Brent Amaker and the Rodeo – Please Stand By

Brent Amaker and the Rodeo – Please Stand By

When you’re a cowboy from Seattle, something just doesn’t seem right. Heck, a couple of years ago Tony Romo fumbled his infamous first folly as a Cowboy against the Seahawks in the playoffs…but that’s another story for another day. As they like to say, “dressed in black from head-to-toe,” Brent Amaker and the Rodeo wear their traditions proudly on their sleeves. Before a few minutes of epic, swirling Americana that recalls the greatest romps of Bruce Springsteen, the Rodeo introduce the album to a good ol’ party. “Welcome to the rodeo” proclaims Amaker, amidst hoots and hollers, and it’s with that small foreshadowing that Please Stand By starts.

For starters, it’s an entirely clichéd way to begin an album. The pristine production softens the guitars’ heavy scratching and the drums paddle on the side yet, as soon as Amaker makes his entry, everything suddenly shuffles a lot smoother. Like on “Good To Be on Top of the World,” where Amaker establishes his brandished confidence, “Johnny’s Theme” is nothing more than a fantastic good time. And wearing influences that range as wide as Johnny Cash (obvious homage) and Devo, there’s no wonder they’ve been featured on TV shows. But, as the title requests, there is new territory to cover here and, mostly, the band’s aim is always the most significant.

While Amaker acts as the ringleader – front and center as he directs traffic to and from the main stages – the Rodeo takes the grand stage where everyone is allowed to sing their desires and worries. On “U.S.A.,” Amaker sings about the simple American dream that, when achieved, is the greatest form of patriotism. The guitar’s chug is a country ditty that is perfect for line dancing (what with the “The wheels go round and round…” part) and the pleasant, relaxing feeling suggested is wonderful. On “Break my Broken Heart” Amaker does as every good man and advises his other fellow men on never straying too far. Against a twangy blues guitar solo and a driving pulse from the snare, Amaker sings “If you want, I’ll give you company but don’t look for love or I’ll just have to leave” to his distressed lover. The storytelling is a root cause for the success of Please Stand By and the Rodeo does a great job of delivering illustrious imagery.

Any country album wouldn’t be quite the same without a terrific ballad and Amaker fulfills with “Garden of Love.” The silky blend of atmospherics and Amaker’s own baritone voice recalls the striking singularity of Chris Isaak and, fittingly, Amaker tenders to the melody with great stride. The 80s influence in the music comes through the polished production and, of course, through the peculiar rhythms that appear from time to time. The initial process may seem futile but, after strong work, Amaker and his Rodeo are able to deliver a roots-grounded, solid collection of country rock. Make no mistake about it, Please Stand By is a multi-dimensional country album from the Pacific Northwest that packs a weighty punch.

Spark & Shine Records