BIG SANDY AND HIS FLY-RITE BOYS
These days it’s pretty hard to tell one rockabilly revivalist from the other, much less get juiced about what they do. They’ve all got the vintage duds and vintage gear, and they all cover the obscure nuggets, but they’re all too reverent to bring anything distinctive to the party. Anaheim’s Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys is a rare outfit with the songwriting skill, instrumental prowess, and sheer exuberance to bust out of the nostalgia trap. Singer-songwriter and acoustic guitarist Big Sandy (aka Robert Williams), whose relaxed drawl suggests Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, and Gene Vincent, is no modernist, but he views his familiar subjects with clear eyes and an open mind–and sometimes he’s surprisingly sharp. “If I Knew Now (What I Knew Then),” for example, cleverly turns the cliche on its head, lamenting the loss of impulsiveness. But the best thing about this band is its charged playing. “Take-off” guitarist Ashley Kingman and steel guitarist Lee Jeffriess recall the dizzying heights of Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West in their fluidity if not their flash, peeling off an endless variety of sublime unison lines and lyrical solos. Bassist Wally Hersom and drummer Bobby Trimble know how to swing, an ability that allows them to reach past the loose-limbed rave-ups into hillbilly boogie. In fact “Backdoor Dan” on the new album Feelin’ Kinda Lucky (Hightone) even adds some old jump blues a la Roy Brown and Wynonie Harris, a dog that wouldn’t hunt without a flexible rhythm section. Thanks to nonstop touring the band has earned a peerless reputation as a live act; you may not catch a glimmer of music’s future, but you won’t find a better take on its past. Friday, 10 PM, FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn. 708-788-2118. PETER MARGASAK
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): uncredited photo.