Sign up for our free newsletter
Free D.C. news, delivered to your inbox daily.
On their third release for HighTone, Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys offer a generous serving of Western swing mixed with rockabilly, hillbilly boogie, country shuffle, and jump blues. The Anaheim, Calif., quintet trades in the fiddle-centered big-band sound of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys for honky-tonk instrumentation more akin to that of Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys. With rhythmic support from an upright bass and acoustic guitar, the band is driven by the interplay between Lee Jeffriess’ steel guitar and Ashley Kingman’s electric lead, as well as by the backbeat of Bobby Trimble’s drums. Robert “Big Sandy” Williams’ vocals often reflect the sophisticated, radio-friendly stylings of Tommy Duncan’s work with Bob Wills or that of Tex Williams with Spade Cooley, but his voice also suggests the longing heard in Elvis’ Sun ballads. Twelve of the album’s 14 tracks were penned by Big Sandy, of which “Strange Love,” “What’s It to Ya?,” and the title track are obvious standouts. Since they wear vintage stage costumes and play music that sounds like it’s from 50 years ago, the Fly-Rite Boys will inevitably be compared to BR5-49. But while both bands share similar instrumentation, and their stylistic leanings occasionally overlap, Big Sandy’s quest for swing radically departs from BR5-49’s pursuit of twang. The Fly-Rite Boys should find widespread success because of their ability to build upon traditional sources, expanding the music in new directions, but maybe they’ll make it just because they’re a band that plays music that’s awful fun to dance to.Matt Watson