Riders in the Sky do it the cowboy way
Regent Theatre, Arlington, Mass., Feb. 8, 2003
By Jeffrey B. Remz
ARLINGTON, MA - After 25 years, Riders in the Sky finally had made it to the lovely Regent Theatre in the Boston suburb of downtown Arlington.
And the trio comprised of Too Slim, Ranger Doug and Woody Paul made sure to tell the audience just how darn glad they had been there after such a long haul.
But that, like many other comments during their 90-minute show was in complete jest. Sure they were glad to be playing before just about a full, enthusiastic house of 500, but why not have a lot of fun for themselves and the crowd while doing it "the cowboy way"? Too Slim did a funny rap, for example, imitating Eminem, showing they know a thing or two about music in general.
Haivng fun also meant taking requests like "Tumblin Tumbleweeds" and "Blue Bonnet Lady," they decided to play them all - at the same time. But after the cacophony was over, they actually did play several requests and exceedingly well.
In fact, Riders in the Sky have done pretty well for themselves in recent years with Grammys thanks to their involvement with the "Toy Story 2" movie and a firm foothold in the pantheon of the admittedly not too large cowboy music genre.
To their detriment, the idea of the cowboy movie is virtually a thing of the past in Hollywood, so don't ever expect these folks to be playing the outdoor sheds.
But lest one think Riders in the Sky are strictly a novelty act, far from it. They clearly love the cowboy songs they sing and play so well.
Yes, they have the shtick. Too Slim, for example, has a big old cowboy hat and wears furry chaps. All three have very colorful cowboy shirts as well.
However, if they couldn't put the songs across, they would never have been around this long. All three Riders are equally adept at singing and playing. Too Slim handles the upright bass, Ranger Doug guitar and Woody Paul (who when he isn't playing is actually a scholar of cowboy music) on fiddle. Their producer, Joey the Polka King Miskulin, handled the accordion with the same adeptness.
The concert was lots of fun. The music was top notch. Chances are it won't be another 25 years before they are able to return to Arlington.
Hot Club of Cowtown, the Austin-based trio playing mainly Texas swing á la Bob Wills and jazzy songs, opened with an entertaining hour-long set.
The playing of ace guitarist Whit Smith, fiddler Elana Fremerman and upright bassist Jake Erwin was top notch whether on the closing bluegrass standard "Sally Goodin'" or the traditional "Liza Jane."
Smith is a strong vocalist as well, though Fremerman has consistently been improving.
Hot Club joined Riders in the Sky for a closing, slightly ragged, but definitely right version of Bob Wills' "Take Me Back to Tulsa" and "Cactus Set Up" to close out one fine evening of music.