The juxtaposition of cowboy and hippie imagery on the cover of the Atomic Cowboys¹ Wake Up! CD is indicative of the band¹s socially conscious mix of country and alternative rock. These guys aren¹t some fly-the-flag-or-yer-a-sissy hicks, nor are they sloganeering causeheads. They¹re Atomic Cowboys, damn it! It¹s no fluke that guitarist/vocalist Jim Wurster is often compared to Bob Dylan, though that oversimplifies the band¹s musical reach.
Wake Up! opens with the John Lennon-inspired title track -- a bluesy, melodic call to arms for Americans to get off their duffs and speak out against, well, anything. The disc then heads into harder, more rockin¹ territory with ³Get Him Out,² a poppy, midtempo, post-punk ditty somewhere between the Buzzcocks and the Pixies. It¹s not until the third song, the laid-back ³Silver Moon,² that the Cowboys finally rustle up some country twang. The rest of the album adds more blues and roots rock to the mix, and Wurster¹s social criticism takes a more humanistic approach, such as in the wartime narrative ³Justify.² Like country great Johnny Cash, Wurster has a knack for telling a good tale. The sense of realism in his lyrics adds urgency. So when Wurster sings about the real consequences of war -- the widows and orphaned children it creates -- it¹s more powerful than a dozen songs of the ³no war for oil² variety. The album closes with ³Masters of Deception,² a song Wurster did with his previous band, Black Janet. The Atomic Cowboys are no rookies, and the diverse sounds on Wake Up! are proof. -- Jason Budjinski
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