Somewhere between Muskogee and Mississauga, in that gray area between Merle Haggard and Sid Vicious, a bold new musical style has erupted with its heart in Toronto and its soul in Vacaville.
The music’s called cowpunk, the motto is “May the Twang be with you!” and the musicians are Toronto’s pretty-well-known-in-the-neighborhood Yeehaa Cowboys.
This is not your father’s punk band, amigos.
Performing together since 1996, the four-member band (five, if you count the vampire), has just released its first CD, “Cowpunk Baby, Cowpunk!” on Canada’s Rumenal Records label.
And while the music comes from the Great Frozen North, the cowpunk sound owes much of its distinctive flavor to Vacaville, although nobody seems to know exactly why.
According to Yeehaa Cowboys’ guitarist-songwriter Cowboy X, the band is based loosely on a feature film script about the band which is central to the storyline and “the town of Vacaville itself is revered by all Cowboys’ fans and is featured in the film script.”
(You’re following all this, right?)
Fact and fiction get kind of intertwined here, but Vacaville apparently became part of the cowpunk mythos when one of the group’s vocalists (either in the script or in reality or, possibly, both) disappeared during a bizarre fishing expedition and was last seen in Vacaville with somebody known as Satan Elvis.
In recognition of the community’s contribution to the furtherance of cowpunk karma, the Yeehaa Cowboy’s debut CD contains the soon-to-be-a-monster-hit tune “Vacaville.”
It’s a hard-driving song of love, and cows, and Vacaville, and cows and love, with plenty of Twang:
“Just look at the cows down in Vacaville, everybody’s asleep but I’m goin’ still …
Can’t get you alone though it breaks my heart, Everybody’s a fool And I just play my part …
Every kiss that you throw gives me such a thrill, Just look at the cows down in Vacaville …”
The concept of Twang, as evinced in “Vacaville,” is at the very core of the cowpunk sound.
According to Cowboy X, “The Twang is a cosmic, supernatural force, fighting against evil, inspiring great music and making people dance. The Twang transformed the Yeehaa Cowboys from wayward slackers into warriors of light and punk rock cowboys.”
I should point out that “Vacaville” is just part of a 13-cut album that features such classic cowpunk melodies as “Madame Planet’s Dark Evil Ode” and “The Ballad of the Country Music Pharaoh” as well as “Oh There’s A Fish A Fish A Fish Dead in My Heart.”
The latter tune is a kind of cowpunk polka-beat tale of unrequited love with lyrics like:
“Oh there’s a fish a fish a fish dead in my heart, and it smells like a dead rotting fish …”
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “Uh-oh, that boy’s been drinkin’ again. Someone call the sheriff.”
Sorry. The Yeehaa Cowboys are much more than a Bushmills-induced hallucination. Cowpunk is real. It’s here (and there) and it’s now.
And if you don’t believe me, try checking out the Web site at http://www.mp3.com/yeehaacowboys.
May the Twang be with you …
Originally published October 22, 2000