Pat Todd & the Rankoutsiders

The Outskirts of Your Heart

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In 2004, the Lazy Cowgirls, long one of the best-kept secrets in American rock & roll, finally called it quits after nearly 25 years of inspiring music, but lead singer and principal songwriter Pat Todd clearly isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. Todd has formed a new band, the Rankoutsiders, who follow a similar path to the latter-era Cowgirls -- fast and loud old-school punk on one hand, and hard but heartfelt honky tonk on the other. However, unlike the Lazy Cowgirls, the Rankoutsiders can handle the quieter country material with the same sure hand as the louder, frantic rock stuff, and Todd's first album with the band, The Outskirts of Your Heart, is his most impressive melding to date of his two great (musical) loves. The Outskirts of Your Heart is an ambitious two-disc set, with the first CD primarily devoted to raw, four-on-the-floor rock and the second featuring Todd's acoustic-oriented music, but there's plenty of crosstalk between the two -- "I Wonder Why" has enough swagger to fuel a major city even without drums, and "November 11th" generates a high, lonesome mood despite the Marshall amps. This album features Todd's strongest lineup of musicians since the Ragged Soul-era Cowgirls -- guitarists Nick Alexander and Tony Hannaford, bassist Rick Johnson, and drummer Bob Deagle are tight, grooving, and emphatic regardless of volume -- but the star of this show is Pat Todd, and he's in stellar form here. Lots of rockers talk about passion and commitment, but for Todd those aren't words, they're as necessary to life as water and oxygen, and he has no fear in letting the deepest and most painful secrets of love, life, and survival take the center stage in his songs. Todd can sing with roughhouse fury or smoky sweetness depending on the song, but there isn't a moment on any of these 28 songs where he puts less than a hundred percent of his soul on plastic, and he's rarely had as powerful and diverse a vehicle for his music as he's given himself on The Outskirts of Your Heart. This is a superior work from an estimable and underappreciated talent, and if you love rock & roll that comes from the heart, the soul, and the gut, you owe it to yourself to hear this album.

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