Doug Ploss
"Cowgirl Tattoo"
by Johanna J. Bodde

"Cowgirl Tattoo"
(Fertile Ground Records)

"They play my stuff Down Under and in The Netherlands / And on little po dunk stations - far from greedy hands / I'd rather pick my guitar in some old run down hole / Than to get turned into plastic and lose my country soul". According to Doug Ploss from Idaho in "Under The Radar", a countryrock song with pedal steel guitar, where he sounds a surprising lot like Waylon Jennings (one of his heroes). There's a line about Jesus in the song, as spirituality is very important in his life. And this is definitely the highlight of his fine third self-released album!
His second CD "Tar City" (still available and still recommended) found its way to more than one hundred radio stations in Europe, so many of us know Doug already. I was impressed by his statement that he wrote the songs to make a mockery of empty religion. He heard a lot of comparisons with Buddy Miller back then, but the new CD "Cowgirl Tattoo" is quite different, mostly thanks to that pedal steel guitar (played by Donnie Marvin) on nine of the thirteen tracks. Sincere and direct, those are the words that first come to my mind when listening...
Track one is a cover, "Ain't No Grave" (written by Claude Ely), catchy uptempo little rocker. Then that fabulous "Under The Radar" follows, exposing the Nashville scene for what it really is: "The whole thing would explode without Auto Tune"! In "Good Looker" a fiddle is featured, it's a light-hearted love song for Doug's wife Tricia, who sings backing vocals on the record. That theme continues in the title track, the sound of seventies countryrock going very well with the lay-out of the CD, looking like the worn-out sleeve of an often-played LP. "I walked into Stinger's with a picture of you / I said: Man, can you make me a cowgirl tattoo?". And Doug's not bragging, that huge tattoo on his muscular upper arm is for real!
"Ring Of Fire" is another very strong cover. No horns, but drums and pedal steel and Tricia's harmony deliver a new, different sound to the familiar song. "The Bag It Came In" also got an interesting arrangement: acoustic guitar, fiddle and pedal steel taking turns on the solos and solid drumming by Lawson Hill, the lyrics might be a bit too realistic for some people -including me- though. Slow, with steel, that's "Three Strand Cord": "You and I and the Lord." The message in the following song ("Trespassin' is illegal and stealin' is a crime / Lord, help not cross that property line") is packaged in catchy uptempo music and very funny lines like: "I could eat the South end of a Northbound cow / Temptation came down - right out of the blue / When I got a whiff of the neighbor's BBQ", indeed: "Nice Steak, Not Mine"!

"Wayward Son" is a gorgeous ballad, Lawson Hill holding back in subtle percussion-like drumming and Noah Jeffries playing those beautiful fiddle solos, while Doug handles his mandolin here. Modern day take on the story of the prodigal son. Still slow, but with pedal steel is the "High Desert Serenade", a song about Idaho ("Now the sky looks like it's on fire / You fan the flame then turn off the light") and how Doug practices his religion: "I'm gonna kneel right here in the dirt and thank Him / Have a little church on the tailgate of my Ford." "The Valley" is a remake of a successful song from Doug's first album "Backporch Revival", with the haunting sound of a "Ghostriders In The Sky", quite impressive. "Come Thou Fount" is a traditional, hymn-like song and then we're already listening to the last track, "You Were On His Mind", a powerful rhythmic ballad featuring mandolin, fiddle and very nice harmonies. "When Jesus was on the cross / You were on His mind", I know already what to play in my radioshow around Easter time!
The compositions are all very strong, the lyrics simple and straight forward, Doug's message that he cares about people, doesn't need too many fancy words. Please, don't let Doug's tough biker looks scare you and check out his album... I just love the messages from his niece and nephew on MySpace, asking slightly suspicious: "Have you been working out? You look like one of the guys from American Chopper!"
Written by Johanna J. Bodde, July 2007.