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Craig Chambers

West by Southwest – 2000 (WR)

Reviewed by Tom Geddie

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CDs by Craig Chambers

Western swing, made famous by Bob Wills and given its soul by Milton Brown, is big-band jazz with country instruments and sensibilities, and a little blues tossed in.

Here, Texan Craig Chambers leans to the smooth, crooner side of this hybrid style. He is accompanied by Tom Morrell and the Time Warp Tophands.

Chambers, be best known to culture snobs as bandleader and narrator of the hit Broadway play "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," covers a range of songs here, from Woody Paul's "Blue, Bluebonnet Lady" to cowboy poet Baxter Black's "Ship My Body Back to Texas" to a slow medley of Marty Robbins and Irving Berlin on "Nighttime on the Desert/What'll I Do?" The straightforward, thoroughly professional and sincere music - guitar, Dobro, fiddle, mandolin, bass, accordion, trumpet, drums, and miscellaneous percussion - fits Chambers' smooth vocals like the sun setting on a long, low, uncluttered horizon.

Because Chambers takes the crooner approach, this album is kinda like a sweet jalapeno; all the ingredients are there and it tastes good, but it doesn't really have a kick to it. (WR, Box 248, Hunt, TX 78024, Craig Chambers)