Just because your band is a guitar-and-drums duo doesn't mean you have to sound like something's missing, and Cowbell have taken this idea to heart on their debut album, Beat Stampede. Cowbell consist of Jack Sandham and Wednesday Lyle, and the two are capable of kicking up plenty of dust, mixing and matching vintage blues, R&B, rockabilly, and rock & roll influences while Sandham chops out gutbucket guitar chords and Lyle holds down the backbeat. But as a guitarist, Sandham's touch is a little lighter than most of his peers, and his solos strut with a swagger and grace that serves the music well (he's not afraid of an occasional dose of feedback or noise, either), and Lyle's drumming may be simple but it's rock-solid and her fills add a nice dash of color and texture. Most importantly, Cowbell are one of the few bands traveling the crossroads of blues and punk who aren't afraid to take advantage of the recording studio; Sandham's occasional keyboard overdubs bring out the melodies on "Tallulah" and "Bills," the honky tonk saxophone interjections from guest star John Littlefair are just the right touch, and Sandham and Lyle clearly spent some time on their harmonies, which are evocative and splendidly executed. Cowbell are more than capable songwriters, and their roots-conscious but lively melodies are flattered by the filled-out arrangements, as well as the clean but full-bodied production and engineering by Ed Deegan. Primitivism may work for some acts, but Cowbell clearly believe a little judicious seasoning can make for a much better hamburger, and Beat Stampede shows they have a recipe that truly satisfies.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming