ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, OCT. 9, 2003
By Steve Newton
Calgary’s Huevos Rancheros were one of Western Canada’s best-loved instro-rock acts for nearly 10 years, but that didn’t stop guitarist Brent J. Cooper from disbanding the twangy trio in 2001. Strangely enough, he put the group to rest because he wanted to gig more.
“I just wanted to play for the sake of playing,” Cooper says from his Cowtown home, “and Huevos weren’t able to play that much, for a variety of reasons, personal mostly. We couldn’t just say, ‘Hey, let’s go open for the blah-blah-blahs for 25 bucks.’ But with the Ramblin’ Ambassadors, we can do it.”
Cooper formed his new group with standup bassist Scott Nickless and drummer Tyler Pickering, who also play in the Calgary bands Agriculture Club and the Failure, respectively. The good news is that the guitarist continues to pump out world-class instrumental music but with a less raunchy, more dusty-plains vibe. From the sound of things, you’d think Cooper’s been staying up late with spaghetti Westerns on the tube.
“Well, I haven’t,” he replies. “But a few years back I was handed a copy of The Black Light by Calexico, and I thought, ‘Wow, these guys made my solo album for me!’ And even if you give the last Huevos album a careful listen, I think you can hear more of those [elements] creeping in.”
The influence of Ennio Morricone is very evident on the Ramblin’ Ambassadors’ new CD, Avanti, which kicks off with “Sixty Seconds to What?”, a tune credited to the Italian soundtrack king. The nine-track disc was recorded “kinda piecemeal and on the cheap” by Cooper’s old buddy Dave Alcock of Chixdiggit. Then the well-connected Ambassador called in a favour from another pal, Brian Connelly of Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet fame.
“He had given me a tape of his band the Atomic 7,” Cooper relates, “and in my scramble to find songs for our first gig, I appropriated one of his numbers. Then I just called him up and said, ‘Hey, we’ve been playing this song, do you mind if we record it?’ And he said, ‘Of course not.’ ”
Most of the tunes on Avanti will no doubt make the setlist when the Ramblin’ Ambassadors join local acts the Buttless Chaps and the Gay for Mint Night at the Brickyard on Friday (October 17).
“I sorta added a floating fourth member recently,” Cooper explains, “so we’re gonna be the Ramblin’ Ambassadors Quartet, I guess. His name is Doug Waite, and he’s the new guy, so we’ll let him pick all the songs. None of you [media] folks would know him, but it’s worth havin’ him in the band ’cause he’s such a nice guy.”