There was a special moment in Boston Legal as James Spader mounted a mechanical bull in Texas to Big & Rich hit, Save A Horse - Ride A Cowboy.

A comic scene where music sequencing showed why the genre is more appreciated in the U.S. - especially on TV.

Artists diverse as Kasey Chambers, Iris De Ment, Alison Krauss and Willie Nelson are often used as musical interludes in Crossing Jordan, Cold Case and others.

And the dialogue was riveting on Boston Legal featuring Spader, William Shatner and Angie Dickinson in refreshingly absurd scenes and locales.

That plot - well Spader's character Alan Shore was sent to Texas for an appeal against the execution of a client.

He justified his bovine mastery with "going to Texas and not riding a mechanical bull would be like going to L.A. and not sleeping with Paris Hilton."

Big & Rich is not just huge on TV, live circuit and publishing returns - the duo is also impacting in Australia because of its imaginative video clips.

We'll add to this unique means of subverting a local radio ban by showing those clips.

Meanwhile here are a couple of CD reviews.

CD REVIEW - 2006

They borrow from a Shel Silverstein-Kinky Friedman bucolic blender to grab casual listeners in their entrée The Freak Parade.

But neath a mock shock veneer Big Kenny Alphin and John Rich are serious artisans maximising their joyous mix of country, rap, dance and self-deprecation.

Debut disc Horse Of A Different Colour sold by the bucket load despite little airplay.

So it's no surprise the MusikMafia dip deep into that well to source their rollicking soundscape.

Sure, there's a snatch of Indian Outlaw déjà vu in their energised title track as they name check Marilyn Manson and hook heavy Soul Shaker.

But they're smart enough to punctuate genre benders with evocative country tunes Never Mind Me and Slow Motion.

They add suffice spice with Tex-Mex dips Jalapeno and moonshiner 20 Margaritas - frocked up as an aural Austin Lounge Lizards off-cut.

Hank Williams Jr sang about the mile high club long before teaming with Kid Rock but the duo nail it in Caught Up In The Moment as the female lead is "sittin' at a bar in LAX, readin' Cosmo how to have good sex."

And superb subliminal sequencing - Leap Of Faith, I Pray For You and televangelism spoof Filthy Rich.

Former Lonestar singer and Texan Pentecostal preacher's son Rich reveals the greed parody - penned with stone country veterans Sonny Throckmorton and Freddy Powers - was inspired by his granny's firing after 18 years of shirt factory toil in Huntington, Tennessee.

They mix globalisation and a Vietnam War vignette 8th Of November with intro by Kristofferson.

It was inspired by a wounded warrior Alphin met in a Deadwood, South Dakota bar.

Niles Harris, one of just four of the 173rd Airborne Brigade to survive a 1965 ambush by more than 1,200 Viet Cong, also gave Kenny his hat.

Schmaltz soaked bonus track Our America with cameos by Gretchen Wilson and rapper Cowboy Troy is a strange finale.

For us infidels in the unlucky radio country it sounds trite but won't matter to Rich, now living up to his name as the most prolific country writer of the new millenium.



"Charley Pride was the man in black/ rock 'n' roll used to be about Johnny Cash/ hey, what you think about that?'' - Rollin' (The Ballad of Big & Rich). - Big Kenny/John Rich/Cowboy Troy.

When Texan band Lonestar forced singer John Rich to walk the plank in 1998 as it drowned in balladic ballast an ill-fated solo career was manna from heaven.

The singer - best known for killer singles No News and Amy's Back in Austin - was dumped by email.

With delicious irony Rich, 30, joined Big Kenny Elphin, 40, co-writer of ill-fated solo single I Pray For You - for a genre jumping album that seared rock and country sales charts.

Now Big & Rich is the hottest country duo of the new millenium - with minimal airplay.

It's no surprise Rich also co-wrote and produced a brace of songs for Gretchen Wilson who topped rock and country charts with debut album Here For The Party, kick started by riveting single Redneck Woman.

The genre-bending bandits head a Nashville based bunch of roots musicians dubbed the Musik Mafia.

Big & Rich - fuelled by superb harmonies - plough fertile paddocks akin to nineties retro wizards The Tractors.

The duo added rap - a dip countrified by veteran outlaws Hank Williams Jr, David Allan Coe and Geezinslaw Brothers - before Kenny Chesney took a bite.


Entree on Big & Rich's debut album Horse Of A Different Colour (Warner) is theme song Rollin' (The Ballad Of Big & Rich) - a rollicking honky tonker laced with a bilingual rap by Cowboy Troy, country music's only 6-foot-4 black rapper.

"Music should be the last place prejudice should exist," Rich revealed as the disc soared the sales stratosphere in the slipstream of his Redneck Woman peer.

"It's all the same chords. It's all the same notes. It's the same words. It's just how you put them all together. We think if it's great music, it's great music, period. It doesn't matter what genre it falls under.""

The disc's first single, Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy, broke Billboard's Top 20 chart with minimal airplay.

"We have not had a radio hit yet, however we're selling 75,000 to 80,000 records a week, which has never happened," Rich adds.

"We think country music can be the biggest format in the world but only if it's open to change and willing to bend its own rules."


The duo wrote She's A Butterfly for Martina McBride after meeting a teenager with brain cancer.

"We thought we had a meeting with Paul Worley to pitch songs for Martina," Rich said.

"After we did a few of those songs he said, 'I understand you have this Muzik Mafia thing going, this Big & Rich thing. Play me some of that."

The rest is history with McBride harmonising on Live This Life and Wilson on Saved.

So does Big & Rich live up to its name? Well, hell yeah.

Anyone who can turn soft-core satire into rhythmic romance without losing a beat on 13 songs deserves success.

In a car journey from the smog of Melbourne to the surf spray of Shipwreck Coast and beyond there was no temptation to dismount.

The duo romps on a surrealistic soundscape embroidered with Mike Johnson's steel and Jonathan Yudkin's fiddle, banjo, mandolin, harp and string arrangements.

It's hard to miss targets with equestrian imagery of Wild West Show and bucolic barroom banter of Big Time, Kick My Ass and Six Foot Town.

Irreverent presidential parody in Real World, evangelical caricatures in Saved and Live This Life, acidic absurdity in Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy) and historical homage in Deadwood Mountain are a potent cocktail.

Hey, there's even positive love in Holy Water and Love Train.

So is there any valid criticism?

Well, they owe creative karma to Reverend Billy C Wirtz and Austin Lounge Lizards for riffs in Real World but that's small-spuds for giving radio a knacker cracker.

top / back to diary