Audiences have long known that Cowpuncher offer up one of the most energetic parties around — whether they’re playing at a small town bar or a big city rock club. Now the five-piece Calgary-based band has released Ghost Notes, its third full-length album, and have big plans to spread the word further.
Formed as a loose collective in 2009, Cowpuncher began under the guidance of singer/guitarist Matt Olah, who wanted a vehicle for his country-flavoured rock songs. Despite its revolving door membership, the group quickly gained a reputation for its sweaty, booze-fuelled live shows, impressing everyone from tried-and-true punk rockers to grizzled old cowboys. After releasing 2010’s Brown Album and 2011’s Call Me When You’re Single, the band pared down its membership from seven to five players, to what they call their “Commando Unit,” a tighter, leaner version. With the permanent line-up poached from a wide array of local bands, Ghost Notes represents a new sense of focus and commitment — a clearer vision, more thoughtful songwriting, and a keen determination to take on audiences from far and wide.
Guided by Pilot Audio’s Robbie Josh Gwilliam and his mobile recording truck turned cracker-jack studio, Cowpuncher recorded Ghost Notes in a series of creative recording spaces including old warehouses in Calgary and the Masonic Hall in Nanton, Alberta. The album kicks off with the anthemic “Raised on Rock ‘n’ Roll,” one of the band’s signature live tunes, and from there, the band weaves its way through its strongest songs to date, ranging from full-on rock stompers to a selection of laid-back heart-breakers.
“The band went in its own direction and shed off this Calgary country Stampede thing — although there are still elements of that,” Olah says. “We just started writing songs with a different approach.” Whereas Olah used to be sole songwriter, the band now takes a more collaborative approach with the whole group filling in Olah’s idea (and bass player Harley Hoeft contributing a tune of his own). The band has also moved away from the genre-specific roots sound of its beginnings and lets the songs come together in a more natural way. Olah’s cleverly gritty lyrics are brought to life by the band’s keen harmonies and rollicking musicianship.
That focus and evolving approach doesn’t mean Cowpuncher has ditched its outlaw roots or the promise to treat audiences to a party every time it hits the stage. Olah steers the ship, providing witty off-the-cuff banter, jumping on tables, climbing on speakers — whatever it takes to keep the energy level sky-high. The reset of the band, made up of some of Calgary’s most versatile players, keeps up the pace, tapping into a mix of influences drawn from the city’s vibrant punk and indie rock scenes as well as a little bit of raw cowboy soul. Call it roots rock, call it Western grunge — but don’t assume you know what Cowpuncher is all about until you give Ghost Notes a listen and experience one of the band’s raucous live shows.
“We’re trying to show people what Western Canada has to offer,” says guitarist Ryan Kelly. “But beyond that, we’re here to take over. We’re coming for your city and we’re going to put on a good show.”
released 22 November 2013
Matt Olah – Vocals, Acoustic Guitar
Ryan Kelly – Baritone Guitar
Jeff Sulima – Drums
Scott Martin – Electric Guitar
Harley Hoeft – Vocals, Upright Bass
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