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Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys

Night Tide – 2000 (HighTone)

Reviewed by Eli Messinger

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CDs by Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys

After individual outings from singer (Big Sandy's "Dedicated to You") and band (The Fly-Rite Boys' "Big Sandy Presents"), the reunited combo has produced their most accomplished long-player to date. Their melange of country, western swing, R&B, doo-wop and rock n roll has become so thoroughly inculcated with its influences that any hipster genuflection to the past has dissolved. This is not your father s nostalgia act. Big Sandy s songwriting and sweet singing combine with the brilliant playing of the band to cross the divide from flattering imitation to real McCoy.

Sandy s latest lyrics venture into darker territory, including the allure of the bottle ("Tequila Calling") and the interminable loneliness of jail ("When Sleep Won't Come (Blues for Spade)"), inspired in part by the life of Spade Cooley. His vocals continue to channel the spirits of '50's heartbreak on songs like "A Man Like Me," and duets with terrific new bassist Jeff West introduce harmonies akin to those of Buck Owens and Don Rich. Upbeat rockabilly ("Let Her Know") and swing ("If You Only Knew") trade time with waltzes ("Nothing to Lose") and drowsy instrumentals ("In the Steel of the Night").

Several of the Los Angeles roots acts, such as Dave Alvin and Los Lobos, have followed this same delicious curve, gathering up influences, incubating them for a few albums, and then restating them with an authority and authenticity that obliterates the nostalgia tag. Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys have certainly joined the club.