Tales of the New West 

Chuck Snow & the Lo-Fi Cowboys go for the garage

There's a video on YouTube that captures Chuck Snow at the now-defunct Deluxe Tavern, singing the Replacements' "Unsatisfied" with his former band, the Autono. What's interesting about it is how Snow totally nails it. Not in a just-like-the-album kind of way — because God knows, the Replacements could never have done that, either — but more in terms of matching Paul Westerberg's bruised romanticism. Plus, there's Snow's droll remark after the song ends: "Thank you. The jukebox continues."

The Autono had definitely played its fair share of covers (Joy Division, Hoodoo Gurus and Rain Parade, to name a few) by the end of its 12-year run in 2002. But it was ultimately the group's original music that made the singer-songwriter and his bandmates the stuff of local legend. (Mike Stephens, in fact, is currently putting together an Autono tribute album.) But Snow is still too well-acquainted with self-criticism to be what you'd call satisfied.

"I still love music, I enjoy playing in a band — it's what I do — although looking back, it wasn't the best career choice," he says with a smirk. "I listen to a lot of my old albums and I'm like, 'God, you could take those three albums and maybe make one good album out of it.'"

Snow should have no trouble doing that now. His six-month-old band, the Lo-Fi Cowboys (which also features bassist Kevin Waybright, drummer Ric Carney and keyboardist Collin Estes) is gigging regularly, and the four new songs on their MySpace page are downright impressive.

"The style hasn't really changed from when I was playing early on," says Snow. "It's always been some form of garage rock, whether it's country-tinged or whatever. I'm pretty much comfortable in those circles."

Snow particularly shines on a hauntingly beautiful ballad called "The Last Time (Until the Next Time)." He's also gracious enough to not be offended when I say it reminds me of Chris Isaak back when he still had guitarist James Wilsey in his band.

"He was a great guitar player," says Snow, "and so was Pete Anderson, the guy who used to play with Dwight Yoakam. But you never hear about those guys."

Snow's indie music expertise stems, in part, from a long-term stint at KRCC, where he nearly pre-empted his radio career by hosting an in-studio performance by the legendary Beat Farmers.

"It was my first night," he remembers, "and they were cussing on the air, drinking beer, and playing 'Positively 4th Street' by Bob Dylan over and over and over."

Of course, Snow is no stranger to musical extremes. His Uncle Eldon was a cowboy singer in Wichita, Kan., while his father led big bands up until a few years before his death at 88. His family also believes it's "somehow related at some point" to the late country music singer Hank Snow.

"He's like the poor man's Hank Williams," says Snow with obvious pride. "He had stuff like 'I'm Movin' On' and 'The Wabash Cannonball.' And he had the worst toupée in the business, back in the days when guys thought they could get away with that."

Snow, meanwhile, retains a full head of hair and a heart full of optimism: "Where I used to be referred to as the elder statesman, I'm now more the ghost," he says. "Which is actually preferable."


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