Undisputed Kings of Cowpunk and the hardest banjo/fiddle action you’ll ever come across. Pronghorn have been kicking around since 1992, and this summer the band celebrates 30 years of drinking warm Stella and eating late night garage food with a brand new album, Welcome To Pronghorn Country.
Those of you old enough to remember 1992 will recall that it was all about grunge. A few bands though went against the grain and 1992 was also the year Pronghorn emerged out of Dorset. Starting off busking outside Debenhams in Bournemouth leading to their first gig in Charminster and then onto more salubrious locations like busking at Amsterdam Central Station or in Copenhagen Homeless Hostels to name but two. As the band’s sound evolved with Punk, Country, Folk and Rockabilly they were soon labelled with their very own genre ‘Cowpunk’. In the States a fair more aggressive genre ‘Country Punk’ developed around the same time but it was the English version that was more true to it’s Country musical roots which lay in the southern English rootsy Folk movement of the 80’s. This was a time that spawned The Pogues along with the Boothill Foot Tappers, Cropdusters, Shilleagh Sisters and Men They Couldn’t Hang. Many could claim to be the Kings of Cowpunk but for me their is only Pronghorn. The line up has seen many changes over the years but founder members, Toni Viagra and Lamma are still there, along with newbies(!) Ffi, Krusty, Gypo, Aussie Mike and Andy Law- who’ve only done the last fifteen years or so.
As this year sees them doing 30 years on the road together and recording twelve albums you would imagine it would have taken it’s toll but as Fifi admits
“After all this time Pronghorn is still the same band, but now we have to get babysitters’”.
The album kicks off in great manner with the ‘Psycho Ceilidh’ and what a way to make a splash and exactly whet you would think a song called psycho ceilidh would sound like. An absolutely wonderful Country-Folk-Celtic hoedown that ought to be the genre’s anthem! Imagine a Punk Rock barn dance with folk clad in tartan work shirts swirling around smashing into each other with massive smiles on their faces and you’re in the right ball park.
‘Spud Face’ sees Lamma recalling the days when they put on one of the best festival’s Dorset had ever seen that the name of sadly escapes me (editor- EnDorset Festival… and it’s coming back!) but i intended to go every year it ran but never actually made it! Fiddler Joe takes over vocals for ‘Reubens Train’ while battling it out with the bands other fiddler Fifi. This is speed fiddling at it’s finest. It’s an old Folk song and I must admit I always love to see the words ‘trad. arr’ on a bands album sleeve. ‘Dead Wood’ sees them slow it down a bit for the first time and a dark and mysterious song is aided by some class accordion. The accordion giving it a Eastern flavour as they sing of cutting out unnecessary burdens. The popularity of acapella singing has been around in Celtic-Punk for quite a while and the old Folker ‘Shady Grove’ begins as such and even though the band kick in eventually it might have been a good opportunity for the band to test their vocal chords together. ‘Jed Jones 2’ is a sequel of sorts but as I’ve not heard part 1 it’s hard to tell you the story beyond it has a cowboy theme and maybe a song we could claim as Celtic-Punk(-ish)! ‘Devils Daughter’ continues in the same vein lyrically inspired by the blood and guts of spaghetti westerns. ‘Cuckoo’ is another trad. arr. song and the last of the albums three and sees the bhoys spilling over into jigs and sure I heard almost a reel in there too. ‘Dirty Motel Blues’ may start off with acoustic guitar but ends up an (almost) acoustic song that out Motorheads Motorhead! Joe returns for vocal duties on ‘Ghost Train’ the most TMTCH-ish song here on first listen though their is a lot more to them than that though even though that is far from an insult.
(Recorded at Barnstomper Festival, Cerne Abbas Brewery – 4th September 2021)
‘Soldiers Tale’ sees them delving into history and a saucy song that turns the catchy up to 11 and adds plenty of their trademark humour to boot. The album’s only instrumental ‘Swamp Winch’ sees Bayou styled fiddling accompanied by a dizzying amount of hollering and howling whipping the band up into a Country-frenzy. Outstanding and near impossible to keep your feet attached to the floor. The album wraps up with ‘Bone’ and another stand out track that sees them in contemplative mood but without letting up one bit. Superb! An outstanding album but again the bands honesty gets the better of them as Aussie Mike says
“These days, recording an album comes with a short shelf-life – record, release, tour, repeat. But for a band who has been around as long as Pronghorn have, Welcome to Pronghorn Country is more about documenting a chapter of the band. It’s also something different to sell to drunks after a gig”.
The beauty of a band like Pronghorn is the joy they bring to people with their live performances. Sometimes bands like that can find it difficult to transfer that sound and emotions onto record but Pronghorn are blessed here with a perfect sound engineered by David White and mastered by Stefan Krakovic. It’s over 20 years since I saw them play here in London and my overriding memory of that night was the fun we all had and coming out near a stone lighter. They haven’t lost it and just like me their all a bit older and a bit heavier so treat seeing them as the best exercise you will ever have! Welcome To Pronghorn County is out this week on the fantastic independent label Lunaria Records and if we did give marks out of ten then this a bloody 9 1/2 I’m telling you.
(Stream or download Welcome To Pronghorn County below on the Bandcamp player)
Buy Welcome To Pronghorn Country CD /Vinyl / Download