"I only ever wanted to be a cowboy and play music," says songwriter Ross Cooper. At this point, the former professional bareback bronc rider has settled into both. This spring, he'll release I Rode The Wild Horses, a collection of old-school cowboy mantras, rodeo circuit anthems and lonesome barroom ballads.
The title track kicks off the album as a homage to those road-weary cowboys Cooper often looked up to growing up in plains of West Texas. He delivers an authentic perspective on the jangly number that finds a weathered cowboy reminiscing about his glorified heyday.
"In the surrounding towns of where I grew up, there were all these old cowboys who are now the last of a dying breed," Cooper tells Wide Open Country. "These old cowboys, my dad included, they accomplished a lot in their lifetime. But sometimes, it feels as though the rest of the world just doesn't care anymore about them."
Cooper delivers lines like "I'm a patchwork of scars posted at the bar because the pain ain't up and left. Well, these beers taste old and they're rodeo cold, but they ain't killed me yet," with a tongue-in-cheek smirk. There's a textured warmth to his vocals that add a velvety touch and a healthy dose of confident swagger. Still, Cooper's not necessarily sitting on his high horse or yielding a condescending and arrogant tone on "I Rode The Wild Horses." Rather, he's full of tact and charm on the hypnotizing ode.
Even though Cooper's determined to remain true to his cowboy ways, he does so on his own terms. He's not bound by those traditional ways simply for the sake of tradition. Cooper's "I Rode The Wild Horses" isn't so wrapped up in itself that it's detached or out of touch. It's not a dated or campy trail song.
With Eric Masse (Miranda Lambert, Andrew Combs, Robert Ellis) at the producing helm, they create a rich and rewarding soundscape that combines the sepia-toned imprints of Far West Texas with a vibrant sonic punch. It's stimulating yet remains familiar. On "I Rode The Wild Horses," they ride the wave of a toe-tapping rhythm that hinges on a driving, fuzzed-out guitar lick that bucks. Pedal steel adds some an additional layer of desolate grit. Altogether, you can smell the dirt kicked up from Cooper well-worn boots throughout.
Cooper, who moved to Nashville five years ago, says the album almost feels like his first proper introduction despite releasing a handful of albums over the years. "Specifically, 'I Rode The Wild Horses' feels like my 'here I am' song," says Cooper. "I spent a lot of time writing songs for this record. Every song, they're the truth for me. They all came from a place of sincerity and honesty."
Throughout the 12-tracks, Cooper relies heavily on the candid tales heard from friends & family and his own time on the rodeo circuit. He captures those raw emotions and refines them into sensible storytelling and driven by experienced detail. While Cooper has a gift for delicate and ornate passages, he doesn't rely too heavily on them. Rather, he relies on his open, straightforward West Texas vernacular to do most of the heavy lifting. It's why his songwriting feels natural and exact.
I Rode The Wild Horses is officially set to be released March 9.