The 2020 Western Swing & BBQ festival may be canceled, but Swing thrives thanks to new breed of musicians
By Dana Garrett
After their first two years celebrating Western Swing during the last weekend of September in Lockhart founder Al Dressen has had to cancel The Lockhart Western Swing and BBQ Festival 2020 because of the Corona Virus Pandemic. Dressen said in a recent news release “We are very concerned about the health and safety of our fans and attendees, the musicians, and the residents and business owners of Lockhart, Caldwell County, Central Texas and, for that matter, all of Texas and everywhere else. Everyone, please be safe and careful, and we look forward to seeing you in the near future when we can dance and sing and make music.” The festival has become a fast moving favorite for music and dance fans in Lockhart and Caldwell County as summer heat fades away and replaced by early autumn cool September temperatures at night. Western Swing has been around since the 1930's. Three years ago Al Dressen brought the Western Swing Festival to Lockhart after 30 years being hosted in Austin and San Marcos. In recent years, Western Swing music has been catching the attention of a younger generation of musicians, listeners and dancers. The most popular band in recent history to wow the dance halls has been Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel. With nine Grammys under their belt, the band released A Tribute to Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys in 1993 recognizing Bob Wills as the King of Western Swing and bringing in heavyweights like Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett and exposing the younger fans by including The Dixie Chicks, Tim McGraw, Lee Ann Womack and Dwight Yoakum for their follow up album Ride with Bob. Although the Texas Swing Festival has been canceled this year because of COVID-19, the music lives on through new musical groups like Big Cedar Fever with their recently released album Tumbleweeds. This tight musical trio brings a very big Western Swing sound with an incredible fast paced jazz influence that will make you want to jump up and jive on the dance floor (or now in the COVID-19 era your kitchen floor). Big Cedar Fever is an all string swing band who play traditional western swing standards as well as some of their own material and arrangements. Although they have only been playing together for about 30 months they play off of each others talents like they have been together for decades. Georgia Parker playing the jazz-box guitar is greatly influenced by Mart, Texan Cindy Walker, although with her happy go lucky vocals she comes across as Bob Wills first female vocalist Laura Lee(McBride).
Laura Lee(McBride) was recruited by Bob WIlls as his first female vocalist. Her performances with Wills in the 1940s opened the doors for women to perform on the road with the western swing bands.She was inducted into the Western Swing Hall of Fame in 1989. This is from my 78 rpm collection that includes magazine clippings of many of the artists. -DG
Ian Lee, who started formal training on the violin at the age of five, has transformed his violin to a fast and lively fiddle with all the western swing energy of Bob Wills but with a heavy jazz influence of Stuff Smith and big band sounds of Spade Cooley. Lee's silky yet powerful vocals echo Milton Brown and Tommy Duncan, early members of The Texas Playboys. Nick Lochman plays the upright bass rounding out the trio giving the band the big sound that sets the rhythm for these lively numbers. His big bass is reminiscent of Kermit Whalin's sound in the early Texas Playboys. Lochman has a love for songwriting as well, being influenced by the great Willie Nelson and Hank Williams. While all three members share the vocals, their harmonizing quality is what makes them stand out above the rest. Listen to their arrangement of the Joe Green classic Across the Alley from the Alamo (track 6 on Tumbleweeds). Their harmonizing resonates the Mills Brothers version of 1947. It is no wonder that they won the prestigious Ameripolitan Music Award in 2019 for Best Western Swing Band.
Track 1: Honeysuckle Rose
Track 2: Easy Come Easy Go
Track 3: Boy In Texas
Track 4: Red Hot Gal O’ Mine
Track 5: Carry Me Back To The Lone Prairie
Track 6: Across The Alley From The Alamo
Track 7: Tumbleweeds
Track 8: Sweet Jennie Lee
Track 9: Looking Over My Shoulder
Track 10: Dancin’ All Alone
Track 11: Gazing Through The Redbuds
Track 12: Moon Song
Track 13: A Simple Thing
Their newly released album Tumbleweeds has 13 expertly produced tracks is available from their website www.bigcedarfever.com and on Apple's I-tunes. They have performed here in Lockhart at The Pearl and Lockhart Arts & Craft last year and hope to come back when venues are back in business.