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Cowboys and Indians

A Big Night in Cowtown – 1998 (Cowboys and Indians)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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The liner notes to the Cowboy & Indians second release include thank-you's not only to Bob Wills and Milton Brown, but to Louis Jordan and Cab Calloway as well. That's altogether fitting, for Cowboys & Indians incorporate the urbanities of Jordan as much as the hillbilly sounds of Wills, and trumpet and sax occupy center stage more often than steel guitar and fiddle. All of which is to say that the Dallas band would fit in nicely with (and more than hold their own in) the current swing revival.

Nonetheless, steel and fiddle do make their presence felt; C&I may tend tothe jazz side of the western swing admixture, but the "western" is still there, in lyrics (the Texas-centric songs "Big Texas" and "My Lone Star Heart, " the title track) and trappings as well as in the music. The group also strays into rockabilly territory on a few tunes -"Leaving for Good," "'Bout Crazy 'Bout You," and the instrumental "Takin' Out the Trash," which features some fierce picking from guitarist Billy King.

As on their debut three years ago, all but one of the tunes here (a reeling "Drunkard's Blues") are originals; songwriting chores are handled mainly by bandleader Erik Swanson, and if anything, he's produced an even stronger batch this time around.

And musically speaking, this small ensemble of six wraps a mighty big sound and snapped-tight playing around Swanson's resonant croon. Cowboys & Indians are doing their part to keep western swing alive and kicking, while offering, as the disc's closing track puts it, "swing and country too/and someone to moan the blues/a little something for everyone."