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Kameron Marlowe – We Were Cowboys’ review

Before taking his chance in the music industry Kameron Marlowe sold car parts at General Motors. Then NBC’s hit TV show ‘The Voice’ offered him a fast-track to the live auditions after chancing upon his YouTube videos. Marlowe wowed judges with his soulful rendition of Luke Combs’ ‘One Number Away.’ Fast forward to 2020 and Marlowe, signed to Sony Music Nashville’s Columbia imprint, releases his debut EP with break-out hit ‘Giving You Up’ garnering him all sorts of attention. Here we are in 2022 with the story of Marlowe’s first phase journey almost complete upon the release of 16 track debut album, ‘We Were Cowboys’ on August 26th.

This rags-to-riches, Cinderella story wouldn’t have happened if Marlowe wasn’t a talented artist, the industry has no time any more to develop artists in the way they did back in the 1970s and 80s. One listen to ‘We Were Cowboys’ is enough to convince you that given the right guidance Kameron Marlowe could well go on to be a major force in Country music. He has the rich, gruff vocal tones of Kip Moore and Scotty McCreary and the attitude of a younger but wiser Blake Shelton. Toss in a little Stapleton-esque Blues and you’ve got a strong, impactful debut release with the promise of much more to come.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again until someone listens to me, 16 tracks is too many for a single album release. It provokes listener fatigue and complacency and encourages the listener to cull what might well turn out to be sleeper-hits on their Spotify playlists. Edited down to a tight 12 songs, ‘We Were Cowboys’ would have received at least an extra half star at the culmination of this review, but that’s the label’s fault rather than being anything Marlowe has done wrong. Sometimes, less is just more.

The album opens and closes with its two strongest tracks. ‘We Were Cowboys’ is a song with quiet beginnings that builds to a louder, passionate chorus. There’s a cool guitar solo too as Marlowe sings about his life-long obsession with wranglers and guys that walk the line. It’s a clever, heartfelt song that really highlights the rich quality of his vocals. The album journey ends at ‘Long Way Down’, a post 5 minute, bombastic southern Rock behemoth of a song that throws all sorts of 70s shapes mixed with a little of that Eric Church / Joanna Cotten type of energy with it’s male/female vocals.

In between these two songs Marlowe provides a mixture of 80s rock guitars, southern attitude and Blues-based heartbreak to a satisfying degree. ‘Country Boy’s Prayer’ is awash with ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ vibes as Marlowe name-checks a number of southern tropes like fishing, bird dogs and farms in a hopeful and thankful way whilst ‘Money Ain’t Shit’, another song with a positive message, comes across like a Blake Shelton hit-in-waiting with its funky guitars and rich vocals underpinning the ‘you can’t buy back time’ message of the song.

The rock doesn’t stop there on ‘We Were Cowboys’, either. ‘This Old Town’ sees Marlowe channeling some prime Tom Petty with some nicely placed fiddles bringing a touch of the heartland to proceedings whilst ‘Over Now’, possibly my choice for next song to send to radio, changes pace nicely in the chorus and takes the song up a level in terms of cadence, melody and originality. With some relatable lyrics about saying sorry and a huge chorus, ‘Over Now’ might well become the poster child for this album going forward.

As well as rocking out, Marlowe shows that he can play the Blues and bring a little nuance into the music across ‘We Were Cowboys’ too. ‘Fool Me Again’ is a Bluesy ballad with ‘unbreak my heart’ type of vibes around it. Marlowe’s vocals are top-notch on this track and there’s another hint of Bon Jovi with the guitar solo too. ‘Steady Heart’, meanwhile is a delightful ballad with a lovely cadence and lilting melody to it. ‘God only knows where we’ll end up when you mix my callous ways with her sweet touch.’ Heartfelt, right? Clever, nuanced lyrics too, ‘Steady Heart’ is the perfect ‘lighters-in-the-air’ arena song. ‘Ain’t Enough Whiskey’ sees Marlowe doing a kind of McCreary meets Stapleton thing with Blues overtones and ‘Runnin’ Out On You’ feels like it was recorded live in one take with its grainy production and raw sound. All these songs combine to bring a gravitas to the album that isn’t often in evidence on an artist’s debut release.

‘Giving You Up’ and ‘Burn ‘Em All’ have been ported across from Marlowe’s 2020 EP to flesh out (unnecessarily so in my opinion) the track list, which is then rounded out with a couple of cracking songs in the shape of ‘Girl on Fire’ and ‘Does it Have To Be Over?’ Both feature Marlowe’s gruff, Kip Moore-esque vocals and a tasteful, restrained sound that belies the guy’s age and the relative infancy of his career. Toss in a cheeky song about smoking weed in the form of ‘Granny’s Garden’ and you’ve got an interesting, diverse album that is tied together with the binding narrative of Marlowe’s vocals and guitar-leaning style.

‘We Were Cowboys’ is a solid foundation from which Marlowe can go on to build a successful career in Country music. There are at least three potential number one hits on the album but there is also a strength, solidity and authenticity to it that is often lacking on debut albums. There’s nuance, there’s light and shade and there’s a whole ton of guitars, what more could you want from a guy at this stage of his career?

Track list: 1. We Were Cowboys 2. Country Boy’s Prayer 3. Girl on Fire 4. Giving You Up 5. Does it Have to be Over 6. This Old Town 7. Money Ain’t Shit 8. Fool Me Again 9. Burn ‘Em All 10. Steady Heart 11. Over Now 12. Saying Goodbye 13. Ain’t Enough Whiskey 14. Runnin Out On You 15. Granny’s Garden 16. Long Way Down Record Label: Columbia / Sony Music Nashville Release Date: August 26th Buy ‘We Were Cowboys’ now

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