Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys

Feelin' Kinda Lucky

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Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys come from the Land of Retro, and it's a happening place. Their bag is small-combo Western swing, and the refreshing thing is their lack of irony, even with the matching yoke shirts, white scarves, and greasy kid stuff. The band's spartan instrumentation leaves nothing for a weak vocalist to hide behind; luckily, Big Sandy has a rich, cultivated tenor that harks back to the glory days of Tommy Duncan while also invoking some of Hank Williams' haunted edginess. He also has an amazing idiomatic facility -- without looking at the liner notes, it's difficult to distinguish the oldies from the originals on any of the band's three albums. Their third release departs not at all from the band's winning signature style: steel player Lee Jeffriess carries on a constant good-natured duel with lead guitarist Ashley Kingman (whose bag of jazzy licks is seemingly bottomless), while Sandy croons above and the bull fiddle and drums hold things down gently below. The only letdown is a touch of fatigue that slips through Big Sandy's voice from time to time -- it's as if he tires out as the album progresses. By the end of "Backdoor Dan," the album's closer, he sounds a little bit like Bootsy Collins. Which, actually, is kind of cool in a twisted sort of way. If you had to pick just one Big Sandy record, go with the debut -- but there's no reason not to own 'em all.

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