From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. To read part of my recent interview with Vince Gill, click here.
The Time Jumpers “The Time Jumpers” (Rounder Records)
Country supergroup The Time Jumpers come out swinging and never stay anything but true to their old-school musical passions on their self-titled debut on Rounder Records.
But 11-piece Western swing outfit, which consists of Oklahoma-born and bred Country Music Hall of Famer Vince Gill and many of Nashville’s top session players, isn’t just covering old Bob Wills songs or paying tribute to his legendary Texas Playboys. Even if you don’t know them by name, The Time Jumpers — Gill (vocals, electric and acoustic guitars), “Ranger Doug” Green (vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar), Dawn Sears (vocals), Kenny Sears (vocals, fiddle), Dennis Crouch (upright bass), Larry Franklin (fiddle), Paul Franklin (steel guitar), Vince Andy Reiss (electric guitar), Joe Spivey (fiddle, vocals) Jeff Taylor (accordion, piano) and Billy Thomas (drums, vocals) — have already earned their stripes as musicians, but they also show off their skills as songsmiths on their first studio album.
Nine of the 12 tracks on the follow-up to their Grammy-nominated live album “Jumpin’ Time” are new, original songs. From the flurry of fiddles on the instrumental opening “Texoma Bound” to the wry humor of Kenny Sears’ “Nothing But the Blues,” The Time Jumpers manage to make music that sounds simultaneously vintage and fresh, giving the album a timeless quality that allows it to exceed even the out-of-orbit expectations that their lofty reputations bring to a project.
The Western swing band, which was founded in 1998, crosses over into other classic genres, from the smoky jazz torch song “Faint of Heart,” which Gill penned but spotlights Dawn Sears’ rich voice, to the bouncy cowboy song “Ridin’ on the Rio,” which tips its hat to Ranger Doug’s day job as frontman of the Grammy-winning “comedy and Western” group Riders in the Sky. The ensemble’s cover of Johnny Mercer and Robert Emmet Dolan’s “Yodel Blues” lets all three singers — Gill, Dawn Sears and Ranger Doug — show off their considerable stuff as vocal gymnasts and harmonizers.
Although he only became an official Time Jumper in 2010, Gill has clearly made his mark on the band. In addition to “Faint of Heart,” he wrote or co-wrote four other songs that feature his gorgeous tenor. “The Woman of My Dreams” channels the spirit of the Texas Playboys while maintaining its identity as one of Gill’s songs, “New Star Over Texas” gives a shout-out to the Wills classic “Faded Love” while bouncing through its tale of woe, and his jaunty “On the Outskirts of Town” will make you want to dance even if you’ve never got your swing on before. But his heartbreaker “Three Sides to Every Story” has all the hallmarks of an instant country classic.
Gill will play a hometown show at 2 p.m. Sunday at his alma mater, Northwest Classen High School. The benefit concert will celebrate the grand opening of the revamped auditorium where he once played, which has been transformed into the Hudson Performance Hall. For tickets and information, go to www.NWCFriends.org.