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White Boys on Swing|
by Philip H. Farber
Artist: White Boys on Swing
There seems to be a real revival of swing music as a widely popular form, with bands like Squirrel Nut Zippers making the record charts with songs that owe as much as homage to Benny Goodman as they do to the Beatles. Who knows? Maybe someone at a record company finally realized that swing rhythms are an awful lot like hip-hop, just slower.
Taking it just a little further than most, the Ulster County-based White Boys on Swing are producing some fine swing music that is true to the spirit of the genre while benefitting greatly from a modern touch. The band is a quartet of some noted local musicians, Ken McGloin on guitar, Dean Sharp on drums and samples, Jim Curtin on upright bass and vocals, and Craig Thaler on violin and mandolin. McGloin and Sharp are probably best known to area listeners as part of the exceedingly-alternative rock band Lunchmeat (though their experience includes both production and performance credits with Jane Siberry, Jill Sobule, John Cale, Moby, and others).
Curtin and Thaler have been heard with Conehead Buddah, Orleans, and the late Jaco Pastorious, among others. With that in mind, WBOS does seem a bit like a departure, but once you hear it, it sounds quite natural.
Influences of greatest note on the self-titled debut CD from WBOS are Django Reinhardt, Stephane Grappelli, Charlie Christian, and Benny Goodman. Indeed, three of the eight cuts on the album are Django Reinhardt tunes, and one of the two original tracks is titled "DJ Ango." They pull off the Django routine with great style, but what immediately grabs your attention about this disc are the three rock classics that WBOS re-invent as swing: the Creedence classic "Bad Moon Rising," Hendrix's "Purple Haze," and the Deep Purple anthem "Smoke on the Water." You gotta love it. Along with the swinging pop, I would also call attention to the Dean Sharp-penned "Down On Four," which is a unique hybrid of swing idiom and modern funk/rock. Fun stuff.
My only criticism of this recording is that it is too short, more of an EP than a full album. Another three or four cuts in the same mode would make this an album to be reckoned with.
I had the pleasure to catch WBOS live a while back at a party at the offices of Woodstock web developers Spectral Resources. They are even better live than on the album.
Philip H. Farber is a freelance writer who lives in the Hudson Valley. He writes for a variety of area publications, including the Kingston Daily Freeman and the Woodstock Times, as well as national magazines, books, web sites and anyplace else that will offer him money or gratification.
He can be reached at PStuart@aol.com
Posted on April 7, 1998
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