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Echolyn Cowboy Poems Free album cover
3.88 | 203 ratings | 16 reviews | 21% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2000

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Texas Dust (5:16)
2. Poem #1 (1:33)
3. Human Lottery (5:32)
4. Gray Flannel Suits (4:47)
5. Poem #2 (0:59)
6. High as Pride (6:45)
7. American Vacation Tune (5:18)
8. Swingin' the Ax (3:15)
9. 1729 Broadway (6:01)
10. Poem #3 (1:50)
11. 67 Degrees (5:21)
12. Brittany (6:34)
13. Poem #4 (1:30)
14. Too Late for Everything (4:33)

Total Time 59:14

Line-up / Musicians

- Raymond Weston / lead (3,8,9,11,12) & backing vocals, bass, narrator (7)
- Brett Kull / 12-string, acoustic, electric & lap steel guitars, EBow, mandolin & toy piano (10), Indian banjo (12), lead (1,4,6,7,12-14) & backing vocals
- Christopher Buzby / Hammond, Rhodes, Wurlitzer, table organ, clavinet, synth, talkbox, hammered dulcimer, alto & soprano saxophone, harmonica, melodeon, ocarina, autoharp, cajón, accordion, harpsichord, recorders, backing vocals
- Jordan Perlson / drums (3,4,7), congas, cowbell, rainstick, snow disc, shaker, tambourine, concert bells, bell tree, riq, tabla, timbales, snare, ashiko
- Paul Ramsey / drums (1,5,6,8-12,14), bell tree, claves, crash cymbal, floor tom, congas, timbales, quinto, shaker, drum loops, vibraslap, tambourine, wind chimes, güiro, tabla, concert bells

Releases information

CD Velveteen Records ‎- VR2006-2 (2000, US)
CD Self-released (2008, US) Remastered, new cover art

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Buy ECHOLYN Cowboy Poems Free Music

ECHOLYN Cowboy Poems Free ratings distribution

(203 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(21%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(45%)
Good, but non-essential (27%)
Collectors/fans only (6%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

ECHOLYN Cowboy Poems Free reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Dan Bobrowski
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Echolyn disintegrated soon after the Sony debacle and As The World failed to catapult the band to the big leagues. The members went their own ways, Brett Kull, Ray Weston and Paul Ramsey formed Still and Chris Buzby created Finneus Gauge with his brother, John. Chris and Brett, after a few years apart, contacted each other and began talking of getting together and writing some music. They did and at length put together ten tunes, called on Ray and Paul and added Jordan Perlson on percussives and reformed the Echolyn machine.

On Cowboy Poems Free, Buzby reduces the synth heaviness of earlier recordings and relies more heavily on piano and organ for a more immediate and live feel. This album is a "grower." The more you listen, the more you get trapped by the wonderful melodies and warm, heartfelt lyrics. The lyrics for CPF come from various stages of American History. The depression era (Human Lottery, Texas Dust ), WWII (67 Degrees, Too Late for Everything and Brittany) the 50/60's (Grey Flannel Suits, Swinging the Ax). The melodies are strong and will get stuck in your head. This has to be Echolyn's most melodic accomplishment.

Musically the biggest difference between CPF and the previous efforts is bassist Tom Hyatt's absence. Ray Weston handles the bass chores well, but he's not as complex as Hyatt. Believe me when I say, you'll hardly notice. The songs are strong enough that you won't miss that component. The addition of Perlson (Buzby's Berkley student) on conga's (mainly) adds another facet to the sound, more airy and breathable. Buzby's keyboard work really shines, not flashy, but more live and energetic. Vocally, Kull and Weston are so "on the mark" and fresh sounding. They never sound forced, as they do on some tunes from the early days. They've matured and wrote vocals lines more suited to their distinct ranges.

The "stand out" tracks for me are; Grey Flannel Suits, Brittany, 67 Degrees and Swinging the Ax. I've played some of these for non-prog music fans with good results.

You can go to Echolyn's website and download some zip files from each disc and put together a good sampler. You'll find that the tunes representing Cowboy Poems Free are among their strongest. Some of the CPF tracks are also featured on the live DVD "Stars and Gardens."

Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I agree with prior reviewer Danbo that Echolyn's fifth album, COWBOY POEMS FREE (2000), is one of their best efforts. For me, it's almost as good as the superb AS THE WORLD (my overall favourite from this excellent contemporary American prog group), and it frequently finds its way to my CD player.

The band's sound had really solidified by this point, and the addition of Jordan Perlson on drums and percussion (complementing regular drummer Paul Ramsay) imparts a funkier, fuller sound to the mix. In fact, the drums and percussion are particularly good throughout, driving the session along in a powerful, even joyous fashion. Keyboard maestro Chris Buzby's generous use of organ (as well as electric piano, synth and acoustic piano) lends a frequently jazzy flavour, and Brett Kull is always busy, and terrific as usual on guitar and slide. Ray Weston, meanwhile, shows himself to be a workmanlike bassist, having taken over those duties from the departed Tom Hyatt. Weston and Kull share lead vocal duties, and work very well together, with Buzby chiming in to help the band to some of their most soaring harmonizing yet.

The writing is as strong as ever, with the song structures being somewhat more straightforward than on previous releases, and less obviously indebted to Gentle Giant for inspiration. The evocative, thoughtful lyrics deal with various periods in American history, from the dust bowl days, to the prohibition era, to WWII and the Vietnam War, and give the album a thematic unity. The "story songs" convincingly portray the indomitable American spirit, with the cost of collective freedom and prosperity borne by individual workers, soldiers and sailors through sacrifice, loneliness, deprivation and danger.

There are no weak tracks, though some are particular favourites: "High as Pride" features a sublime guitar and synth section near the close, and "American Vacation Tune" is great fun with its frantic, pounding drums and "crunchy" keys. "Swingin' the Ax" sounds a little like a wonderful Led Zeppelin and Gentle Giant hybrid, with bluesy slide and infectious electric piano. "67 Degrees" tells a sailor's tale of separation from loved ones, with a smoky, moody start, and powerfully impassioned vocals, while "Brittany" has more great singing, and an epic feel that begs a generous volume setting.

"CPF" is a shining example of an ever-engaging, latter-day progressive rock recording. Complex, but not dauntingly so, the album is never boring, with a different vista always waiting just around the next bend. Yes, there's life in the old genre yet, and Echolyn's COWBOY POEMS FREE is just the shot in the arm to help resuscitate and flesh out your aging prog collection!

Review by NJprogfan
4 stars One thing you can always rely on with Echolyn; excellent singing, wonderful harmonies, clever lyrics, and musicianship that is varied and extremely catchy. "Cowboy Poems Free" is no exception. Starting off with, 'Texas Dust' the band plays infectious wah wah guitar licks with some killer fast paced percussion. Upbeat and awesome beginning. I like all the Poem # tracks, they are very ambient and bridge into the following track on the album smoothly. Of course there are the obligatory Gentle Giant-like tracks, "Human Lottery" and the best track on the album, "Brittany". Both have that great harmonized singing and complex beats with Buzby's Kenny Minnear-like clavinet noodling keyboards. There are a few tracks in the mid-section that tend to sound like Canada's Bare Naked Ladies. Although the wah wah guitar attack on "American Vacation Tune" sticks out shiningly. Things pick up dramatically with, "67 Degrees" with a killer keyboard melody that is spooky and dark. The last song, "Too Late For Everything" has the foundation of their following masterpiece, "Mei". All in all, a superior album with all the "Echolyn" trademarks. A tad lesser in quality then their previous albums, but its a natural progression in their style. A solid 3.75 stars.
Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Definitely, Echolyn is a band which has a character of its own and I haven't found any bad album from them. This album is by no exception representing the band's style in making and performing their music. The album opens with "Texas Dust" (5:16) which comprises various styles throughout its musical segments. It blends the elements of rock, country and jazz at the same time with great vocal and nice keyboard solo. This track ends with "Poem #1" (1:33) which serves as bridge to the next track "Human Lottery" (5:32). This third track combines R&B and southern rock music with some flavor of Brazillian / Hawaian music. The vocal line reminds me to Gentle Giant especially during choir or vocal harmonies. The guitar solo in the middle of the track is also stunning even though it's not that long for typical rock music.

"Gray Flannel Suits" (4:47) starts with combination of keyboard and guitar fills followed with vocal line in jazz rock style. "High As Pride" (6:45) is a nice ballad with heavy influence from Gentle Giant especially on singing style. The music moves slowly with acoustic guitar and keyboard as main rhythm section. Vocal harmonies are really good. The music brings to upbeat and fast tempo with great guitar solo at track 7 "American Vacation Tune" (5:18). What I like most about this track in addition to the guitar is the bass lines - so powerful. Vocal is also excellent.

"1729 Broadway" (6:01) is a mellow track which flows naturally with great rhythm section mainly contributed by Buzby's keyboard work. It's a nice song, accessible to many ears, I believe. You might consider this as ballad as well. In almost similar vein "67 Degrees" (5:21) is another good track as well. The concluding track "Too Late For Everything" (4:33) is another mellow song with nice vocal and clavinet rhythm section augmented with acoustic guitar. This kind of music is similar with the music of Spock's Beard.

Overall, it's a good album with some excellent tracks like "Texas Dust". It's suitable for those of you who like music with some influence of jazz rock even though not that heavy, and of course Gentle Giant. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Todd
5 stars CPF was my introduction to Echolyn--perhaps that's why it remains my favorite album from one of my favorite bands. I think in some minds it suffers in comparison to its predecessor As the World, but in my opinion the overall songwriting and musicianship is just as good, if not better, and there are more memorable moments overall on CPF. The history, concepts, and high points of the album are well documented by other reviews, so I won't elaborate, except to add that 67 Degrees and Brittany have grown into some of my favorite Echolyn songs. The songs are really enhanced by the music guide on especially is given more meaning in the personal WW2 context described there. Definitely worth a trip! Also, I believe the band is currently remastering this for a future rerelease. For now you can find it on Happy hunting!
Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Chronicling the various conflicts of America, both domestic and foreign, Cowboy Poems Free is glorious and sometimes downtrodden take on both the big picture and the more common elements of life. Each vignette is treated with respect (although there is a touch sarcasm from time to time), and upon digging into the words, I came away with a sense of awe: Many of these tracks are magnificent tributes to the men and women who have railed against hardship, be it economic or martial. The often grim lyrics are usually juxtaposed with music that evokes an opposite feeling, which unbelievably contributes to the powerful nature of this work.

"Texas Dust" An energetic introduction of a first song, the boys of Echolyn come charging right out of the gates like a sequined cape-wearing rodeo rider. As the dust settles, the beautiful verse begins. The chorus is likewise wonderful; the synthesizer and guitar play their part in a wonderfully melodic way. The soloing in the end is well thought out. This song describes the hardship of the dust bowl, and does so with a callous and yet gentle determination.

"Poem #1" A spiraling synthetic piece bridges the first and second songs.

"Human Lottery" A gritty guitar and some keys get things rocking on this one. It has an extremely catchy vocal melody, and the instrumental section that follows is a bunch of brief solos that are excellently executed. The lyrics here have to do with one man's take on the Great Depression.

"Gray Flannel Suits" I'm pleased as punch with this song. It's about as upbeat as it gets, and the lyrics are outstanding. They describe men going of to work in their "look-a-like" suits. It's a great bit of music, and lots of fun in spite of the context.

"Poem #2" It sounds like an introduction to a Sting song, but it works are a phenomenal transition.

"High as Pride" My favorite song from this album, the vocals work over soft piano at first; mesmerizing and beautiful music enters. I love everything about this great song, from the excellent and nostalgic chorus, to the brave instrumental section that features synthesizer and slide guitar. The sputtering vocals in the end are likewise outstanding. The lyrics are reflective and insightful.

"American Vacation Tune" This one is another upbeat song with a great string of lyrical sections. The music stays loud about all the way through, with the exception of a spoken word bit in the middle.

"Swingin' the Axe" This is a great hard song about bootlegging during Prohibition. Given my affinity for drink, it's probably no matter of curiosity as to how I feel about that period in our country.

"1729 Broadway" A depressing song about a man away from his family, who would "give a year" of his life to see the children, this is a beautiful one even if it is rather despondent.

"Poem #3" Tranquil acoustic guitar and saxophone with sparingly played drums make up the third interlude.

"67 Degrees" A song about a sailor away from home, the lyrics are elegant even if the music is a bit harsh. This song is also very good, even if not quite as memorable.

"Brittany" An epistolary song relaying both mundane news and encouragement from a brother to a young man named Rueben away during World War II, this one has several layers of sound, and while not as easy to follow as the other tracks, carries on in heartrending way. The chorus is jaw-dropping: "When the whole world is another world away, you live your life waiting for words from yesterday. Ball and chained to a cause that keeps us free, you live your life waiting at blessed Brittany." That's something to think about.

"Poem #4" The only "poem" with lyrics, the words describe the consequences of war that the living face.

"Too Late for Everything" The horrors of World War I trench warfare betray the lovely, gentle acoustic music. The protagonist tells of yellow gas, trench foot, his buddy being killed mid-sentence, and in the end, he finds some cigarettes by a dead soldier- a small, very small consolation.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
4 stars Echolyn's rebirth in 2000 was a spectacular one. And believe it or not, this isn't even their best album since their comeback. In fact, this four star album isn't as good as either of the two albums they've recorded since, yet this is still very close to a masterpiece.

Now I have heard a profusion of confusion as to whether or not Echolyn is a fusion band. Here the fusion is much less prevalent, as the songs mostly have more traditional rock structures. Yet even with that, the Echolyn odd rhythms, chord patterns and vocal harmonies abound. And the lyrics, mostly about the difficulties attaining the American Dream in this modern age, are deep and poignant.

Echolyn are still masters of intricate musical woven patterns. Although many of the tracks here on the surface sound straightforward, listen to the album repeatedly, and the intricacies reveal themselves to the listener. To spectacular effect.

4.5 stars.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars 4.5 stars. I have the remastered version and I do like the album cover better on this one too. When I first heard about this band several years ago I purchased "The End Is Beautiful" , "As The World" and "MEI" all around the same time. I figured I had a good cross section with these three albums. I started with "As The World" and soon found myself wondering why this band is so popular in the Prog world. It was just a difficult listen for me. Within a month I thought i'd move on to their latest thinking it was probably different, and it was and I loved it. I decided to hold off on "MEI" for fear it sounded like "As The World". In the meantime I became friends with Todd (the RPI guy) who had as his avatar "Cowboy Poems Free" and a five star review of that album. I noticed on other sites that this album wasn't held in as high esteem as "Suffocating The Bloom", "MEI" or "As The World" but knowing that Todd and I have very similar tastes in music I bought it and "Suffocating The Bloom". I reviewed the latter recently and thought it was incredible. "Cowboy Poems Free" is even better.Thanks Todd ! Interesting that the band had a hiatus after "As The World" as they all went off doing their thing in other bands.They returned for this one and promptly made a more accessible, song oriented album.This is powerful but the lyrics are even more powerful. Check out Epignosis' review as he explains really well the theme of this recording. This album just blows me away. It could not be more perfect.

"Texas Dust" opens with percussion before a full sound kicks in quickly. It's uptempo. A calm with vocals a minute in.This is moving stuff. The chorus is gorgeous. It picks up after 4 minutes with some excellent guitar.This is a top three for me. "Poem #1" is a short atmospheric piece. "Human Lottery" kicks in with guitar. Drums before it settles with vocals. It's full again as contrasts continue. Some killer bass and guitar at times. "Gray Flannel Suits" has a catchy beat with vocals. I like when they slow it down before 2 minutes and after 3 minutes. It turns powerful before 4 minutes. Nice. "Poem #2" is another soundscape piece. "High As Pride" features reserved vocals and piano to start as strummed guitar joins in. Drums and organ around 3 minutes.This song seems to get better as it plays out. "American Vacation" has this uptempo instrumental intro which impresses before vocals arrive around a minute. Spoken words before 3 1/2 minutes and a heavier sound follows. "Swingin' The Axe" is a passionate track and it's pretty heavy too.

"1729 Broadway" is another top three for me. Spacey sounds echo as a beat comes in. Vocals follow. Organ before 1 1/2 minutes. A moving track. Guitar 3 minutes in is great then he rips it up after 5 minutes for good measure. It blends into "Poem #3" another mellow piece. "67 Degrees" is the last top three song. Love the keyboard sounds to open. Drums then vocals come in. How good does this sound ! Those keys are back late to end it. Great track. Vocals arrive a minute in on "Brittany". This is such a feel good tune for me. It's right there with the top three. It gets fairly powerful at times. It's a blast. "Poem #4" has these loud percussion sounds and vocals.Cool. "Too Late For Everything" ends it in style. A relaxing but dark and meaningful song.

There are so many lines i'd like to quote from songs here. Just brilliant lyrics. Such a talented band. I see the light.

Review by ZowieZiggy
2 stars After a hiatus of four years (whose reasons are explained by fellow reviewers), the band got together and released their fifth studio album.

After these four years, each member has evolved and even if the trade mark of the band remains (strong vocal harmonies), the music featured on "Cowboy Poems Free" leans towards a more rock angle ("Texas Dust", "Human Lottery") although that the latter confirms their Gentle Giant inclination in terms of vocalizing.

Most of their previous albums can be categorized in the Eclectic genre, but this one is not such a work. It sounds as if the band converts itself into a more accessible combo. Don't get me wrong: I don't mean radio friendly, just easier to get into.

The problem with this album is that there are hardly any highlights. Nothing that moves me. It is just a collection of good songs, but no more. The jazzy aspects are not alien either but that's not a new element in the music from "Echolyn".

I quite miss the complexity of their earlier albums; this one sounds too hard to my ears: too American oriented to my feel, to basic rock oriented. At this stage, the band has lost his originality and sounds as a million of other ones (OK, let's say a hundred ones).

The music is well executed as usual, but one is expecting more from his band. This work sounds flat to me and I can't rate it with more than two stars (five out of ten: average it means).

Review by Wicket
4 stars I must admit, this album came as quite a surprise.

"The End Is Beautiful" is my personal favorite from this band's repertoire. It's a good balance and blend of technical, proggy influences with good melodies and, honestly, some kinda catchy tunes ("Georgia Pine" at the top of that list), but I decided to head backwards into their catalog and find their first successful attempt at this unique sound, which at first I thought was "As The World", but I found it still had some stale "90's prog" sound to it. It just didn't sound unique or and original, and neither did it stand out from a traditional, technical prog standard with organ or blazing guitar solos or anything. It was actually a let down after such a promising opener in the title track.

However, I never thought I'd find myself enjoying "Cowboy Poems Free" as much as I am. Right away, "Texas Dust" and "Human Lottery" introduce both catchy tunes and unusual time signatures befitting of prog influenced bands. The rock organ keys just seem to have so much more life into them, a bit like classic Spock. Now this band starts to sound unique, original, kinda like the way Spock's Beard rose to prominence. They didn't bother with trying to sound like traditional prog, they focused on creating good tunes they were different, but also of the times.

Same goes with this album. "Grey Flannel Suits" honestly doesn't sound like a song written in 2000, or 1990 or even the 1970's for that matter. The occasional time signature changes, the rock organ driven sound, the catchy tunes. To me, if you focus on trying to create an original sound, chances are, you end up creating an original sound and interest in your band will grow more because your sound will stick out.

And this album has that, that special something previous albums didn't have. There are still those unique little items, proggy tidbits of sounds and noise and techniques that divert a bit from the mainstream, but you can also tell, especially from this album, that above all, these guys are just having fun making this music. There's no doubt they were also having fun making music before this album, but for the first time, I feel that here you can actually SENSE that they're having fun from the perspective of you, as the listener.

And of course, there's also an identity with most, if not all of these tracks. The "poems" interspersed may be merely interludes, but "High As Pride" really does come off as a genuine ballad of sorts. Every single song has a groove and direction taken that's easy for the listener to follow, unlike "As The World", where I really couldn't follow them at all.

It's no masterpiece, but in a general sense of catchy prog that's still faithful to the genre, this is definitely a surprise, and a staple of the Echolyn musical catalog.

Latest members reviews

5 stars After the Sony debacle that led to Echolyn splitting up, nobody knew if the band would reunite. For all they and the fans knew, Echolyn was no more. Shortly after the incident, Brett Kull, Ray Weston, and Paul Ramsey formed a semi-progressive rock band called Still. This was a glimmer of hope that m ... (read more)

Report this review (#2981405) | Posted by Magog2112 | Wednesday, January 10, 2024 | Review Permanlink

5 stars With a focus on intimate profiles of early 20th century Americana and historical events and circumstances, "Cowboy Poems Free" creates a new sound for Echolyn, while still retaining many of the progressive trademarks that they displayed on earlier cd's. This is a great cd. The band itself is top- ... (read more)

Report this review (#2441405) | Posted by Squire Jaco | Wednesday, August 26, 2020 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I again realized today, how rarely in today's music business of bland attempts of self-important so-called artists, you can find such inspired piece of art. So listening to "Cowboy Poems Free" album made me write a few lines. Echolyn in general is the band I have grown to love, but it wasn't in ... (read more)

Report this review (#297438) | Posted by stewe | Saturday, September 4, 2010 | Review Permanlink

3 stars The reformed Echolyn of 2000 comes off as a bit of a different animal than the previous early-to-mid '90's incarnation. The sound of the band is more evocative of bluesy-rock, with fewer synthesizers, more organs, lots of additional precussion, and leaner guitars. There seems to be less in com ... (read more)

Report this review (#88713) | Posted by JP312 | Friday, September 1, 2006 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I started listening to this album with high hopes. What I've learned about Echolyn and even the cover suggested a treat. The music started and all was OK and I kinda liked it but then I found myself thinking of completely different things. I tried to concentrate to the music, and did. Then I star ... (read more)

Report this review (#88095) | Posted by pirkka | Thursday, August 24, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Echolyn is quite possibly one of the most talented bands to not break out, and they show their talent with "Cowboy Poems Free." From what I can make the CD tells the story from the great depression to the end of WWI. The song "Human Lottery" tells about a man that had a good job and supported his ... (read more)

Report this review (#73184) | Posted by cowbell1 | Sunday, March 26, 2006 | Review Permanlink

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