Ex-Dash Rip Rock drummer/singer Fred LeBlanc’s New Orleans-based combo with guitarist John Thomas Griffith (ex- Red Rockers), bassist Steve Walters (ex-Normals) and guitarist Paul Sanchez (ex-Backbeats), has two studio albums and a live set to its credit. Word of Mouth, produced by Gene Holder, is weak-willed roots rock that owes nothing to its cultural milieu. With varying measures of country and rock flavor, the foursquare adult songwriting (by all hands but Walters) is skillfully presented at mid-power in various plain ways. The four voices of experience use familiar approaches, some more melodically nourishing than others, to describe women past and present: “Running Into You,” “The Stars Remind Me of You,” “Rose on Fire,” “Maggie Don’t Two-Step.” LeBlanc’s “Jenny Says,” one of the album’s strongest and most exciting numbers, was done first by Dash Rip Rock (on Ace of Clubs).
Holder also produced the mostly live Mouthing Off, which wisely repeats only three Word of Mouth tunes. Leading the set off with two studio tracks — the lame “Listen to What I Say” and a snappy rendition of Loretta Lynn’s fearsome “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” — Cowboy Mouth moves it on over to a stage in Rennes, France, where the quartet cranks up four spunky new originals and a snappy range of covers, including “Tears Towards Heaven” (a Mercyland song written by Dave Barbe before his tenure in Sugar), Bo Diddley’s “I Can Tell” and the old gospel “Down by the Riverside.”
It Means Escape packs a stronger rock bite (“Everyone Is Waiting” really roars) and more diverse topics (“Looked Like a Woman” is a confusing confused- identity tale; “Here I Sit in Prison (Yipee-I-Yay)” is a rotting-on-remand plaint) than Word of Mouth. Thoughtfully written, sharply arranged and delivered with mature energy, the album maintains Cowboy Mouth’s geographical ambiguity without fixing a stylistic purpose. Holder and Peter Holsapple guest.
“Jenny Says” makes yet another appearance as the leadoff track of the band’s engaging major-label bow, Are You With Me?. The album veers between adroit sentimentality (“Peacemaker,” “Louisiana Lowdown,” “Laughable,” “Man on the Run”) and maudlin predictability (“God Makes the Rain,” “So Sad About Me”), relaunching Cowboy Mouth as easygoing roots rock for the Triple-A set.
Sanchez and LeBlanc have both released solo albums.