Ask to name the genre of this music we love to many folks over of about the age of 50-something, you’ll often get a response that you won’t necessarily get from the younger crowd. My father, in his seventies, is a big fan of what he calls country-western music. Never mind that he categorizes everyone from Keith Urban to Hank Williams under that heading. For that generation, country and western music went hand in hand. Like peas and carrots. Like mac and cheese. In 2012, the western part of that country-western music is almost non-existent. With the exception of some off-the-radar releases by Asleep at the Wheel, the still-prolific Michael Martin Murphey and a still-active pocket in Texas, the country portion has won out on the radio popularity competition.
But a pet project started way back in 1998 in a small fabled bluegrass club in Nashville by an assemblage of highly respected studio musicians seeks to put the western back in country-western. Fourteen years ago, a bunch of talented pickers and fiddlers- folks that have played with everyone from Carrie Underwood to Ray Price- gathered together on a quiet Monday night at The Station Inn. Devoted crowds soon caught on as the band grew in size and popularity enthralled with their vast array of country and classic standards. But a studio album for The Time Jumpers (Dennis Crouch – upright bass, Larry Franklin – fiddle, Paul Franklin – steel guitar, “Ranger Doug” Green – vocals, archtop guitar, Dawn Sears – vocals, Kenny Sears – vocal, fiddle, Joe Spivey – fiddle, vocals, Andy Reiss – electric guitar, Jeff Taylor – accordion, piano and Billy Thomas – drums, vocals) would wait until they were formally signed by Rounder Records earlier this year. Oh… and after legendary Country Music Hall of Famer Vince Gill would join the band adding his wonderful vocals and incredible guitar picking as well.
For fans of classic country and traditional western music, the album is a treat for the ears. It opens with the revealing instrumental “Texoma Bound.” With three fiddles blazing and Jeff Taylor’s accordion playing matching them note for note, it sets the table perfectly. Gill, in addition to contributing his home studio to record the album , has written five of the tracks for the album and there’s a couple of fantastic stand-outs. The bouncy “On The Outskirts Of Town,” he sings affectionately of a little fictional roadhouse called The Twilight that just could vaguely resemble The Station Inn. It’s a fun little number that shows off each musician in solos while highlighting “where they love to play the jukebox loud.” The western homeland gets a terrific dedication on Mundo Earwood’s “Texas on a Saturday Night.” Dawn Sears takes the lead on Harlan Howard’s “Someone Had To Teach You” and scorchingly teaches her man how to cry in song.
The most remarkable part about the album could be the way it was recorded. Recorded together as a band in a round circle, the ability for overdubs and covers for missed notes is limited mightily. It’s a testament to this group of talented musicians.
So, perhaps, my pop had it right all the time. Maybe he was just being prophetic instead of a little old school. Perhaps he knew it was country-WESTERN music all along and was just waiting for The Time Jumpers to be the flag-bearers.
Asleep at the Wheel with more fiddle, a female voice and… Vince Gill
On The Outskirts of Town
Texoma Bound (instrumental)
Texas on a Saturday Night
Nothing but the Blues
Three Sides To Every Story
Four stars out of five