Mouthing Off

When Cowboy Mouth's Fred LeBlanc speaks out on self-empowerment, audiences listen

LeBlanc began making his own music in his hometown of New Orleans. After playing in a few bands around the Crescent City area, he drummed with the legendary Louisiana barnburners of Dash Rip Rock before joining forces with Griffith (formerly with the Red Rockers), ex-Bluerunners bassist Savoy, and Sanchez. Cowboy Mouth has since released eight recordings, with sales estimated at more than 400,000 copies.

The band's current disc, Easy, was released on Atlantic/Blackbird last year and is a mixture of anthems and radio rock. And like its companion live shows, the disc is at its best when LeBlanc is leading the group through upbeat numbers, pairing his saber-rattling with a welcome touch of campiness and humor. The title track and lead single is a pop basher that calls to mind the '80s new wave of the Call with blaring guitars and thundering drums bringing home the Mouth's message: "Easy to feel like there ain't nothin' in your life/Harder to work, harder to strive, hard to be glad to be alive/But it's really worth it if you give it a try." "All American Man," which roars in with a giant "I Want Candy" groove, hints at the rousing, fist-in-the-air feel of the group's shows as LeBlanc sings with a tongue tucked partially in his cheek. "Get Out of My Way" delivers the same enjoyable punch and more Cowboy philosophy: "Don't give a damn about what anybody thinks I've done/ While you were nice and happy, I was out here havin' fun." Despite a few mid-LP missteps, Easy is doing well: The title cut and "How Do You Tell Someone" are getting airplay on FM radio around the country, adding to Cowboy Mouth's fan base.

The band's cynicism-smashing message is fueling that progress. LeBlanc says he had an epiphany a long time ago that is largely responsible for this aspect of his music: After years of counting on performing as a way to vent frustration and anger, his outlook shifted. As he recalls, "I thought to myself, If I'm going to do this and I'm going to be passionate about this, instead of doing something that's going to beat me down and deplete me, why not do something that ultimately makes me feel stronger and better about myself and about life?"

You're good enough, you're smart enough, and, doggone it, Cowboy Mouth likes you
You're good enough, you're smart enough, and, doggone it, Cowboy Mouth likes you

Details

8 p.m. Wednesday, June 27. Tickets cost $12. Call 954-564-1074.
Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale

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That thinking certainly resonates with Cowboy Mouth's followers -- a group that includes a significant number of people of faith as well as dyed-in-the-wool rock 'n' rollers: The typical Mouth gig is as likely to draw freshly scrubbed kids and silver-hairs as it is down-and-dirty rock fans. LeBlanc says the group has struck a chord with a segment of the Christian rock audience, but he's not one to preach to any demographic. "The whole thing about faith is you've got to be careful about how you use it," he says, "because sometimes it will turn people off. The thing is you come out to see Cowboy Mouth to celebrate your ass off. People can take from that what they want." The band, he says, "is just trying to translate that love, that feeling, that communication to other people."

That's exactly what its members hope to do on their current tour across the United States: push a few buttons and help listeners change through the power of music. But, LeBlanc notes, even the musically impaired can make the sort of changes he himself made years ago.

"People can find that same switch through any means," he adds. "It doesn't have to be music. People just have to find that part of themselves that tells them they're special. That part that the world might have tried to kick down and might have succeeded in kicking down. The whole idea is to awaken that happy monster inside each and every one of us."

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