Comprising guitarist Joey McKenzie, upright bassist Gavin Kelso and National Swing Fiddle Champion Katie Glassman (formerly of The Quebe Sisters), The Western Flyers will, like Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen and Asleep At The Wheel before them, take you back to the classic Western string band swing of the 20s and 30s with a sound that’ll transform your player of choice into a vintage valve radio, only without the crackle of static.
Recalling late 60s revivalists, but without the rock n roll and boogie-woogie elements, recorded using early Neumann, Telefunken and RCA ribbon microphones, period tube preamps and other equipment from the period, they dig deep into the songbook archives for thirteen tracks that draw on Bob Wills, Count Basie and Merle Haggard alike.
They open with Wills classic You’re From Texas, although, sung by McKenzie, the arrangement here is closer to the Asleep at the Wheel version than the original, moving on to Glassman taking the lead on the rolling Along The Navajo Trail, another number linked to Wills, but originally recorded by singing cowboy Roy Rogers as the title number for his 1945 film.
The first of four instrumentals, Carroll Country Blues dates back to Mississippi fiddle and guitar duo Willy Narmour and Shell Smith whose original 1929 recording for Okeh became their biggest hit. The other three line up as a lively romp through the standard Sweet Georgia Brown, Kelso’s bass firmly in evidence, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang’s tempo shifting fiddle showcase The Wild Dog and Texas Fiddle Medley, a showcase suite for Glassman consisting of Smith’s Reel, Leather Britches and Jack of Diamonds.
Back on the vocal track, she also sings lead on two notable evergreens, a rather more frisky version of I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter than the 1935 Fats Waller original and, again taking the tempo up a notch, Patti Page’s 1950 smash, Tennessee Waltz.
First recorded by the Nat King Cole Trio in 1947 and also by Doris Day that same year, No Moon At All shows a jazzier hot club side, fiddle and bass dominant, while it’s pure old tyme country for 1923 number Old Fashioned Love, a song covered by both Wills and Haggard. Sung by Glassman, another country legend provides the source for Never No More, originally the B-side to Patsy Cline’s 1958 issue of I Can See An Angel with a rhythm very reminiscent of Walking After Midnight. Then, McKenzie taking over, it’s off to the honky tonks with the sprightly waltzing Heart Over Mind, which, written by Mel Tillis, provided a 1961 hit for Ray Price, though the melody’s not too far removed from his earlier and bigger success, Heartaches By The Number.
Finally, it’s back to the ballrooms of the 20s for album closer I’ll See You In My Dreams, another evergreen, written by Isham Jones and lyricist Gus Kahn in 1924 and first recorded by Jones and the Ray Miller Orchestra. Often given a ballad like treatment, the band’s sizzling version nods to the original, but leans more to the fiddle-led hot club sound of the 1939 Django Reinhardt recording.
Like fellow Western Swing revivalists, Hotclub of Cowtown, the trio have a real affection and affinity for the music they play and, while it may, to some extent, be a niche market, acts like this ensure it’s a very vibrant one.
Wild Blue Yonder is released 21 November 2016