On September 9, the justifiably acclaimed Nashville western swing band the Time Jumpers released Kid Sister, the followup to their Grammy-nominated Rounder album Time Jumpers on Rounder Records.
The ten-piece band, which organized as a hobby project in 1998, are a group of A-list Nashville musicians. Country legend and guitar ace Vince Gill fronts the group. The rest are equally formidable: fiddlers Larry Franklin and Joe Spivey, Riders in the Sky’s “Ranger Doug” Green, accordion and keyboard player Jeff Taylor, bassist Brad Albin and drummer Billy Thomas. pedal steel guitar vituoso Paul Franklin, fiddler Kenny Sears and guitarist Andy Reiss.
The album’s 14 songs blend western swing favorites well-known and obscure, original numbers and some of Gill’s aching, traditional country ballads. The album and its title song (another Gill original) honor vocalist Dawn Sears, Kenny’s wife and the band’s 11th member who lost a battle with lung cancer in 2014. She was, I might add, a great singer on her solo records and when she sang backup for Gill on his own tours. I saw her onstage with him at his 2012 Palace Theater concert in Greensburg and her vocal power made one regret she hadn’t achieved greater fame.
Western swing is not the easiest music to play well unless you have at least one or two jazz players. If not, forget it. The Jumpers do it right, as Asleep At The Wheel does. For those surprised by the accordion, hardcore swing fans know that most West Coast bands used them. Pee Wee King (the co-writer of “Tennessee Waltz”) played accordion leading his Golden West Cowboys in Nashville and Louisville. The Jumpers, most of them in-demand sidemen, can certainly do that.