When a band has been around for more than 20 years, it often has to walk a fine line between following the template it's established for itself and figuring out how to not sound like it's worn itself into a rut. Since the Lazy Cowgirls' two most audible musical influences are the Ramones and the Rolling Stones -- groups who didn't always deal with this dilemma very well -- one can be forgiven for fearing that the Cowgirls would be at risk of losing their edge some day, but thankfully that sure hasn't happened yet, and their tenth album, 2003's I'm Goin' Out and Get Hurt Tonight, just so happens to be one of the strongest titles they've released in some time...maybe their best since their unexpected masterpiece Ragged Soul. The Lazy Cowgirls' stock-in-trade is still four-on-the-floor first-generation punk rock, and they still do it with fire, passion, and maximum impact; guitarist Michael Leigh's thick jackhammer leads have finally begun to achieve the same degree of messed-up élan as founding fret master D.D. Weekday, and Leonard Keringer and Roy Morgan drive this band like a Big Block Dodge in fifth gear. But while singer/frontman/vision guy Pat Todd has been throwing a few acoustic honky tonk tunes onto the Cowgirls albums since Rank Outsider, I'm Goin' Out and Get Hurt Tonight is where the C&W-flavored tracks start to really mesh with the rock tunes; the slowed-down version of "Goddamn Bottle" (first recorded on 1987's Tapping the Source) brings the song's harrowing emotional core front and center, and the result is a truly devastating performance, while the pedal steel fuels the high lonesome "Swept Across the Borderline" and "You Might Be Lost Now." And on the amped-up portion of the program, "Burnin' Daylight," "Give It Away," and "Every Time I Come Around Here" prove Todd has only grown with time, both as a vocalist and a songwriter, and he has more to say about the facts of life in blue-collar America than nearly anyone you'll find on the left of the dial. And if you just wanna rock, crank up the title track and your wish is granted. Twenty years on, Pat Todd and his bandmates haven't run out of ideas or desire, and I'm Goin' Out and Get Hurt Tonight proves they're still the greatest untapped natural resource of American rock. Listen to 'em, already!
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming