Floyd Domino and Maryann Price are both veterans of the Western Swing revival of the seventies, Domino most memorably as a member of Asleep At the Wheel while Price was the voice on several of Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks’ finest recordings. Both have extensive CVs beyond these achievements with Price being an integral part of the Kinks’ 1974 line up and also spending time with (those guys again) Asleep at The Wheel, Domino playing and recording with Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Strait and Waylon Jennings. So far so pedigree.
Upfront finds them in the company of Gary Bristol on bass and Michael Holleman, drums along with Kenny Kosek (ex Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band) on fiddle as they delve into the jazzier roots of their respective careers on a selection of covers and self penned originals that run the gamut from Annie Ross vocalese to Gypsy swing and some sumptuous late night jazz sophistication. Price’s voice has moved on from her Hot Licks days, a little lower, more experienced but with a fine sense of mischievousness lurking within while Domino’s piano shines like Oscar Peterson’s or even the Duke himself at times. Allied to some very fine fiddle from Kosek and the solid rhythm section the set is as tight as the proverbial duck’s A while retaining the essential element of swing with all of the numbers at the very least toe tapping or (on the slower numbers) causing the listener to cast about for a dance partner.
Aside from the performances the song selection is something of a triumph. No dog eared covers here that have been trampled to death in the past. Dan Hicks has two numbers featured, Cowboy’s Dream #19 and O’Reilly At The Bar both of which recall the Hot Licks’ hip reinterpretation of swing music with the latter’s bar fight shenanigans wonderfully portrayed. Henry Hipken’s Who Knows What Tomorrow Might Bring swings mightily with Chico Marx piano (only better played) and vibrant gypsy fiddle opening a world of romance and danger. Another Hipkens cover, I Must Be Doing Something Right has Price playfully adopting a naive innocence delivered with a Mae West tongue in cheek as the band lay down a fantastic backdrop, cheeky and elegant. On The Last Day Of Pompeii (by Michael Peter Smith) is another number that recalls the vapid elegance of the pre war jet set, fiddling while Rome burns ( to mix a metaphor) as Price relates all the things she could have done had she known the top was about to blow. Is All Of this For Me is a velvet curtain of a song, dinky, late night, almost orchestrated as the fiddle hovers over an excellent piano solo and a Noel Coward like stiff upper lip romance.
Price maintains the quality with Everybody’s Talking About The Same Thing a witty and coquettish inquiry into love while The Apology (co-written with Domino) allows her voice to slip and slide within an update of Julie London’s Cry Me A River. They close the album with the excellent The Damndest Finest Ruins, written by Domino that pulls in Steely Dan and Charlie Mingus with the vocals adorning the jazz chops of the band with Holleman sparkling on cymbals while Domino plays his best.
It maybe odd to find what amounts to a jazz album coming from Texas but these guys have the chops and the end result encapsulates music from New York to San Francisco with a detour south in between. Some time spent looking at the New Tex website shows that they have several other tasty offerings with Domino featuring on piano on The Great Recession Orchestra’s album, Double Shot, a tribute to the Mississippi Sheiks and 1940’s Texas swing while there’s a tribute to Milton Brown featuring many of the same players. Hear over here to check them out.