Nitro twang should be sweeping the musical indie-underground nation. Part cosmic country and spaghetti Western, garage-punk and all rock ’n’ roll, it’s a genre brewed and fermented in Montezuma County by guitar player Dale “X” Allen, fusing the aforementioned into a twisted package of musical hooks and guitar aggression.
The one-time Austin, Texas-based guitar player, who describes his exit from Austin as a result of the city “leaving the gate open,” pulled into Southwest Colorado five years ago, bringing with him a well-versed musical palette full of garage-rock, hillbilly blues and twang all living well outside the confines of anything considered mainstream, along with a wealth of production knowledge and on-stage prowess.
Allen and his nitro twang band Genuine Cowhide will perform Saturday at the Sunflower Theatre in Cortez. Joining Allen in Genuine Cowhide are Moe Cooley on guitar, Justin Richert on bass and Luke Ayres on drums.
Born and raised in Nebraska, Allen’s musical past is influenced by his parents, the radio and a fortunate introduction into indie-music, otherwise known as punk-rock of the 1970s.
“I was raised on my mother’s record collection of Hank (Williams), Ray (Price) and a guy named Carl Smith. Hillbilly stuff in my background, and then garage-rock as a teenager. Then the punk rock, rock ’n’ roll, everything else after that,” Allen said. “My first guitar was a Mickey Mouse guitar, red plastic. It had Mickey’s face on it, and it was a paper decal and I tore Mickey’s face off. So, I was destined to be a punk rocker from then on.”
Allen hit it hard in the early 1980s, playing at the legendary “Drumstick” in Nebraska alongside great bands from the cow-punk era – Rank and File and The True Believers, Blood on the Saddle and The Beat Farmers. That led him to Austin, where he became a hired musical gun playing blues, rock, country and noise, as well as a stint playing lead guitar in Dave Insley’s Careless Smokers. Time in Austin pushed Genuine Cowhide into side-project territory, which gave Allen a chance in his seldom-found spare time to hone that band’s sound.
Insley tours into the Southwest led Allen to make friends and fans from Durango to Dolores, and after an exit from Austin, the Genuine Cowhide machine landed here. The band is now five records in, the latest being “Red Dirt Colorado Girl.” With nods to The Paisley Underground and early cowpunk, Dick Dale, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Replacements, Allen has crafted an aggressive guitar sound with plenty of jangle and subtle twang that lives comfortably alongside psychedelic surf guitar.
“I’ve heard this sound ever since I picked up my Mickey Mouse guitar. I finally got there. I had a lot of learning to do, 20 years of schooling, Austin. It was a big education,” he said. “Genuine Cowhide was a side project. I was so busy doing other stuff I never really had time to finish my own songs. Out here, I have all this free time, and I have all these songs now.”
Allen and Genuine Cowhide have an all-over-the-map approach to making music. Living in a world where Jason and the Scorchers and Johnny Cash can rub elbows with Black Flag, he’s a perfect musician for music lovers raised on the sounds of SST and Dischord Records that also have a love for the roots music of Hoyt Axton and the twang of Bill Kirchen.
“I like to describe it by saying, if you’re a fan of Metallica, you’ll think I’m a country act, but if you’re a George Strait fan, you’ll think it’s a noisy rock band,” Allen said.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.