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Brent Amaker knows he’s a tangle of contradictions. What do you expect from a whiskey-soaked country western singer who’s also a licensed insurance agent by day? 

Since forming his Seattle-based outfit Brent Amaker and the Rodeo in 2005, Amaker has reveled in an idiosyncratic style that doesn’t fit into preordained categories. He’s a country singer whose band is known for dressing in matching black cowboy outfits, yet Amaker is more inspired by art-rock icons like Devo and David Bowie than the usual country mainstays. A Seattleite since 1997, he’s a Southerner by birth, yet Southern crowds are frequently puzzled by his ambitious stage show. 

“When we tour Texas, they’re like, ‘What are you?’” Amaker says. “We’re cowboys, living the spirit of the West. We’re not really playing country music, but we’re playing cowboy music. ‘Western performance art’ is what I like to say.”

Amaker’s Western performance art achieves its fullest form on Philaphobia, a sly, heartsick collection that serves as Brent Amaker and the Rodeo’s first proper album in 10 years. (A 2020 album from the songwriter’s twisted side project, Brent Amaker Deathsquad, emerged in the gap.) Throughout Philaphobia, Amaker wrestles his demons and subverts frontier masculinity in his trademark baritone drawl (think Johnny Cash meets Matt Berninger) on tracks that span from rollicking motivational romps (“Take It by the Horns”) to criminal confessions (“Wanted”) to unlikely covers (Devo’s “Gut Feeling,” reimagined as a woozy twang breakdown). 

It’s a spirited and boozy record, but don’t let the yeehaws and hollerin’ scattered throughout “Take my Heart” fool you: Philaphobia is a divorce album, steeped in that eternal country tradition of channeling heartbreak into gallows humor and cowboy laments. The bulk of the album was recorded in 2019, when Amaker was reeling from the end of his second marriage. The songs are among the best of his career, wrought with the steely-eyed recognition that love don’t always last.

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silver moon brewing
24 Northwest Greenwood Avenue
Bend, OR 97701

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