The Emperors of Wyoming

The USP for The Emperors of Wyoming is the presence of Butch Vig, ace producer and Garbage drum peddler with the smoke signals billowing headlines such as “Butch Vig makes country rock album!” Well it ain’t exactly like that. Truth is that back in the eighties Vig and the other Emperors (Phil Davis, vocals, guitars, Pete Anderson, bass, guitars and Frank Anderson, lap and pedal steel guitars, keyboards and banjo) played in a couple of Madison, Wisconsin bands before going their separate ways. In 2009 Anderson enlisted his pals to help him realise a bunch of tunes he had been working on. Scattered across the USA they agreed to join in however there was no grand “class reunion” but rather a welter of emails and wav files tossed back and forth until they came up with this, the finished product, a band who haven’t played together in the same room so far.
Despite this remote way of working its fair to say that The Emperors have come up with a classy product with the overall cohesiveness belaying any concerns regarding the recording process. It isn’t country rock in the sense that Poco or the early Eagles were, instead it tends to ape the likes of Tom Petty, Chuck Prophet and the Stones in their country guise. Davis’s voice strains at times although he can sound a little like Petty and there’s even a touch of Jagger’s sneering drawl on I’m Your Man. From the Neil Young like strummed guitar that opens The Bittersweet Sound of Goodbye (and lets not forget where the band name comes from) to the thunderous and monumental riffing of The Pinery Boy the album is corkful of very radio friendly sounds.
While Avalanche Girl may be a little formulaic lyrically it yearns to beam over the airwaves with its familiar Petty like jangle, similarly Cruel Love Ways hits all the right buttons but fails really to take off. The band more than make up for this elsewhere, upping the ante both lyrically and musically. Cornfield Palace starts off with a piece of lyrical corn
“I’m in love with a girl with a cornfield palace/she’s the queen of West Alliss/ in her SUV/ she like’s to watch Dallas on her big TV”
but it swings like a tipsy Dixie Queen dancing to Crazy Horse at the sloppiest best. Brand New Heart of Stone has a narcotic feel with evil sounding guitars and a percussive drive that almost lapses into dub at times. One gets the feeling that Keith Richards would love this song. Sweep Away is almost a country ballad albeit one that has been stewed in a goat’s head soup for some time and there’s even a touch of the stones’ whoops from Sympathy For the Devil towards the end. The album’s highlight however is the majestic and stately Never Got Over You which builds to a fine climax with fine pedal steel and guitar interludes.

Proper records

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