After catching a few acts from The Uptown Art Fair that had been forced indoors by the rainy afternoon and evening in Minneapolis, I was looking forward to the show I had come to see at Lee's Liquor Lounge, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys. I missed Big Sandy last summer at the Calgary Folk Festival and was glad to have another opportunity to see the band perform. By way of background, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys are an excellent, well seasoned five piece western swing/jump/rockabilly combo from Anaheim, California. After making a big splash on the SoCal roots scene in the early 1990's, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys made their move to the forefront of the genre through great songwriting, stellar musicianship and a sound that has grown better and better with each new recording.
The original "opening act" for the evening, The Carpetbaggers, got the swing crowd warmed up for Big Sandy with an upbeat, snappy set of country swing tunes that included covers of songs by music greats like George Jones and some catchy original tunes as well. As Lee's got more and more crowded, The Carpetbaggers created the "mood" that would be built upon by the evening's headliners, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys. The audience was filled with slicked back hair, pompadours and swing clothes, everyone anxious for Big Sandy's show.
Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys took the stage at 11:15 p.m. opening up with "Slow Down," getting everyone immediately into the dancing mood that consumed the audience throughout Big Sandy's two hour set. The second song, "Blackberry Wine," included a fine steel guitar solo by Jimmy Roy followed by a guitar solo by long time Fly-Rite Boy, Ashley Kingman. Big Sandy provided the smooth vocals on each song, along with solid rhythm guitar on most. Other highlights of the evening included a very smooth rendition of "The Greatest Story Ever Told" and the Spanish flavor of "Tequila Calling" from the recent Fly-Rite Boys CD, Night Tide. Big Sandy and the band played selections from several of Sandy and the band's recordings including the "Doowop" styled Dedicated To You ("Yama Yama Pretty Mama"), Swingin' West ("Blackberry Wine") and Radio Favorites ("Playgirl").
On a couple of occasions during the performance, Big Sandy left the stage, allowing the Fly-Rite Boys to stretch out and show their talents. On the instrumental, "C-Jam Blues" every member of the band including Jeff West (bass), Bobby Trimble (drums), Ashley Kingman (guitar) and Jimmy Roy (lap steel guitar) took turns performing solos to the delight of the audience. The band was exceptionally tight and talented with or without Big Sandy, demonstrating that they have been together a long time and have learned to anticipate and play off of each other.
The band's encore extended the show past the magic 1:00 a.m. bar closing time, still leaving everyone wanting the band to play longer. All of the band members, including Big Sandy (a.k.a. Robert Williams) were pleasant and as appreciative of the crowd as the crowd was of the band. The friendly, neighborhood bar feel of Lee's Liquor Lounge only added to the feel of the show. I left the bar fully content that I had "corrected" my missing Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys in Calgary and looking forward to my next chance to see the band do that swing thing.
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