Beyoncé – Cowboy Carter (Columbia) Album Review

Beyoncé has unleased Cowboy Carter on the world and not everyone has been roped in by its charms, which are many.

Those casual fans who have heard the single Texas Hold ‘Em and were hoping for a country album will most likely be disappointed.

Sure Willie and Dolly are on board, but they are just bit players on what is a sprawling 27-track, 78 minute album that covers  genres from country to opera and just about everything in-between.

Before we dig into the music, let’s lay out a few facts…along with Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson, Bey has invited a host of collaborators including Jon Batiste, Rhiannon Giddons, Pharrell Williams,  Shaboozey, Willie Jones, Miley Cyrus, Post Malone and daughter Rumi Carter. And there are quite a few covers including Jolene, The Beatles’ Blackbird and snippets of Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, Patsy Cline and Nancy Sinatra.

Cowboy Carter is Beyoncé’s 8th album and follows 2022’s Renaissance. These facts are easily available to anyone who cares to Google the album title.

Facts are facts, but everyone seems to have an opinion and this record…and you know what they say about opinions…

And I’ve got mine.

First…this record is way too long. As it stands, it’s a good album, but there is a great album lurking in there somewhere.  If it were up to me, I’d lose the covers.  I understand the significance of Blackbird (or Blackbiird) and I like the idea of Beyoncé singing Jolene, but the final product is underwhelming, especially Jolene and Beyoncé’s new lyrics.

I’d also lose Protector…I’m sure Beyoncé loves her kids, we all do, but the song just kind of lays there.

I’d like to see the album open with Smoke Hour, Willie Nelson’s brief stint as a DJ.

“Sit back, inhale”, suggests Willie, and who are we to argue as Texas Hold ‘Em follows.

I’d also keep Bodyguard…a solid pop song that is anything but country and then lose Jolene. I really like Daughter, this feels like Beyoncé has something real to say and the operatic Italian bridge somehow works.

Top collaborator, to these ears, is Miley Cyrus who put on her best Stevie Nicks as she duets with Beyoncé on II Most Wanted.  And I’d keep Post Malone and his Levii Jeans.

I did learn something reading about this record…I discovered who Linda Martell is…the first black woman to play the Grand Ole Opry…and she is around to intro Ya Ya, the track that is the most fun on the record, sampling or interpolating These Boots Are Made For Walkin’, Good Vibrations and Love Is Strange as Beyoncé sings, “We jerkin’, we twerkin’”.

I like Riverdance…am I the only one who hears Led Zeppelin’s Over The Hills And Far Away in there?

And I’d close out my version of the album with Sweet Honey Buckin’.

So, sorry Dolly, but you don’t make my cut. Of course Beyoncé has earned the right to make the record she wants to make.

I guess one of the few advantages of the streaming era is that it is so easy to make your own playlist. In this case, that’s just what I’ll do…what about you?

Marty Duda