Swing has a reverential following on the swing scene, and their
latest offering, Red Light shows the devotion of their fans is
well-deserved. The CD's sound is spare, in the very best sense.
The use of silence and space is a sign of maturity and gives breathing
room for each note to have greater impact. The airy quality and
the simplicity of the album's production also provide an ideal
backdrop for bandleader Johnny Boyd's smooth, honest voice, which
is simply mesmerizing.
other musicians are equally on the mark. Baron Shul shows he is
at home with both a rough honk or a soupy glide on the sax, and
Josh Workman's guitar licks alternately burn and smolder. Big
Jim Overton on drums and Vance Ehlers on bass handle the straight
swing of most of the tunes every bit as well as the cajun tinge
of "They Say I Must Be Crazy" or the tribal rhythms
of "Don't Worry So Much." And William Beatty's piano
playing is simply killer throughout, from the tireless rolls on
the title track to the his inferno of a showcase, "Hot Pot
Boogie." All masters of versatility, the members of Indigo
Swing have the enviable ability to walk the line between sophistication
and silliness, without ever stumbling over it.
performances alone are enough to justify buying this CD, but what
puts this Bay Area-combo head and shoulders above other neo-swing
ensembles is the range and strength of the songwriting. From the
rocking "Pop's at the Hop" to the country-style ballad
"So Far Away from Me," Boyd's most nakedly emotional
performance, the lyrics and melodies reflect the talents of master
pearl on the new album is "Ruby Mae." This delta fable
of a trainman adopting a little girl who grows up with a gift
for music transports the listener to another place the way very
few songs ever can. The stunning lyrics, lazy shuffle, and eerie
vocals soaring over the groove like a muted trumpet will coax
you in with sweetness then leave you blindsided with content.
earnestness, polish, humor, danceability, and the occasional flash
of greatness, Red Light is a go on all fronts.