Horse of a Different Color

Big & Rich

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Horse of a Different Color Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Like many professional country musicians, the duo of Big & Rich -- Big being Kenny Alphin, while Rich is John Rich, a former singer for Lonestar -- are based in Nashville, but that doesn't mean they follow all the conventions of Music City. In fact, they throw conventions out the window on their 2004 debut album, Horse of a Different Color. They can certainly craft a kicking country song, as the backwoods ballad "Deadwood Mountain" proves, but they don't settle for that, preferring to spike predictable song structures with considerable doses of goofy humor or, better still, to fly beyond genre and concoct gonzo amalgams of country, arena rock, and rap. All of this makes Big & Rich hard to peg, particularly because they come across as a big-boned, country variation of Tenacious D or Ween -- talented musical pranksters who treat everything as a lark, but have the musical skills to back up their boasts. Like the D, they even have a theme song in "Rollin' (The Ballad of Big & Rich)" -- which bizarrely enough sounds a bit like Tenacious D, which isn't nearly as bizarre as how the melody of "Wild West Show" recalls Nirvana's "Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle" -- and they have no compunctions about being flat-out silly, which is good, since that silliness brought them a big novelty hit in "Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)," a song designed for drunken shout-alongs in sports bars. Much of Horse of a Different Color plays to that audience, but the surprise is that the rowdiness is tongue-in-cheek and that Big & Rich are musically clever, filling the record with big hooks and unbridled weirdness. Not that all of this is successful -- it can sound too goofy at points -- but it's wilder and stranger than most contemporary country albums of 2004, and a whole lot more fun, to boot.

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