This sound has many fathers. Like a lot of modern swing there’s a foot in jump blues, but you hear other things too. There’s some backwoods boogie, a dab of calypso – and a great whiff of rock in its baby years. The influences are decades apart, and they work good together, for a different sound. It might not be “authentic” (whatever that means), but it sure is fun!
The band whoops up a slow drive, heavy sax and light boogie. Johnny Boyd has a high reedy voice, a lot like Gene Pitney with hints of Buddy Holly. He’s mad a his girl – “she called the police, and sent me off to jail ... Red Light! Shoulda count to ten before I got my gal uptight!” The words are weak but the tune is there – a big old shout with a jangly guitar solo.
Everything fits on “The Best You Can”, a wonderful pick-yourself-up song. “There’ll be days of silver, and evenings of lead.” Baron Shul gives it to us on sax, with plenty of the old gravel. The is so “there” you almost hear the 78 noise. “Pop’s at the Hop” is a rockabilly novelty, fast and loud and little else. Boyd tries the deep Elvis voice, but doesn’t quite make it. Better is “Another Day in L.A.”, with struttin’ horns and a ray of hope: “I gotta keep believin’, I gotta keep believin’, today I’m gonna be a star!” Shul honks loud as the band responds. And as it fades, Boyd says “Make me a star!” And you think – he just might make it.
The songs are uneven, but mostly they work. “Love’s Gonna Find You” has a calypso beat and a Holly voice. The tune is O.K. but the bridge is it : “Love is a stranger you always knew/ The girl at the counter, the boy next to you.” Cute and tender, like early rock ballads. Worlds collide on “I Know My Love is True”. The backing is light jump (reminds me of Tiny Bradshaw); the voice is pure Everly Brothers. Then a ‘Fifties guitar rolls over a ‘Forties sax – what generation gap? “Don’t Worry So Much” has a great bellow from Shul, spooky guitar, and busy lyrics: “Please stand up, cat/ Remember our chat/ And one more thing as such/She said you, hey you, don’t worry so much.” A little wordy, but nice.
“Ruby Mae” is a slow train with a big beat. The words are fine but the moody tune makes you listen. Shul blows the whistle: a big fat baritone in the distance. The instrumentals close each side, or they would if this were an LP. “Guiliaume’s Pepper Step” has perky guitar and a late ‘Forties lope. Shul starts with a drawl (think Lester) and ends in a shout. And “Hot Pot Boogie” comes from the ‘Thirties, William Beatty pumping the keys for all he’s worth. That’s all it is; that’s all it needs. A couple of novelties are too cute for my taste (“Staying Up Late”, “Big Hair Mama”), but such tunes are part of the jump style, so I can’t complain too much. You can tell they love the era, and the different styles work better than you’d expect. It might not be jazz, but swing it does.