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Sally Timms, Cowboy Sally’s Twilight Laments for Lost Buckaroos, Bloodshot Records www.bloodshotrecords.com
By Dwight Thurston

    Mekons girl singer Sally Timms has made an album, I mean an album, as in a total experience. Cowboy Sally’s Twilight Laments for Lost Buckaroos is framed as an old-time radio show, but that’s just a trick to get you to listen. It’s really a wistful, waking dream sequence made from fragments of 40’s and 50’s popular cowboy music, black & white or sepia-toned Roy Rogers and Gene Autry movies, and other assorted bits of popular cowboy and country & western culture. Timms’ voice is pure and perfectly expressive as it works its way alongside simple, timeworn pedal steel, fiddle, guitar and bass licks from damn near every popular cowboy song you’ve ever heard.
    But in fact you’ve never heard most of them, because they’re written by Sally and her friends: Jon Langford (Mekons and the Waco Brothers), Robbie Fulks, and The Handsome Family. There’s also one by Jill Sobule, and one by Johnny Cash. The songs are played and sung 90% straight. The other 10% is something Sally and we can’t quite shake – the cowboy dream is dead and gone. But that 10% keeps Timms’ sweet reverence for the music and the dream from being cloying, as so much of the original material often was. It also allows for the major conceit – the waking dream – that makes Cowboy Sally’s Twilight Laments for Lost Buckaroos so irresistible.
    In a cover photo that’s contrived as hell but works perfectly, Ms. Timms sits in blue gingham upon a bale of hay. She strums her guitar and gazes expectantly into the dying rays of a fake sunset, her straw hat pushed back from her brow. A wagon wheel and a short section of rough wood fence are nearby. How could we not go with her to join the "Dreaming Cowboy," who thinks "Texas could be right over there," or the "Sad Milkman," who crawls up his chimney to chase his dream of the moon. And in "Dark Sun," when the lyrics get weird – "Goodbye Doctor Strangelove, he knew he had to go, and every pinch and kick just dragged me down" – the music sustains the dream state with the beat of electric guitar horse hooves. Even Johnny Cash’s cheatin’ song "Cry Cry Cry" turns into a voluptuous reverie in slow country waltz time. From its cover art to its wistful songs and the dream state that binds it together, Cowboy Sally’s Twilight Laments for Lost Buckaroos is an impressive cultural artifact and one of 1999’s most memorable releases

Copyright©WWUH: March/April Program Guide, 2000

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