Bebop cowboys CD release with the Brothers Cosmoline and DJ Tom Parker at the Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas West), tonight (Thursday, October 9). $10. 416- 588-0307 . Rating: NNNNN
The release of the Bebop Cowboys' Début (BBC) disc last year didn't touch off a Spade Cooley revival after all, but it sure established the local twangers as Canada's premier western swing outfit. It also set them up with a summer folk festival tour. That's right, folk festivals. While it may seem like the Bebop Cowboys' quick-picking pedal-steel-led hoedowns would be better suited to the honky-tonk circuit, the jazzy harmonica-juiced jams from their new Some Kind Of Fantasy (BBC) album went down a storm alongside the typical assortment of sensitive singer/songwriters and blues survivors.
"When people hear we play western swing, they figure we're too jazzy for country gigs and too country for jazz or traditional blues festivals," says founding guitarist Steve Briggs, who moonlights in the Brothers Cosmoline with pedal steel ace Burke Carroll.
"But because what we do incorporates jazz, country, blues and rock 'n' roll, we fit in pretty well anywhere."
Although the Cowboys' summer jaunt, which took them all the way to the Vancouver Island Musicfest, meant they had to give up their weekly Cadillac Lounge gig, Briggs cites their long-time residency at the Queen West nightspot as a key contributing factor to the evolution in sound apparent on Some Kind Of Fantasy.
That six-string slinger Briggs and steel man Carroll can make their complex interplay sound so darn effortless is a testament to their awesome chops and near-telepathic connection.
"We're at the point now where Burke and I can just look at each other and he'll hit a lick and I'll comeback with something in harmony. It's second nature.
"Also, having the regular gig at the Cadillac allowed us to try out new material and see what worked. This isn't a vanity project. A song or even a part might be fun for us to play, but if it isn't connecting with the audience, we should try something else.
"So all the songs went through a few different arrangements before we arrived at the versions on the disc. When we got to the studio we wanted to capture the feel of what we do onstage, so there are only a couple of overdubs. Pretty much everything is first takes."
What? All single takes? Knowing that many groups spend weeks trying to get down a single tune, cutting an entire album's worth of western swing - which requires above-average instrumental prowess to begin with - in a single pass is an amazing feat.
"We've been through the songs enough at shows that there was really no reason why we shouldn't have been able to get 'em down the first time, or the second for sure. I think Howard (singer Howard Willett) took a second crack at his vocals on one track, and I wanted to redo one of my guitar parts.
"On Duncan Swings, one of the last songs we worked on, I told the engineer, Elliot Sairan, I wanted to take another shot at it.
"There was a long pause," chuckles Briggs, "and he said, 'Are you sure you want to break with the pattern?' He looked genuinely disappointed that it wasn't going to be all one take."