If press kits could kill, F.Co (pronounced "EF-koh") would have Pat Green's bank account. If public relations and calculated marketing skills were quality songs, F.Co would be rollin' in mailbox money as Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney shamelessly mud-wrestle Faith Hill and Shania Twain to tie up their songs for platinum albums. If crafty bumper sticker slogans ("Making cold beer better all over Texas") were hot licks, Kevin Fowler and Cory Morrow would duel at 20 paces with cap-and-ball pistols for the right to open for F.Co at Reliant Stadium. Unfortunately, impressive press kits aside, The King of Texas is simply another entry in the overcrowded, rapidly-going-stale Texicana New Wave, where me-too bands are cloned faster than lab rats.

Produced by local favorite John Evans at Sugar Hill Studios, the album's high point is "Tattoos and Tears," a mid-tempo heartacher with a friendly hook. Brian Mucha's vocals and an edgy guitar riff from Bill Beazer (John Evans Band) make it the most memorable tune on the album. The title track celebrates our own River Oaks honky-tonk, Blanco's, but while Evans's smart, high-energy country arrangement features a tongue-tripping double-time Mucha vocal, the lyric is a pandering Texicana cliché typical of the F.Co mind-set: "Cold beer, dance floor / hot girls bring some more / Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff / play them loud till I'm deaf / good friends, barbecue / two-step a waltz or two / honky-tonk neon light / Blanco's on a Friday night." The sophomoric "18 Wheels of Beer" works similar ground.

F.Co's strengths are a workmanlike rhythm section (drummer Wayne Gabrysch and bassist Mike Stencel) and Mucha's pleasant voice. Mucha manages to give saccharine songs like "North to Buffalo," "400 Miles," "Santa Rosa Street" and "Do You Ever Get the Feeling" a bit of credibility. But Mucha also wrote and delivers "Long Song," an aren't-we-cute atrocity about a good ol' boy spitting tobacco juice on some Cubans' windshield ("hell, I was just spitting on everybody I was passing") as he travels up I-45 in all his I'm-a-Texan superiority "singing seven Spanish angels, whiskey river take my mind." (One wonders how many ethnicities they tried to fill in the blank with before they decided spitting on those commie Cubans wouldn't offend anyone.) "All This Catching Up" is another attempt at sly Robert Earl Keen humor that may work in a live situation but dies from terminal banality on record.

The King of Texas follows the commercially successful least-common-denominator formula developed in the Pat Green kitchen and scrupulously imitated by Cory Morrow and a jillion other neo-Texas country acts that are almost indistinguishable from one another in their kitschy taco'd straw hats. Those partial to music that doesn't dare even the slightest deviation from the original mashed potatoes recipe will probably catapult The King of Texas to the top of our Texas music charts with considerable haste. Yee-haw. Yeah, buddy.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
William Michael Smith