Cow Bop: Two Hick for the Room

With cover art that is bound to amuse fans of cartoonist Gary Larson, Cow Bop’s third release has a lot going for it even before the band kicks up some dust with the help of four special guest riders: pianist Roger Kellaway, saxophonist Allen Mezquida, trombonist Andy Martin and B3 organist Joe Bagg. Tagging along with guitarist Bruce Forman and his pardners is as much fun as ever.

That’s because the affection Forman holds for Western-swing pioneers, Southwest jazz bands and classic pop vocalists-plus his interest in seminal bop, country and Latin influences-is every bit as evident as his six-string finesse, and he’s surrounded himself with musicians who share his taste and enthusiasms. How else to explain why Kellaway sounds so engaged on an unabashedly romantic “Besame Mucho” and a racing “Alabamy Bound,” and how the horn players and B3 organist add such brilliant luster and soul to this 12-tune collection?

Forman relies heavily on his core band, though, to make a strong case for keeping these sequels coming. Pinto Pammy’s vocals are delightfully evocative, in English or Spanish, and she often brings out the best in Forman when he’s required to combine subtle accompaniments with flowing choruses-on “Comes Love,” for example. Rounding out the group and, yes, often spurring it on, are bassist Alex King, drummer Jake Reed and fiddler Phil Salazar, who sometimes matches wits with the bandleader.

For those who relate to Forman’s passions, Too Hick for the Room is simply too good to pass up.