The record starts off with a Beatles-like melody pulsating behind stark, strong lyrics in “Black Crows.” Jaffe’s melodies perfectly accentuate that voice, Santo’s own version of a roots-y Amy Winehouse (without the horrible antics and personal sideshow). The lyrics find Santo singing about living a life where she no longer wants to be part of a vicious cycle that often permeates a bad relationship. Lead single “Little Toy Gun” (watch the video) is interesting in that the rootsy production from Jaffe and Jude Cole (who is the co-owner of the duo’s label Ironworks, with Kiefer Sutherland) accentuates a murderous lyric that somehow still sounds playful. The country quotient kicks-up a notch on the melancholic “Sugarcane,” another song about a relationship gone awry.
“Come On Home” has a rootsy country/rock Bonnie Raitt feel to it that just keeps chugging along like it’s channeling the Tennessee Three’s percussion and a smoldering fiddle, sorry violin, solo from Santo only serves to accentuate the whole organic feel that permeates “First Rodeo.” “Give Yourself To Me” has a basic, Tom Petty melody that quickly gives way to punk-inspired rhythms in the chorus. Lyrically, the song is once again one in which the duo mention a relationship that’s quickly going the way of the dodo bird. “Slow Brains” (listen here) is one of six songs on the record solely written by Ben Jaffe and while the lyrics discuss matters of the heart again, the melody is moody and just quite refreshing.
There are a couple of ballads on the record that really stand out outside of “Sugarcane.” “David” finds Suzanne singing a lyric to a man who is constantly looking past her and while at first she chalks it up to the guy being who he is but overtime the pain of his ignorance and self-indulgence eats at her as she writes and sings about him. “Oh Mama” closes out the record and finds Santos singing about her struggles in life to her mother. It’s a somber way to end an album but one that seems fitting for honeyhoney and “First Rodeo.”
While “First Rodeo” isn’t a true ‘Country’ album by even the modern definition of Country music, the duo weaves enough of the genre’s hallmark elements (banjo, violin, steel guitar, mandolin, etc.) to recommend this album to anyone looking for a great album that falls under the ever expanding definition of what roots music or Folk Rock or even Country music is.