Review: Cedar County Cobras – Homesick Blues


Cedar County Cobras – Homesick Blues

Cedar County Cobras – Homesick Blues
Format: CD – Digital / Label: Independent
Release: 2023

Text: Pascal Wilhelm

The Cobras are Tom Spielbauer on vocals and guitar and April Dirks on upright bass, mandolin and vocals. ‘Homesick Blues’ contains six originals and four covers. The production is direct and intimate, showcasing their quality as a country blues duo. Spielbauer won the 2022 Iowa Blues Challenge and placed as a semi-finalist at the 2023 International Blues Challenge in Memphis.

He is legally blind and so can be placed in the footsteps of blind blues musicians such as Blind Willie McTell and lan Wilson. It’s old-time country, delta blues and hypnotic Mississippi Hill country sounds they produce, with, according to their biography, a “keen ear for their musical roots and a contagious foot-stomping enthusiasm.”

It’s all so true. Their originals, and the covers on this record mix well, covering themes like breaking up (“It’s all over now except for the crying”), drinking (“come in this house, come on in, drink some wine, drink some gin”; from Shake it right by Jessie Mae Hemphill), crime, and adultery (“You might think she’s your girl But you know she come around here sometimes“).

Lyrics in the originals resonate well with the lyrics in songs that must have inspired Tom. In one of his songs “Gimme Lightnin” (mind the capital L in Lightnin), Tom sings:

Gimme Lightnin’, early in the morning
Gimme Lightnin’, lightening and rain
I went out drinking, late last evening
You know that I got that aching down in my brain

 Later on, he sings:
“T-Model Ford and CeDell Davis
They were playing down there last night at Gabe’s”

So, who or what is “Lightnin” here? Is it to express that he needs a drink to recuperate from yesterday’s hangover? Or (given the capital L), does he refer to Lightnin’ Hopkins being the best music to play with a hangover? Perhaps we will never know, but this lyrical quality produces the complete package: pure footstompin’ mysterical country blues that will be appreciated by purists, but also by the cigar box rock generation.