WATCH: Tommy Stinson’s Cowboys in the Campfire Shares “Dream”
Debut album from Replacements bassist’s new duo with Chip Roberts, WRONGER, due out June 2 via Cobraside
Today, Tommy Stinson has announced the official arrival of his longtime duo project Cowboys in the Campfire.
It is a tandem with good pal Chip Roberts — and its debut album, WRONGER, is perhaps the most Americana-based work of the Replacements bassist’s multi-faceted career.
WRONGER’s 10 tracks find versatility between the dynamic of Stinson and Roberts. From the very first song, “Here We Go Again,” with Stinson on ukulele, one can hear the country element almost immediately, the sound of literal Cowboys singing around a Campfire. From there, we are treated to segues into rockabilly (“That’s It”), Johnny Cash style (“We Ain’t”) to Bakersfield twang (“Mr. Wrong”) to songs like “Schemes,” “Souls” and “Dreams” are simply showcases of an ace songwriter.
“I’m not one to be pigeonholed — but I’m not putting a lot of thought into it that I DON’T want to be pigeonholed,” Stinson proclaims. “For me it’s always been that the songs pretty much tell you what they’re going to do. I can sit there and work a song into the ground, forcing my will on it, or you can listen to the song and go, ‘What does this want?’ and do that. I’ve always done it that way. Ultimately it’s more about, ‘Let’s try and get the best 10 and take what we’ve got and make them the best they can be.'”
Cowboys in the Campfire was “a joke at first,” according to Stinson, dating back more than a decade. Roberts is the uncle of Stinson’s second ex-wife; he hails from the Philadelphia rock scene, where he was working guitarist who played for visiting musicians in need of accompaniment.
“We’ve been really good friends and writing partners pretty much since we met each other,” Stinson says. “We were writing rock tunes to ballads or country or Americana, but we’re both come from that sort of singer-songwriter thing.”
But the collaboration proved to be more than just casual brainstorming. And about seven years ago, during a Guns N’ Roses hiatus and before Stinson ventured into Replacements and Bash & Pop reunions, he and Roberts got a little more serious.
“It was spring, and neither one of us had something to do that summer,” Stinson recalls. “So we said, ‘Let’s go play some shows. Let’s fuck around.’ That’s what we did. I took some songs he and I had written together, some of my solo stuff, some covers, some other stuff of mine he plays. We’d ad lib on stuff. We started playing shows in the South and stuff.”
One of the duo’s songs, “Anything Could Happen,” wound up becoming the title track of Bash & Pop’s 2017 album, which Roberts also played on. Nonetheless, the pair still felt that Cowboys in the Campfire — which takes its name from a couple of Roberts’ paintings — had the potential to become a real thing.
“The running joke was, ‘That’s what our band would be called if we had one,” Stinson recalls. “Finally we were like, ‘We’ve got 10 songs here. Let’s make a record’. It was almost as off the cuff as that. Almost.”
WRONGER began life five or six years ago, when Stinson and Roberts were on tour in Texas. They went into a studio there with a friend, Christine Smith, producing and recording five songs; X’s John Doe was around, too, and played bass and sang backup on four of the tracks. The rest of the album was made at Stinson’s home studio in Hudson, adding occasional contributions from friends where needed — including a string quartet on the track “Hey Man.” Drums, meanwhile, were considered optional and are only used on a few of WRONGER’s tracks, hearkening back to Stinson’s philosophy to give the tunes what they called for.
“It’s an experimental record in a lot of ways,” says Stinson, who turned to Twin/Tone Records co-founder Peter Jesperon and his son Autry to help with the sequencing. “I don’t know that Chip’s ever made a record as experimental as this one. There’s always been a country/folky element to what I’ve done, even early on, but this takes it into a whole other direction. In the grand scheme of things it all kind of goes together in kind of a blur.”
The goal now for Stinson and Roberts is to keep Cowboys in the Campfire on the road and playing out as much as possible.
“Chip and I are going to make a real run for it with this record,” Stinson says. “And I’m feeling like I’m probably about to head back into the studio. I’ve got some ideas; they’re just in my head at the moment and in my fingers. I don’t know what they’ll be yet, but I’m in a place now where I can do that and make music on my own terms. It’s a nice place to be.”
- Here We Go Again
- That’s It
- Mr. Wrong
- Fall Apart Together
- Hey Man
- We Ain’t
- Karma’s Bitch
Watch the video for the album’s first single “Dream” below.
VIDEO: Tommy Stinson’s Cowboys in the Campfire “Dream”
- WATCH: Ward White Shares Video For “Like A Bridge” - June 8, 2023
- WATCH: Benny Benack III Shares “Gary, Indiana” - June 7, 2023
- Astrud Gilberto Gone at 83 - June 6, 2023