Was it really way back in 1982 when Chip and Tony Kinman (along with a fresh-scrubbed young Alejandro Escovedo) helped pave the alternative-rock inroads toward country music with the album Sundown? Yes, and while subsequent efforts by Rank And File fell short of
their initial cowpunk promise, it’s still nice to see Chip and Tony wearing their ten-gallon hats again after all this time.
Stripped down to the barest of essentials, Cowboy Nation illuminates the brothers Kinman doing what they do best — that is, galloping around on bass and guitar whilst singing songs about, well, the cowboy nation. The Kinmans still sing harmonies in the grand tradition of the Everlys, and the deep, brooding lead voice of Tony (or is it Chip?) enlivens cover tunes such as “Remember The Alamo” and Harlan Howard’s “The Blizzard”.
As thematically cogent and musically unified as any other concept album released this year (which, granted, may not be saying much), Cowboy Nation delves deeply into the Kinmans’ home on the range with traditionals such as “Old Paint” and the perennial “Cowboy’s Lament”. Chip and Tony also compose some stirring sonnets of their own: The title track, “Cowboy Way”, “Tender Foot”, “Big Train” and “Way Out West” help round out this elegant horse opera, which serves as a simple yet refined reminder that old cowboys never really die, they just need to come home once in awhile so we don’t forget ‘em.