Review: Ron Keel – Metal Cowboy
EMP Outlaw / EMP Label Group (April 6th 2018)
Reviewer: Simone – The Metal Mistress
‘Metal Cowboy Reloaded‘ is a remixed and remastered version of Ron Keel’s 2014 independent venture. Written entirely by Keel this album helped create Keel’s unique blend of southern rock and outlaw country. Little known fact to metal fans though: it was not his venture into metal mixed with country. Iron Horse was a country/southern rock band Keel formed in 2000. He left the band in 2007 to move on to other things. ‘Metal Cowboy’ is being re-released to pave the road for the band’s upcoming new album ‘Fight Like A Band‘. I was not familiar with the original album so I had no expectations. Going into this review. Having seen his band Keel perform, I was excited to review this album. The band is fantastic: energetic, cohesive and smooth.
The album, portrays that. It flows together like a well-oiled machine, with each song taking its place along the track to lead the listener to the next station. ‘My Bad‘ introduces you to the key sounds of the album. There is a country guitar twang mixed in with traditional metal riffs. You get harmonicas and even a male duet song which is so popular in country. What I found interesting about the flow of the album is it definitely starts out letting you know this is not your 80s metal. It is southern rock with heavy country influences. ‘Just Like Tennessee‘ doesn’t seem to have a hint of metal to it. Think modern country pop and this is the song. It was the one weak spot for me on the album. However right after this song, we get ‘Dead Man Rockin‘ which has a Guns N’ Roses sound to it, especially in the drums. Which by the way if you are not familiar with Keel’s fellow band members, they are some of the most talented in metal today. El Diablo is a kick ass drummer. Then we have Ron Keel’s legendary scream. The man goes from ball busting screams to articulate singing effortlessly. His vocals have matured and I for one can not wait to hear the new works this talented bunch will come up with.
One of the most fun songs on the album for me was ‘What Would Skynyrd Do‘ an homage to one of rock’s ground-breaking bands, including traditional Skynyrd guitar and drum sounds in the song.
My favorite track on the album was ‘Singers, Hookers & Thieves‘ This song is NOT rock or metal at all to me. You can disagree, but before you judge, please first play it among a Waylon Jennings, Charlie Price or Merle Haggard number. This song sounds like a good old-fashioned country and western male duet song.
Then we flip again to ‘Wild Forever‘ which sounds straight out of a 1985 High school radio station. Cruising in our Trans-Am’s with windows down and T-Tops out while this song blares on the radio. ‘Cowboy Road‘ is the All-American-Boy anthem that would be played at the tractor pulls.
This is a great cohesion of country and metal, flowing together to create a highly entertaining and enjoyable album. To cement in our brains that this merging of both are Keel’s influence, we get ‘Long Gone Bad‘ beginning with a straight up country sound and suddenly turning metal crunch. To close out the album we are given a live studio version of ‘Three Cord Drinking Song‘ which reminded me of Toby Keith’s ‘Red Solo Cup’.
If you are a hard core “metal is metal only if done this way” person, RKB may not be for you. There is definitely a heavy influence of country throughout the songs. As a fan of old country and western (Think Cash, Jennings, Hank Williams) I liked that the parts the musicians mix with metal are traditional Western sounds. If you are open to stepping outside your metal comfort zone then crack open a cold one and enjoy this great album by some kick ass musicians. Cheers!