One of my goals for Country Perspective this year is to broaden our horizons on types of country music we cover. Sure it’s easy just to cover more Texas country or even more obscure mainstream country, but I want to go beyond that even. I want to cover more international stuff, from Canada to Australia to the United Kingdom. I would also like to cover different types that aren’t given as much coverage. Well today I kill two birds with one stone. Meet The Western Swing Authority. They’re a Canadian country band that play, what else, Western Swing music (it’s right in the name). For those who aren’t familiar with Western Swing, a quote from Country Music Hall of Famer Merle Travis describes it best:
“Western swing is nothing more than a group of talented country boys, unschooled in music, but playing the music they feel, beating a solid two-four rhythm to the harmonies that buzz around their brains. When it escapes in all its musical glory, my friend, you have Western swing.”
Western Swing music is basically music that is usually led by the fiddle and is meant to be danced to. The Western Swing Authority is a seven-piece band made up of Shane Guse, Dan Howlett, Matthew Lima, Pee Wee Charles, Jim Boudreau, Stacey Lee and Paul Chapman. The group was nominated for three 2015 Ameripolitan Music Awards this past week, as well as two 2014 Canadian Country Music Awards. The group also recently signed with eOne Music Canada as they just released their new album Now Playing.
The album opens with “Sweet Harriet,” a little ditty about a woman named Harriet living it up and dancing around the town. This song is really good at warming you up for the rest of the album because as said above Western Swing music is meant to be dancing music. Stacy Lee’s voice shines on “One Of Us Is Lying.” She does a great job conveying the smoky, romantic vibe surrounding this love song because her vocals have such great presence that draws the listener in. The premise of this song is the woman knows one of them is lying in their relationship, but tonight she is willing to overlook this because she wants someone in her arms.
“Swing Thing” is all about Western Swing music and why people love it. It’s about country music you can dance to and have fun. This is a song that’s meant to be danced to, not so much to be heard. Lee’s voice perfectly captures the vibe again in “Livin’ A Dream,” another romantic and slow love song. The fiddle play really impresses me on this song. Maybe it’s because I’m a big fan of the fiddle and I miss hearing it in country music nowadays. Perhaps this is the wake-up call I need to listen to more Western Swing.
“Miss Molly” is a quick little ditty about a woman named Molly and how a man has fallen in love with her. It’s a simple love story with a nice rhythm that makes you want to dance. The same can be said for “Old Dance Floor.” The song pretty much says this is the song you put on at the end of a long week of work and just cut the rug to. The Western Swing Authority take a unique look at love with “Slow Boat To China.” The title intrigued me because I had no idea what this song could be about. What it’s about is love. The woman wants to take her love on a slow boat to China, all by herself. Going on a boat from Canada to China is pretty damn far. I like this creative take on a love song and make it stand out compared to other love songs on this album.
My toe was tapping from beginning to end on “Rocket To The Moon.” The rhythm is similar to the old rock and roll, do wop music you heard in the 50s, which makes for a very danceable song. Lee’s vocals shine once again. All this combines for one of my favorite songs on the album. “Bapadoodle” is the lone instrumental only track on the album, as the talented Canadian group’s brilliant instrumentation captures the listener’s attention. I always enjoyed when Brad Paisley did one song like this on his past albums and it’s good to see The Western Swing Authority do this on their own. Texas is the scene of “Cowtown Queen,” a song about a couple who always enjoyed going down to the Lone Star state. They liked to dance and experience the nightlife, but they eventually grew apart. The woman is now down in Texas double-timing her man and he’s trying to deal with it back home. She has moved on, but he hasn’t. I think this is the most upbeat heartbreak song I’ve ever heard. But hey that’s how it is in Western Swing and I’m certainly not complaining.
“Swingtime Lullaby” is sung from the point of view of parents to their child, as they try to get them to go to sleep. I tell you one thing it would definitely put me to sleep if I was listening late night and that’s a good thing for a lullaby. I’ll have to keep this in mind when I can’t sleep. In all seriousness though I love the rich instrumentation in this song and the harmonies are smooth as silk. The final track on the album is “The Last Waltz,” which is also the longest song the album. The song is about the last waltz the woman ever wants to hear, which holds a special place in her heart. You’ll notice when listening that you’ll hear fuzzy sound, which is intended I think because this “last waltz” is on a vinyl record. It’s really a beautiful song to cap off a very good album.
What I love the most about The Western Swing Authority’s Now Playing album is how fun and upbeat the album is throughout, even on the songs with a more somber subject. Don’t get me wrong I love a real deep, dark album with a lot of hidden meanings. But it’s nice to have albums like this one that don’t take itself too seriously. It’s impossible to listen to this album and not feel happy afterwards. It also makes for great music to dance to at a party. This is a forgotten element in much of country music today and what’s considered party country music is not country at all. This is party country music that keeps it country 100% with plenty of fiddle play. I think Now Playing is an album that any country music fan can sit down and enjoy.