(Photo: Jim Ziegler)
Toronto-based country rockers One Ugly Cowboy (OUC) have been honing their craft for some time now, and it’s beginning to pay off as 2023 has turned out to be a stellar year. The group is fronted by dynamic vocalist ‘Hurricane’ Jane Sowerby and her axe-wielding soul mate/producer Richard Zwic. Bass player Rick Ottenbrite and drummer Mike Mann round out the unit. Their list of achievements in 2023 includes two nominations from the prestigious Josie Music Awards in Nashville and two #1 songs on the fan-voted Canadian Indie Country Countdown chart, “I’m Owning My Crazy”, and a terrific cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire”, breaking the CICC record with a total of 6 number one songs.
“That certainly means a lot to us because the CICC chart is based on votes by the folks who are out there listening and knowing that they connect with our music is everything,” says Jane from the Toronto home that she shares with Richard. “Another pretty cool thing is that one of those songs “I Love Whatcha Do” somehow ended up on the desk of a music supervisor and was used in an episode of the T.V. series “Ride” this year, which was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.
“And when we heard that the Josie Music Awards, held at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, had nominated One Ugly Cowboy for “Group Of the Year Country Rock/Southern Rock” and Jane for “Vocalist of the Year CountryRock/Southern Rock”, we were thrilled,” Richard adds, “It was rewarding to receive a nod from the industry outside our borders given the number of domestic and international artists out there.”
What makes One Ugly Cowboy unique is that they do not follow the same sterile pop/country formula as most of the cookie-cutter bands out there. In fact, you could align the band more closely with innovative country artists south of the border such as The Cadillac Three, who blend country, blues and rock to great effect, or Jelly Roll, whose soul-searching ballad “Need A Favour” has become an instant classic. One Ugly Cowboy’s latest single “Cattywampus” is a song similarly designed to stimulate dance moves as well as the grey matter. Derived from a term used in the southern states to describe something in disarray, “Cattywampus” is a love gone bad song, colourfully illustrated by a line that suggests that the “Valentine cherub (has) gone belly up”.
“Cattywampus” was inspired when Shania Twain released “Giddy Up”, Richard explains. “Jane and I looked at each other and said ‘Why in hell didn’t we think of that?’ So Jane started googling Southern slang words and phrases, and “Cattywampus” popped up. I thought it was too weird and tried to talk her out of it but I lost. Jane’s like a dog on a bone. Needless to say, we went ahead and built the song around that odd funny weird word.”
One Ugly Cowboy always delivers a high-energy show with a diverse repertoire packed with well-written original material. They also love putting their ‘ugly cowboy spin’ on classic tunes that take country/rock to a whole different level. Jane dances up a storm on stage and with her long silk scarf swirling about, she conjures up images of Stevie Nicks during her Fleetwood Mac heyday. Richard drives the songs home with his powerhouse riffing and crashing chords. The group’s 2023 live appearances included four nights at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto (their fourth consecutive year), Kempenfest in Barrie, the Hagersville Rock Festival, an opening slot for Jason McCoy at the Stockey Centre in Parry Sound, and opening for Montreal’s The Box at the Oakville Performing Arts Festival.
“Every show is memorable for a different reason,” Jane begins. “Whether it’s because the audience rocked or the festival was dog friendly and we got to bring our dog or we were able to re-connect with fans from previous years. But for me, the two soft seaters, (Jason McCoy & The Box) were standouts. I am also an actor and a storyteller by nature and these sorts of venues just lend themselves to intimacy and a chance to connect with an audience that is there to listen.
“For us it’s all about having fun,” Richard chimes in. “If it’s not fun we’re done. That’s why we do what we do. As for 2024, there’s more writing and recording and just gearing up for some more ‘ugly cowboy’ fun and kickin’ some more ‘ugly cowboy’ butt.”
Be sure to catch One Ugly Cowboy live before all Cattywampus breaks loose, and intimate shows will be a thing of the past.