Some artists take years to earn mainstream recognition, much less success. But Dustin Lynch, who moved to Nashville at age 18 to be a professional songwriter, struck platinum with his debut single, 2012’s “Cowboys and Angels.” The artist released the track nine years ago this month.
Co-written by Josh Leo and Tim Nichols, “Cowboys and Angels” is an ode to a relationship between two people who seem to be polar opposites — specifically, cowboys and angels.
“I’ve got boots, and she’s got wings,” Lynch sings. “I’m hell on wheels, and she’s heavenly / I’d die for her, and she lives for me.”
Rather than being a typical bad-boy-meets-good-girl tune, however, “Cowboys and Angels” emphasizes that, maybe, the disparate personalities actually fit like a glove and are meant to be together: “There’s a want and there’s a need / There’s a history between / Girls like you and guys like me.”
The origins of “Cowboys and Angels” are true to life, Lynch told CMT in 2012: “I have my grandparents’ and my parents’ story to draw from, and Tim and Josh had theirs,” he shared at the time. “Our goal was to make it a universal story so everyone could take it and make it their own. I’ve seen postings all over the place about how it fits people’s story, and it’s awesome to see that.”
Traditional instrumentation backs up the old-fashioned vibe of “Cowboys and Angels”; fiddle, pedal steel and acoustic guitar bolster Lynch’s wise-beyond-his-years baritone. Arrangement-wise, “Cowboys and Angels” is even more impressive: The song layers on new sounds as it progresses — for example, subtle strings pop up in the second verse, and the bridge features a blazing electric guitar — which adds emotional gravitas.
Lynch — who cut grass and tested sewage before launching his music career in earnest — told CMT in 2012 that “Cowboys and Angels” was “like a present from the sky,” as he and Nichols were on the same writing wavelength from the get-go.
“When we wrote it, Tim and I brought the idea on the same morning. We both had the same idea, but we had never met each other,” Lynch recalled back in 2012. “So it was kind of a freak event that the song was written … Now it’s going to change my life.”
That’s no exaggeration: “Cowboys and Angels” ended up peaking at No. 2 on two major Billboard charts, Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs, and even landed at No. 40 on the mainstream Hot 100 singles chart. Lynch’s self-titled debut album, which was released in August of 2012, fared even better, as it landed at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums and Independent Albums charts. To date, it remains Lynch’s highest-charting record — no doubt buoyed by the success of “Cowboys and Angels.”
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