Scene We All Ain't Saw
National Finals Rodeo
Rodeo Songs Old and New—Chris LeDoux’s second album for American Cowboy Songs, the label he ran with his father, Al—contains enough close-up knowledge of rodeo culture that even someone who's never seen a real live bronco rider will feel initiated after listening. “National Finals Rodeo” is almost an advertisement for the official competition, but it still brings the sights and sounds of the arena to life in a way that a more generic cowboy song never could. Though LeDoux’s tunes are traditional, they aren't generic. His feel for detail comes alive on “The Passenger,” in which a young cowboy has a fatal encounter with Satan, and “Old Red,” in which an ambitious young cowboy and an ornery bronco meet in a deadly showdown. Both those tales end in death: a stark reminder of the dangers inherent in the rodeo life. LeDoux’s willingness to let that darkness into his music is a sign of his artistic integrity. Where more mainstream county singers might take a glancing look at rodeo, LeDoux lets us see its darkest corners.