It doesn't take a lot to get branded as an insurgent force on the country charts, but Big & Rich have gone to great lengths to make their iconoclasm unmistakable. Behind-the-scenes players in Nashville, the duo broke out on their own last year with Horse Of A Different Color, a surprise smash that played home to twangy Limp Bizkit references and a Stetson-sporting Spanglish rapper named Cowboy Troy. It was a big mess, to be sure, but it was also an invigorating shock for all the right and wrong steps it took in a country milieu that tends to march in line.
Comin' To Your City isn't quite as strange, but it still offers a good deal to puzzle over. After a jaunty "Freak Parade" intro that casts Big & Rich as a sort of They Might Be Giants for seasoned holders of dip cups, the album tears into a conflicted mix of raucous barnstormers and teary ballads. The biggest surprise this time is that many of the ballads prove better than rockers that fail to fall off the rails as much as they seem designed to. The title track features a nice mid-song swerve from attack guitars to lazy-day disco. "Soul Shaker" stirs up weird weather around "wam bam, thank you ma'am" lyrics with dive-bombing fiddles. But the real shock comes via "Never Mind Me," a drippy, beautiful song about an easygoing misanthrope happy to be "all alone inside my personal hell." A surefire hit in some other act's sincere hands, it's an ambiguous ballad masterfully crafted and stoically hung out to dry.
Big & Rich's raucous persona picks up as Comin' moves through songs like "Caught Up In The Moment" (with a crafty shout-out to Nelly) and "Jalapeño," a hot dance number in thrall to tequila. A marked lack of charge makes most of the boisterous rock songs sound little more than boisterous, but those are rare outright wrong moves in the midst of Big & Rich's otherwise thrilling wrong steps.