Friday BBQ Spotify 7/26/13
These Friday Spotify jaunts have been missing for a few weeks thanks to a mixture of catering events sandwiched around a sojourn by yours truly to Texas for a big birthday celebration. And while in Texas, I was reminded by what always makes a trip to one of my favorite old barbecue haunts there so special (other than the food, that is), and that’s the presence of western swing and “old cowboy” music on the loudspeaker. Growing up in Houston in the ’60′s, I would rarely hear these country subgenres on the radio, as the focus was always on more modern twangy-style, you-done-me-wrong country music which had its roots in rock-and-roll. And then I strolled into a little barbecue joint one day and heard Asleep at the Wheel pouring out of the sound system like a big vat of honey, and I was hooked. Western swing is a subgenre of American country music that originated in the late 1920s in the West and South among the region’s Western string bands. It’s essentially country dance music, often with an up-tempo beat, which attracted huge crowds to dance halls and clubs in Texas, Oklahoma and California during the 1930s and 40s until a federal war-time nightclub tax in 1944 led to its decline. (And you thought it was just the current administration that put a tax on having fun.)
The cool thing about western swing music is its initial influence and components. The movement was an outgrowth of jazz, and similarities with Gypsy jazz are often noted. The music is an amalgamation of rural, cowboy, polka, folk, Dixieland jazz and blues blended with swing; and played by a string band often augmented with drums, saxophones, pianos and, notably, the steel guitar and fiddle as dual leaders. I was never that much a fan of lap steels the way that mainstream country acts used them, but with western swing it’s perfect. The electrically amplified stringed instruments, especially the steel guitar, give the music a distinctive sound. Later incarnations have also included overtones of bebop, and have had a huge influence on the development of rockabilly espoused by artists as varied as Dwight Yoakam and The Stray Cats. When the movie business took off in the 1930′s, western swing led to a new “cowboy” sound that became popular in film as it morphed to artists from Gene Autry to Sons of the Pioneers. This list contains a few modern western swing pieces from the before-mentioned Asleep at the Wheel (with special guests Willie Nelson and Huey Lewis) and contemporary peer Hot Club of Cowtown, along with an assortment of traditional western swing and cowoboy cuts from oldtimers Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. Bill Monroe, and Johnny Bond. So, let’s take a stroll down memory lane and imagine what it was like to sit and have a plate of barbecue and a cold beer and listen to some traditional American rural music without the need to text, take a picture of what you’re eating, or just say OMG or LMAO. Have a great midsummer weekend everyone.