The juxtaposition of cowboy and hippie imagery on the cover of the Atomic Cowboys' Wake Up! CD is indicative of the band's socially conscious mix of country and alternative rock. These guys aren't some fly-the-flag-or-yer-a-sissy hicks, nor are they sloganeering causeheads. They're Atomic Cowboys, damn it! It's no fluke that guitarist/vocalist Jim Wurster is often compared to Bob Dylan, though that oversimplifies the band's musical reach. Wake Up! Opens with the John Lennon-inspired title track -- a bluesy, melodic call to arms for Americans to get off their duffs and speak out against, well, anything. The disc then heads into harder, more rockin' territory with 'Get Him Out,' a poppy, midtempo, post-punk ditty somewhere between the Buzzcocks and the Pixies. It's not until the third song, the laid-back 'Silver Moon,' that the Cowboys finally rustle up some country twang. The rest of the album adds more blues and roots rock to the mix, and Wurster's social criticism takes a more humanistic approach, such as in the wartime narrative 'Justify.' Like country great Johnny Cash, Wurster has a knack for telling a good tale. The sense of realism in his lyrics adds urgency. So when Wurster sings about the real consequences of war -- the widows and orphaned children it creates -- it's more powerful than a dozen songs of the 'no war for oil' variety. The album closes with 'Masters of Deception,' a song Wurster did with his previous band, Black Janet. The Atomic Cowboys are no rookies, and the diverse sounds on Wake Up! Are proof. - Jason Budjinski / New Times Broward-Palm Beach.
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