Amen Dunes - Cowboy Worship

by Hayden Harman Rating:6 Release Date:2015-01-19

Last year saw the release of a couple of albums that got what Gram Parsons was talking about a half-century ago when he dubbed the term “Cosmic American Music.” Alt-country fans were treated to Sturgill Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, which took the outer-space meaning of 'cosmic' to the extreme with lyrics like “

.” But on the other end of the spectrum was Amen Dune’s Love, a mixture of folk and atmospheric psychedelia more in tune with the spiritual implications of the word 'cosmic'. 

Damon McMahon, the mainman of Amen Dunes, said in an interview with Wondering Sound that he was trying to do a spiritual jazz record with Love. “Well,” he clarifies, “a songwriter record produced by a spiritual jazz band, like if Elvis had Pharoah Sanders back him up.”

Cowboy Worship, the new EP from Amen Dunes, contains four previously released tracks from Love, one from 2011’s Through Donkey Jaw, and one carefully selected cover. Most of the five previously released tracks feature alternate mixes, with different instrumentation (which includes contributions from Colin Stetson and members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Iceage) brought to the front of the mix. But these changes in texture don’t really alter the overall feel of the previously released versions.

The cover song is 'Song to the Siren', a Tim Buckley original also famously covered by This Mortal Coil. McMahon’s choice in covering it seems appropriate, given both he and Buckley share psychedelic leanings and a spiritually wandering quality to their art.

Ultimately, however, Cowboy Worship is for completists. Most newcomers would be better suited to start with Love. But those curious enough to understand what is going behind the scenes will find minor revelatory moments.

On the opening track, 'I Know Myself, the tape rolls at the end, allowing us to hear some studio banter. McMahon is clearly in another zone after having performed the song, when we hear someone enter the studio to start work on the next track. McMahon sounds elated when he says, “Perfect timing.”

That little moment says a lot about how seriously he aligns himself with the 'cosmos', and reminds the listener that everything has to be in its right place to capture that spiritual essence. There’s no telling where he’ll go next, but you really can’t go wrong when you’re looking deep within.

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