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Cowboy Album Review

origionally found at Country Line Magazine
August 1, 2000

It all started in Texas. Chris LeDoux was working on a ranch, learning how to be a cowboy. He learned to rope and ride. He herded cattle and ate their dust for years. One hot Texas afternoon, on a dare, he climbed on the back of a wild bronc. The ensuing ride was short, but young Chris was hooked.

From that moment on, he knew where his destiny lay. He became a rodeo cowboy, one who happened to play the guitar in his spare time. He wrote songs about his life on the rodeo circuit. His music captured the romance, the freedom, the dirt and the hurt of rodeo, and drew fans who demanded tapes of his songs. And so Chris LeDoux recorded 22 albums on his own, filled with music about the western lifestyle he lived and loved.

His life took a dramatic change when Garth Brooks mentioned his name in his hit song "Much Too Young". Capitol Records signed Chris and re-issued his entire back catalog of independent albums. Millions of new fans came on board and discovered his incredible talent. Multi-platinum albums followed, and he and Garth recorded a hit duet together. Known for his electrifying live shows, LeDoux hit the concert trail with a vengeance. Crowds across America were shocked at his high-energy concerts that included fire, smoke, lights and mechanical bulls.

Late last year, as time grew near for a new album, Chris had an idea. Fans had been asking for copies of his older albums, some of which were now out of print. Chris decided to journey back in time and pick some of his favorite songs from those old albums and re-record them. This was a great idea for two reasons. One, it would give his new fans a chance to hear the old songs. Two, it gave Chris a chance to record the songs with better musicians and improved technology, things that were not available to him years ago.

Simply titled Cowboy, the new CD contains 11 of those early songs, newly recorded with producers Mac McAnally and Alan Schulman. The music is a departure from LeDoux’s current rowdy, good-time rocking concert performances. Those shows, which Garth Brooks says were the inspiration for his own concerts, draw ever-increasing crowds of all ages. But his audience knows his roots. "Everywhere I go there’s always a handful of fans who ask, ‘Where can I get the old stuff?’" says LeDoux on the liner notes of the new CD. "And I’d have to tell them, ‘Well, it’s out of print. You can’t find it.’ I can remember thinking, years ago, that someday if I got a chance, I should re-record some of my favorites and try to get them right. So that’s what I did. I got out all the old records and listened to them. I listened to see how well-written the songs were and what they meant to me and where they came from". Chris continues the story on his current bio sheet. "A lot of years had passed and I hadn’t listened to these songs, or even thought about them, for a long time. Hearing them again really took me back to the time and place where I was when I wrote them. "As the lyrics say in 'He Rides Wild Horses:' "He rides the wild horses, The same blood flows through their veins, Yes he rides the wild horses, Like the horses he’ll never be tamed."

As a boy, Chris LeDoux loved rodeo. He watched the bronc riders closely, then went home and tried to mimic their actions. "I took a lot of wrecks," he admits. It didn’t stop him. His high school buddies thought he’d gone insane - rodeo is a crazy, foolish game. But he could see in their eyes, they were a little jealous. As his friends got caught in the nine to five grind, Chris was footloose and free, traveling from town to town following the rodeo. LeDoux pursued rodeo seriously from the time he was 14 years old. He competed through high school and went to college on a rodeo scholarship. He knew that it wasn’t necessarily a path that led to great wealth and that the possibility of a serious injury was always nearby. It didn’t matter. "I’ve always looked at it like you’ve got a scale," he says. "On one side you’ve got this desire and on the other you’ve got fear or reason. If your desire outweighs sanity and reason, you’re going to go ahead and follow that dream."

LeDoux won the world championship in bareback bronc riding at age 28. On the song, "Our First Year," he tells the story of those tough years before he won. LeDoux found something that mattered even more to him than rodeo when he married Peggy Rhoads, a Wyoming rancher’s daughter. "It was all magic," he says. "We were broke but it didn’t matter. We were living on love. My wife was, and still is, a great gal. She was able to take the hard times. Everything that we have become and grown together as comes from those experiences we went through in that first and second year. "Blue Eyes and Freckles" is about their son. It tells the story of the emotions a parent feels when their child grows up and moves away. LeDoux and his wife have five children. One son, Ned, plays drums with his father’s band. The oldest son, Clay, works on the family ranch, and plays some guitar. Their son, Will, and daughter, Cindy, both attend college. Youngest son Beau competes as a bronc rider in high school rodeo tournaments. "It’s neat to live this rodeo thing through him again,' LeDoux says. "Since I understand it, I’m not telling him you ought to go to college and try to find a job where you can make a lot of money. You’ve got to follow your heart, and I tell the rest of my kids the same thing. I’m as proud of all of them as I am of what Beau’s doing." After he retired from rodeo competition, LeDoux jumped full-force into his music career. His rodeo songs were an underground success that went nationwide after the exposure Garth gave him. His album, The Best of Chris LeDoux, was certified gold in 1997. Cowboy is LeDoux’s 33rd album, and quite possibly one of his best, mainly because it puts the focus on his cowboy lifestyle, a lifestyle that is fading fast from our American culture.

Chris sings about the hard times, the humor and the magic that makes the life of a real cowboy larger than life. It’s a way of life he cherishes and lives every day of his life. Like all cowboys, Chris isn’t happy unless he’s at home on his ranch in Kaycee, Wyoming. When he’s not performing these days, he’s at home tending to the ranch. " 'Song of Wyoming' fits me a little better now than it did years ago," he says.

"It’s really about a guy who’s getting along in years and enjoying the things that are simple. I love being home, doing the simple things and smelling the sagebrush, seeing the blue sky, enjoying the peace and quiet.Just like that cowboy in "Song of Wyoming", the new album draws its strength from a walk through familiar territory.