The Return of the One that Got Away

They are a group whose right winged lyrical leanings inspired a few of my cultural commentaries and are set to make a big comeback later this year with the release of their first album in seventeen years. In celebration of their return, here’s a reposting of my original piece, a spirited expression of affinity for the hard rock band from Houston…

Galactic Cowboys: The One That Got Away

When I converted to Christianity it became apparent that I could not reconcile my faith in God with my musical listening tendencies.  I soon found myself sorting through my compact disc collection and discarding those which I deemed incompatible with my Christian worldview.  With the exception of a few U2 albums, my complete collection, predominantly comprised of high profile hard rock selections from the eighties and nineties, had been completely purged.

I eventually discovered the Christian rock scene and uncovered a few hidden (at least from me) gems that helped fill my hard rock void.  However, for the most part I was disappointed with what I perceived to be a lack of musical, lyrical and surprisingly spiritual depth in this music I had been exploring.

It wasn’t till I rediscovered a dusty old misplaced cassette tape that my interest in music started to become fully renewed.  The name of that tape, ‘Faith Hope Love’ by King’ X.

When it was first released I didn’t really get it.  The music was heavy, but it was weird.  It just didn’t fully register with me…too artsy, too melodic, too ambitious.

Woodrow Wilcox


And the lyrics?  The words spoke of spiritual struggles and transcending love with an eye towards eternal redemption.  Definitely a far cry from the party anthems and calls to rebellion, which were the standard lyrical themes that I associated with the hard rock genre.

To their credit, King’s X did receive a fair amount of notoriety over the years and have been hailed as a major influence on the likes of pearl jam, alice in chains, and the whole grunge movement of the early nineties.  As I searched through their rich catalog I came across another group, Galactic Cowboys (never heard of them? neither had I) who had also emerged from the small yet noteworthy Christian metal scene along with King’s X in the early nineties.


I immediately got my hands on their first two major label releases.  It was evident, to me anyway, that Galactic Cowboys were a band destined for greatness.  Unfortunately their promise was derailed before the train even left the station when after being signed to Geffen they were immediately tossed aside as label mates Nirvana exploded onto the rock scene.  The future course of these two promising young bands would forever be altered.  Nirvana’s emergence transformed the musical landscape even though the band prematurely imploded while the Cowboys, despite their unique and intriguing blend of styles, quickly faded away into obscurity.

We all know about Nirvana…rebellious, cynical, raw, angry and unpredictable.  While Galactic Cowboys, although similar in terms of hooks, melodies and harmonies were polished, disciplined, witty and colorful.  The Cowboys hard rock aggression were a nod to the mighty thrash of Metallica rather than the stripped down simplicity of the punk movement (despite the fact that bassist and primary songwriter Monty Colvin is the cousin of the late bassist and primary songwriter Douglas Colvin a.k.a. “De De Ramone” whose band was an early forerunner of Nirvana).

Galactic Cowboys were not a Christian band – although maybe they would have met with greater success if they were marketed thus – but a band full of Christians who were not afraid to wave the flag for Christian morality.


The diverse lyrical themes of their music covered a vast array of social and spiritual topics including abortion, poverty, isolation, hard-heartedness, political propaganda, religious cults and environmental protection against the likes of Exxon Valdez.  The band could have and should have been huge.  They are a criminally overlooked band that blended the layered-harmonies and melodies of classic Chicago with the bone crushing riffs of old school Metallica.  In one song they can go from rocking your face off to seducing you with a sweet harmony or heartfelt lyric while thinking nothing of integrating acoustic guitars or blues harp into a musical mix grounded in heavy metal.

On their last album, 2000’s unpromoted ‘Let It Go’ the group expanded its social commentaries to include the loss of innocence, teen angst, the gun culture and the glorification of violence in the media.  Unfortunately the Cowboys disbanded upon the album’s release and despite a few reunion shows have remained inactive and relatively unknown.

Do yourself a favor and check out this great band!  A band of great promise…the one that got away!

This article is printed with the permission of the author(s). Opinions expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the article’s author(s), or of the person(s) or organization(s) quoted therein, and do not necessarily represent those of American Clarion or Dakota Voice LLC.

Comment Rules: Please confine comments to salient ones that add to the topic; Profanity is not allowed and will be deleted; Spam, copied statements and other material not comprised of the reader’s own opinion will be deleted.

A.J. Castellitto is a freelance writer who resides in NJ with his wife and five children. He holds a B.S. in Counseling and Human Services from the University of Scranton and his writings have been published at The Center for Western Journalism, The Christian Post, Intellectual Conservative and Reformed Perspective Magazine.
A.J. Castellitto
View all posts by A.J. Castellitto
A.J.s website
  • Thisoldspouse

    For me, “Christian rock” is a reluctant allowance that God “suffers,” like divorce (Matt. 9:18), for new, immature believers who were immersed in that culture before their conversion. But I don’t believe that God allows a growing believer to remain there.

    If a believer is still listening to now-delegitimized groups like “Petra” after several decades, he needs to reevaluate the authenticity of his conversion.

    • Thisoldspouse

      I think the authentic Christian rediscovers the depth of Truth in the old hymns as he matures, such as those of the Wesleys, over time. I certainly did.

      O for a thousand tongues to sing
      My great Redeemer’s praise,
      The glories of my God and King,
      The triumphs of His grace!

      My gracious Master and my God,
      Assist me to proclaim,
      To spread through all the earth abroad
      The honors of Thy name.

      Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
      That bids our sorrows cease;
      ‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
      ‘Tis life, and health, and peace.

      He breaks the power of canceled sin,
      He sets the prisoner free;
      His blood can make the foulest clean,
      His blood availed for me.

      He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
      New life the dead receive,
      The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
      The humble poor believe.

      Compare these words to today’s shallow, me-centered fare.

    • DCM7

      I don’t think the issue with Christian rock, or other contemporary Christian music, has anything to do with the musical style per se. It has to do with the fact that most of it is shallow and made mainly to make money.

      But out of curiosity, what do you mean by “now-delegitimized”?

      • Thisoldspouse

        Yes, most contemporary Christian music (CCM) is extremely shallow and compromised in doctrine. Regardless, the style itself is very self-absorbed. It’s not so surprising that many well known bands in CCM eventually apostatize, some coming out as homosexual or tacitly supporting homosexuality (Amy Grant, Trey Pearson, etc.) It is not a secret that homosexuality is rampant in this CCM culture. Read the eye-opening article at Way of Life Literature on this subject. I was surprised myself.

        Ray Boltz, lead singer of Petra, has come out as “gay,” meaning that he embraced this ideology long before he made it public. Chances are his band members knew it from the start as well. Today, he is a raving activist for the “gay” cause, while still calling himself a “Christian.” What does that tell you of the foundation he built on?

        • Sadly, people from all music genre’s sometimes turn away from God. It isn’t confined to the rock genre or any other.

          To the best of my knowledge, Ray Boltz has never been a member of Petra. About 20-25 years ago, I went to a VERY conservative church, and even they loved Ray Boltz, with a number of the key membership often singing special numbers during worship time after Ray Boltz songs. Boltz isn’t even Christian “rock”; he’s more what the secular world calls “pop” (just kind of middle-of-the-road in style). Many of his songs were extremely uplifting and honoring to God. It was incredibly sad to hear of him giving up the fight against homosexual inclinations and embracing sin. However, his moral failure doesn’t repudiate the message of his good songs, nor is his moral failure a result of the musical genre of his songs.

          As for Petra, while I don’t know tons about them, I’m familiar with a number of their songs. Their heyday was mainly during the time when I was living for the Devil and listening to bands that had no moral redeeming value, and even promoted immorality, often with hard rock and heavy metal riffs that leave Petra in the dust. It was only after I surrendered my will to the Lord, and eventually realized that there were Christian bands out there with a sound I liked (sorry, my mother’s country gospel still just doesn’t cut it for me), that I discovered Petra, among others.

          While I haven’t listened to everything they’ve ever produced, there are some that I find really uplifting and bring my heart to absolutely cry out with praise for my God.

          There’s “Creed” which is akin to a modern “Apostles Creed”:

          And there’s “Road to Zion” which is based on Psalm 84:5-7

          And “Grave Robber,” which I hope to have played at my funeral when that day comes. Few songs stir my love and admiration for my Savior the way this song does. When I die, I won’t be staying in that grave in the Black Hills National Cemetery; the Grave Robber, who didn’t stay in his own grave, is going to take me and other forgiven saints out of the ground to live with Him forever. Death will be conquered by Christ’s victory, and thanks to the mercy of God, I will share in that victory.

          I realize this style of music doesn’t float everyone’s boat (like my mother’s deep-in-the-woods-and-making-the-dogs-howl country gospel didn’t float mine), but the true mark of a song’s quality is whether the lyrics are true and edifying to those who listen to them.

          • Thisoldspouse

            My mistake, Bob. I confused Greg Volz with Ray Boltz.

            Petra, with Greg at the vocal helm, released their version of God Gave Rock and Roll to You, a controversial and intentionally provocative move. I can remember guys in my Sunday School class bragging that this got all of the “old ladies” at the church in a tizzy. It was a spirit of rebellion, no matter the subject, and that is what is wrong with it. I am familiar with “The Coloring Song,” and it is mild compared to much of what they released, but the spirit of R&R is a spirit of rebellion at root.

            Again, I contend that this type of music should be a “phase” that a maturing Christian grows out of. It is shallow enough for the easily enamoured to appreciate, but not enough meat to last for the long, tough haul.

            • There’s no doubt there is a spirit of rebellion among many in the rock community. But there’s plenty of rebellion in the country and other genre’s, too.

              Again, I look not only for a sound that I like, but words that are grounded in truth and proclaim that Truth to people; shallow doesn’t cut it for me, regardless of the type of music. I like stuff all the way from Martin Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” 500 years ago, to Petra’s “Grave Robber” and a lot of stuff in between. If that style of music is something a maturing Christian should grow out of, I guess I’m still immature.