State Cows - State Cows (2011)

State Cows

State_Cows_State_Cows.jpg

Click on CD cover
to listen or purchase

It is quite an honor for a band to earn complimentary comparisons with the rock/jazz fusion band Steely Dan. Years of gigging as a Steely Dan cover band in the college town of Umeå, Sweden has allowed State Cows to become beneficiaries of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s ooze. When you take a good listen to their self-titled album, you get just that - Steely Dan sounds coming from both eras: the smooth AM rock of their early output and their highly sophisticated jazz fusion from the Aja-Gaucho era. Immersed deeply in Fagen and Becker’s genre-bending grooves, State Cows - led by Daniel Andersson and Stefan Olofsson  - deposits a hefty amount of smooth West Coast jazz, silky soul, classically-embellished sweetness and immaculate jazzy chord changes into this eleven track collection.

It is quite an honor for a band to earn complimentary comparisons with the rock/jazz fusion band Steely Dan. Years of gigging as a Steely Dan cover band in the college town of Umeå, Sweden has allowed State Cows to become beneficiaries of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker’s ooze. When you take a good listen to their self-titled album, you get just that - Steely Dan sounds coming from both eras: the smooth AM rock of their early output and their highly sophisticated jazz fusion from the Aja-Gaucho era. Immersed deeply in Fagen and Becker’s genre-bending grooves, State Cows - led by Daniel Andersson and Stefan Olofsson  - deposits a hefty amount of smooth West Coast jazz, silky soul, classically-embellished sweetness and immaculate jazzy chord changes into this eleven track collection.

Structurally, State Cows feels like it’s the follow-up to Gaucho. The production is deeply immersed in ‘80s AC-friendly synths, perfectly executed rhythms and breezy California coolness. On “I’ve Changed,” the band takes the roots of “Reeling in the Years” and slips it into board treatments Fagen similarly used on “I.G.Y.” The same vibes are also documented on “Come to the Point,” where the band rides a smooth groove embossed with Al Jarreau pop and George Benson guitar. Probably the biggest standout on the project is the exceptional seven-minute closer “Lost in a Mind Game,” which greets the ear with flirtatious chords and “Deacon Blues” tapestry.

Andersson and Olofson brings in some very skillful session players to fill in the blanks. Guitarist Göran Turborn channels the intensity of Jay Graydon’s unforgettable solo on “Peg,” while the legendary session guitar legend himself stops by for a surprise visit on the infectious Big Apple tribute “New York Town.”

Influences from power band Toto, Chicago and Hall & Oates are also evident, especially Chicago when hearing the horn work of “Stella by the Barlight.” But,“Stella” easily entangles itself with Steely Dan DNA using the sweet chords of “Hey Nineteen” and the magical storytelling of Aja’s “Black Cow” while opening up gospel’s nectar on the closing seconds.

If there is one serious gripe about State Cows, one nit-picky thing to zoom in on, it is that the songs on the disc’s back seat start to run together like one seamless medley, carrying on far longer than expected. Still, even these songs are decent in texture.

Nonetheless, it’s quite a remarkable feat to hear a band pulling off Steely Dan’s other-worldly signature moves without sounding like mad scientists trying to concoct some highly-elaborate scheme to end the world. It’s not impossible to pull off Steely Dan’s fanciness, but no other band has made that high level of avant-garde soul so appealing. State Cows’ biggest challenge so far is to break past the confines of “talk-of-the-town” chatter, but their decision to revive Fagen and Becker’s imaginations, while incorporating their own originality into the modernity of AC music, pushes them in the right direction to become international ambassadors of this kind of jazz fusion. They’ve already earned the Steely Dan bumper sticker on their intricate musical style and spirit of excellence. Where they drive the vehicle from here is entirely left up to them. Enthusiastically recommended.

By J. Matthew Cobb

 

Leave a comment!