No matter how hard he tried, Cowboy Troy never quite shook the impression that his 2005 debut, Loco Motive, was a novelty -- and he tried hard, working the record for a long time, eventually scoring a plum gig as a co-host of CMT's singing competition Nashville Star, which raised his profile considerably and revealed an amiable, relaxed charisma unheard on his desperate-to-please debut. But no matter what he did, he never erased the perception that his country-rap fusion was no more than shtick, quite likely because the hammy, ham-handed Loco Motive was played entirely for laughs, and his clumsy rapping suggested that he didn't have the skills to really succeed as a rapper, so he turned toward novelty instead. Troy intends to blast these preconceptions out of the water on his second album, Black in the Saddle, whose defiant title alone suggests the aggression of this record even if it doesn't hint at how truly hard this hits. Where Loco Motive was a conscious pop crossover, the kind of record that can score you a gig on a national TV show, Black in the Saddle is lean and mean, targeted at eternal adolescents who love wrestling, beer, and hick chicks in equal measure. If the debut sounded like a throwback to 1990, this sophomore effort is a throwback to 2000, the era when rap-rock ruled, since this not only is fueled by heavy metal guitars, it also has a dose of that genre's self-pitying angst ("Take Your Best Shot Now," "Paranoid Like Me"). This gives Black in the Saddle a sonic cohesion -- only interrupted by the pure glitter-ball disco of "Blackneck Boogie," a blatant and not entirely unenjoyable stab at a dance craze -- yet it also fits Cowboy Troy's newly dexterous verbal attack. He rarely stumbles and never sounds stiff, which is a considerably improvement over the awkward flow on the debut, but he still has a considerable Achilles' heel in his tin ear. His delivery may have improved but he still is spitting out some of the goofiest lines to ever be uttered by a rapper.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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