Sky Kings: Rough Take-Off, Smooth Landing

By Michael Campbell

I must confess that I was really scared for awhile, from the opening number ("Doin' What I Shouldn't") all the way through the sixth song ("Picture Perfect") To hear and see musicians the caliber of John Cowan (ex-Newgrass), Bill Lloyd (ex-Foster & Lloyd), and Rusty Young (ex-Poco) expertly performing songs that personify the essence of "blow dried" country music, replete with predictable lyrics and cliched hooks, can be frightening to those who know and admire their previous work. And this from their upcoming debut album!

Fortunately, the sheer 'chemistry between these guys propelled the Dec. 8 Lonesome Pine Special performance in a more positive direction. Lloyd's aggressive manner was nicely offset by Cowan's eagerness, while Young seemed to have more fun than anyone with his exuberant steel guitar antics.

After the smarmy beginning, the band began to stretch out with some extended. hams (did we really hear the riff from "Day Tripper" in there?), prompting Young to quip, "Is it too late to quit the band?," as things unraveled.

From this point, the band seemed much more at ease, and rocked out on Lloyd's Buddy Holly salute, "That's How You Learn About Love," and on his Marlboro guitar on Foster & Lloyd's "Crazy Over You," as well as Cowan's "Wichita Way." Rusty Young offered his pop songsmith and vocal credentials with "Crazy Love" and "Call It Love" from his Poco days. John Cowan's distinctively soulful vocals provided a strong focus for most of the material.

Speaking of the material, Rusty Young's contributions seemed to be the best-crafted of the three, with thoughtful Iyrics over original melodies.

While I'm sure that economics dictate this band to hit TNN/CMT rotation early and often, I am hopeful that when they find the true nature of this band they will transcend the pap, just as they did on this night.