Lucky Tomblin / Lucky Tomblin Band

Honky Tonk Merry Go Round

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The seven members of the Lucky Tomblin Band -- singer Tomblin, rhythm guitarist Bobby Arnold, pianist Earl Poole Ball, lead guitarist John Reed, bassist Sarah Brown, drummer John Hahn, and lead guitarist Redd Volkaert -- are pictured in their natural environment, a barroom, in the CD booklet of their fourth album, Honky Tonk Merry Go Round. Although Tomblin sits just in front of the others, they are all given nearly equal status in the photograph, and that's as it should be since this is, in fact, a cooperative effort in which Tomblin is more of a frontman than a dominating force. Indeed, as the album's 14 tracks proceed in a variety of traditional country styles -- mostly Western swing but also including the Bakersfield Sound and some Nashville country circa the '50s -- the microphone gets passed around the band, with lead vocals taken by Reed ("Wine," "I'll Go Down Swinging"), Volkaert ("She Loves Anything That Swings," "Forbidden Lovers"), Ball ("Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me," "The Train Always Runs on Time"), Brown ("Open Up Your Heart and Let Me Go," "Get a Little Goner"), and Arnold ( "I'd Rather You Didn't Love Me," "Heart of a Clown"). That leaves only four songs with lead vocals by Tomblin himself, and since he doesn't play an instrument, it means that he really isn't heard on a majority of the tracks on an album bearing his name. Such a democratic approach is to the benefit of the music, however, as the singers are often performing their own original compositions, which fit in nicely with covers of songs by the likes of Mel Tillis, Willie Nelson, and Hank Cochran. Tomblin's position as benevolent bandleader is not unlike that taken by his primary influence, Bob Wills, in fronting the Texas Playboys. And this band's purpose is much the same, to provide a soundtrack to life at the bar, with lyrics full of drinking, swinging, and love gone wrong, all performed in tempos good for dancing.

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