhythmic consistency, accented by knockout solos and wailing, deeply satisfying riffs. Brad Bentley wows on bass, making complicated and smart finger work on the fretboard look like a walk in the park.
Performance: Cowboy Diplomacy started with “Long Time Coming,” a driving, unapologetic tune. The set flowed well, keeping the energy up, but bringing heart and respite when it was due. Things revved up even more when they got to “Wet,” a particularly strong, sensual number with shredding guitars and creative transitions.
Music aside, the band is a blast to watch. They each had a distinct choreography to their jumps and leaps about the stage, but seemed to come together for a perfect rock & roll tableau at just the right instant. “Some Kind of Way” arrived at an ideal moment in the set; slower, more ballad-like and allowing the crowd and band to catch their breath. They ended with “Burn Down the Road,” a poignant, emotional number that showed the depth and breadth of what this group can do. The audience was deeply engaged, with ecstatic responses ranging from the profane to the religious. There is some room to grow when it comes to stage banter and audience interaction, but mainly because this is the kind of band the fans want to connect with.
Summary: With influences ranging from Metallica to Hozier, and peppered with hints of Tom Waits and even some roots music, Cowboy Diplomacy brings an impressive repertoire of outright bangers and the capacity for emotionally charged, thought-provoking music. This band transcends its genre, embracing something far more eclectic, interesting and exciting than a generic label could ever hope to define.
Players: Ian Cochran, lead vocals, guitar; Brad Bentley, bass guitar; Billy Boswell, lead guitar; Matt Whilden, drums