Born To Howl

The Stone Coyotes

Red Cat Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Massachusetts-based The Stone Coyotes might be more famous right now than they ever could have dreamed of, thanks to novelist Elmore Leonard. After hearing the band play in a Los Angeles nightclub, Leonard utilized the concept of the band - and some lyrics from their songs - in his book Be Cool.

Born To Howl, the third CD from The Stone Coyotes, suggests that this family-based band has some chops to build a level of success on, but that more development needs to occur - and that might mean expansion of the band.

The group - vocalist/guitarist/pianist Barbara Keith, her husband Doug Tibbles on drums, and their stepson John Tibbles on bass - often is reminiscent of Talking Heads, with Keith's Alanis-meets-Joni Mitchell delivery of her vocals. Musically, the band goes all over the map, mostly staying in a heavier groove-laden rock pattern, but not afraid to skirt the edges of country (by covering Dolly Parton's "Jolene") and folk ("Death Of The American Song").my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

There are plenty of moments on Born To Howl that leave no doubt as to why listeners like Leonard have fallen in love with The Stone Coyotes. Tracks like "Torn Asunder" and "Rock It" have everything needed to capture the listener, from a powerful guitar line to a catchy chorus. "American Child" even calls on two legends of rock from different times - Jerry Lee Lewis and the late Joey Ramone - to create a cry against the state of rock music in 2001.

Yet there are times when Born To Howl nearly collapses under its own weight. Part of the problem is that the three band members just try to do too much themselves. By relying solely on vocals, multi-tracked guitar, bass and drums, it leaves little room for musical expansion. Adding in something as simple as piano on "Detroit Or Buffalo" helps to assure that this track becomes something special - a touch that could have been used on a few other numbers like "Shake" and "Four Times Gone". Possibly adding a second guitarist or a keyboardist to the group full-time would help free Keith up to more finely hone her skills.

Sometimes, Keith's songwriting skills do show that they need a bit of sharpening. "Shake" is not a bad track until you get to the rather plain, repetitive way of bringing the refrain to an end. Likewise, "Four Times Gone" falls apart as Keith continuously relies on counting to hammer the point of the song home - kind of like swatting a fly with a Volkswagen. And the less said about "Call Off Your Dogs," the better - this is one track that needed at least one more coat of paint.

Despite these flaws, Born To Howl is a disc which grows on the listener, and suggests that The Stone Coyotes are only getting better. Here's hoping their next disc does their fans - and Leonard - proud.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Red Cat Records, and is used for informational purposes only.