December, 2007, West Coast Performer Magazine
By Michael Fortes
L.A.’s Old Bull has its roots squarely in the old-time country and bluegrass sounds of the southeastern U.S. of A. Brisk banjo picking, a lovely fiddle, and a solid backbeat drive many of these songs, including Manifesto‘s strong opener “Growerman.” But the lyrics announce loud and clear that this is truly a California band. “I even got a permit for my California grow,” sings Eric Rasmussen, while lamenting cancer patients who are raided by the feds for possessing medical marijuana. This is the new outlaw country sound, with a new cause; where the government has the guns and the growers are trying to save lives, and a righteous Charlie Daniels Band resonance is updated with extra banjo and extra power in the drums.
Old Bull explores more legal agricultural concerns on “Monsanto,” this time speaking out against the biotech company that has its hands in everything from genetically engineered seeds to creepy dairy hormones. But then, we’re back to a tale of a boy who found religion, started a straight edge zine, and smoked the green recreationally in the waltz-time tale “Tattoo of Jesus.” They also tell tales of failed relationships in “Lost Highway” and “The Hard Part,” and turn the rock down a bit to play the most traditional sounding bluegrass tune of the bunch, “Miracles.”
There’s a strong musical and thematic purpose in these 12 songs. Old Bull clearly stands for Californa-infused Southern rock and bluegrass (“Southern California Slamgrass,” as they call it in their press release). Personal hardships are tempered with a positive outlook and the slow songs are earnest and sincere while still retaining some toughness. Couple all that with the band’s passionate mastery of the Southern sounds it plays and you have a strong debut that lives up to its title.