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Ray Condo and His Ricochets

High & Wild – 2000 (Joaquin)

Reviewed by Stuart Munro

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CDs by Ray Condo and His Ricochets

There's nothing new on the latest release from Ray Condo and band - that is, they don't depart from their practice of foregoing original material in favor of "the old stuff;" every song is at least 40 years old.

Combining Condo's idiosyncratic vocalising - a drawly, backwoods version of the Rat Pack swinging hepcat - with Stephen Nikleva's jazzy picking, Jimmy Roy's hot steel work and the dual anchors of upright man Pete Turland and returning drummer Steve Taylor, the band careens along highways and byways of American music, visiting jazz, jump blues, hillbilly, tin pan alley and rockabilly along the way. What emerges is something more archival than retro, a driving, furious version of western swing.

A measure of the band's easy eclecticism is the range of artists they cover - among them the Crystal Spring Ramblers, Buddy Johnson, country duo Jimmy and Johnny, saxophone legend Lester Young, Mose Allison, rockabillies Carl Mann and Glen Barber, Cole Porter and Connie Francis. The Condo treatment isn't always successful; his croon on Porter's "What Is This Thing Called Love," with a verse in an outrageous French accent and the famous Chevalier line "Thank heavens for little girls" thrown in for good measure, renders it a puzzling take. Most of the time it works just fine, however, and swings like crazy.